Lip service

by Michael Kunzwiler, Oswego County Legislator Minority Leader

As minority leader of the Oswego County Legislature, I am going to respond to some of the baseless allegations made by County Clerk Michael Backus.

First and foremost, Mr. Backus stood in the doorway near the press table for almost the entire meeting. The NY SAFE Act discussion was held at the beginning of the meeting and there were three public speakers who were each allowed five minutes.

Mr. Backus stood in the doorway long after the vote on the resolution was taken. He should be aware that the meetings are videotaped and televised locally.

I’d be happy to provide Mr. Backus with a copy of the meeting video if he is confused as to how long he stood in the doorway. The tape doesn’t lie.

Mr. Backus said he stood where he could hear the debate. No one else moved from the back of chambers and no one complained about the inability to hear. We use microphones to speak and we have a good sound system.

The department heads aren’t “relegated” to the back of the room. This is where the chamber seating is located. My impression, and that of other members of my caucus, was that Mr. Backus was hawking over a reporter to prove something and hawking over the Republican legislators, as if to intimidate.

Although we didn’t disrupt the meeting to ask Mr. Backus to move from the doorway, it was my intention to address this with the Legislature Chairman after the meeting.

Mr. Backus claimed that “many” Republicans voted against the IQS contract. As Legislator Malone pointed out, it is a fact that only three of the 18 Republican legislators present at the meeting voted against it.  Legislator Malone backed up this fact by referencing the Aug. 9, 2012 meeting minutes, available for inspection on the Oswego County web site.

Legislator Malone pointed out that Mr. Backus, as the Oswego County Republican chairman, accepted a $500 donation from IQS, the vendor for his clerk office.

As Legislator Malone pointed out, this can be verified by visiting the New York State Board of Elections web site and viewing the Oswego County Republican Committee’s January 2013 financial report. The donation can be found under “housekeeping receipts.”

Mr. Backus seems to have a problem differentiating between an open house and offering to pay for lunch for 25 legislators and select county officials. Our caucus perceives this as an ethical issue.

One of our caucus members had inquired with County Attorney Richard Mitchell prior to the luncheon to determine its legality. Mr. Mitchell’s response was that he had better things to do than to check on who is buying lunch for whom.

A feel-good luncheon only provides a band aid to the abuse that continues in the clerk’s office.

Last month, I personally filed a complaint with Personnel Director Carol Alnutt over a recent incident that was reported to me. Mr. Backus chose to keep the two problem employees of the office. That was his prerogative and despite the well-publicized and well documented problems, Mr. Backus apparently feels the employees and the documentation are wrong.

Mr. Backus is alleging age discrimination because Legislator Malone advised him to grow up.

It has nothing to do with age. It has to do with the ability to take criticism when participating in politics. It’s called maturity.

Mr. Backus has provided nothing but the lip service that is typical of the Oswego County Republicans and he veils his defense by twisting and distorting the facts.

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