by Carol Thompson
Oswego County Clerk candidate Michael C. Backus denied that he made a deal to help get apprentice language into contracts through the Oswego County Legislature in exchange for the endorsement of the Central and Northern New York Building Trades Council.
“I have said since the beginning, very clearly, that I have made no deals with anyone for anything in this campaign,” Backus said Tuesday when asked about the alleged deal with the trades council.
The Central and and Northern New York Building Trades Council endorsed Backus, bypassing 40-year union member Phillip Vasho, who is opposing Backus in the clerk’s race.
It is unusual for a labor organization to bypass a union member in support of a non-union member. It has been alleged that Backus promised the trades council the apprentice language in exchange for the endorsement, which traditionally comes with a campaign check.
Vasho acknowledged that he was told about the alleged deal, but refused to comment further.“I would rather not speak about it until after the election,” Vasho said Wednesday.
The apprenticeship language has been considered by the county legislature in the past, however, was found to be too restrictive for all prospective contractors.
The language would require all bidders to have a New York State recognized apprenticeship program to be allowed to bid on a contract for the county.
Legislators would not agree to the addition of the language fearing it would eliminate many companies from competitive bidding. Small construction companies without apprenticeship programs would be excluded from bidding on county construction contracts unless they subcontracted to a company participating in a state certified program.
Oswego County Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley said Tuesday he recalled the past attempts to add the language. Beardsley, who is expected to be re-elected as the chairman next year, said he had no part in any agreements that were made and questioned how Backus could make a promise to deliver any county legislation when he is not a legislator, if indeed a promise was made.