Category Archives: Valley Viewpoints

Valley Viewpoints: Baseless allegations

by Michael Backus, County clerk

Once again, I feel it is my duty to respond to allegations made by Legislator Doug Malone.

Amongst the litany of negative, baseless allegations he makes against me personally, he mixes my role as an elected county official (county clerk) and that of my party-elected position (Oswego County Republican Committee chairman). Neither position have I ever hid from the public and I believe I have been quite forthcoming disclosing my party position with the county’s ethics board.

Legislator Malone once again attempts to besmirch a privately held business entity that employs many Oswego County residents because of allegations of impropriety that he believes exists.

To wear one hat as Republican chairman, I will say that there were many Republican legislators who voted against awarding the imaging contract to the current vendor along with Legislator Malone and his caucus. That’s a fact that he wants you to believe was only specific to his political party, once again showing that he is only interested here in playing politics.

To stay with my Republican chairman hat on, Legislator Malone is correct that many donations are made to the Oswego County Republican Committee and those donations are filed with the NYS Board of Elections in accordance with their regulations.

Last year, both political parties raised thousands of dollars to support their candidates. As I stated in our OCRC monthly newsletter, I am proud of the “hard work, loyal friends and supportive benefactors” that we, the Republican Party have. In politics you have to raise the money necessary to further your goals.

Last year was an expensive election cycle. We had to fight a protracted legal battle for the county clerk race and we’re preparing based on the public comments from Legislator Malone and others for another legal battle for the position of treasurer.

Set aside my party position, I am deeply offended by Legislator Malone’s continued attack on the Oswego County Clerk’s office.

On Valentine’s Day, I hosted an “Open House” and purchased lunch items and bottled water for my staff and any guests that wished to attend. Every legislator, regardless of party, was personally invited out of respect by me. To further show Legislator Malone’s tact, he is incorrect to state that no Democrat legislators attended. Again, he chose to keep up the game and let these malicious allegations fly.  And let me state that I personally paid for the luncheon; I notified my oversight committee a month prior; and this “Open House” was asked for by legislators on both sides of the aisle as well as members of my staff.

Finally, I want to clearly state my frustration with Legislator Malone and his apparent goal of further tarnishing my personal, professional and political reputation. Further, and more important to me, is his constant attack upon the employees of the Clerk’s office.

These folks are hard-working dedicated public servants who do not deserve the public vendetta that Legislator Malone apparently has against this office. His attempt to cast doubt upon our abilities to securely process information is shameful and below that of a person elected to protect the public interest.

As I stated in my initial response to him if he would like to come in and personally witness the hard work that these county employees do every day he is my guest.

I would love for him to speak with our current vendor to evaluate the system that many users have spoke very highly of to me and has many confidentiality controls to assure proper security protocols.

This office has nothing to hide. We will have an audit and I look forward to any questions or concerns that any legislator, employee or member of the public may have. As stated, my door is open.

Lastly, this is my second response to a letter signed by Legislator Malone and it was my honest hope that he would heed my invitation and come speak with me about his concerns.

He apparently is unwilling to do so and just wants to continue to play politics. This is why young people are leaving this county in droves.

This is why young people don’t get involved in politics.  And this is why I feel it is my duty to stand up to this public bullying and protect the hard work that so many have put into this county.

We have great opportunities here in Oswego County, but this good-old-boy politic, back-biting, public shaming must end if we are to attract and keep the next generation of Oswego County leaders.

Spin doctors

by Doug Malone, Legislator

County Clerk Mike Backus and Legislator Louella LeClair really have honed their skills as spin doctors. LeClair claims that the legislators look at every dime that’s spent. Her constituents should ask her why she and her Republican counterparts voted to give the data imagine contract for the County Clerk’s office to IQS when they were the most expensive company with the lowest rating. This contract will cost the taxpayers approximately $300,000 more than necessary.

There were plenty of qualified companies that bid. Why the Republicans voted to spend more than a quarter of a million more for this service can only be answered by them. The Democrats voted against this waste of tax dollars, so I guess you could say a part of what LeClair said is true. The Democrats are watching every dime spent.

Backus said he needs time to evaluate IQS. What’s there to evaluate? How costly the service is to the taxpayers or how much IQS will give to the county Republican party? In his response to my letter, Backus didn’t address the $500 that IQS donated to the Republican party. Anyone wanting to look at the donation can go to the state Board of Elections website and check the Oswego County Republican Committee January 2013 disclosure report. You’ll find the donation from IQS tucked away under “housekeeping receipts.” There is nothing in any of the expense lines to show the money was returned to IQS.

Backus is the county Republican chairman and the county clerk. Maybe he wants to evaluate how much IQS donates to the party before he decides whether he wants to save the taxpayers money? Look closely at all the Republican party’s financial reports. Interestingly, of all the vendors that bid on the contract for the clerk’s office, only IQS donated to the county GOP.

For all you pistol permit holders concerned with privacy, are you aware that your pistol permit information is held with IQS? That’s right, an outside company has all of your private information and we don’t know who at IQS has access to your information.

What is known is that the Democrat caucus has proof that another county doing business with IQS had a security breach. Last August, when the resolution came up to award the data imagine contract, Minority Leader Mike Kunzwiler held up a file with documentation of the security breach and offered it to the Republicans to look at. There were no takers. Obviously, the Republicans weren’t concerned over the privacy and security of your personal information.

Gun permit holders should demand to know why this information is held outside of the county offices, who has access to it and how permit holders are guaranteed there won’t be a security breach.

Backus is correct that he publicized that he wants an audit but that’s as far as it went. It was mentioned at a committee meeting that he couldn’t attend, so it was tabled.

He could have easily asked for a special meeting or asked to have the meeting date changed. Backus sat at the Finance and Personnel meeting a week later and never said anything about wanting an audit. I’m sure he will ask now that his dog and pony show has been exposed.

The feel-good luncheon Backus put on left a question of ethics as to who can pay for the catered meal from Canale’s. Feeding the Republican legislators who have to vote on his salary and anything else for the clerk’s office, gives the appearance that he’s trying to gain favoritism. Check the state ethics law that we have to follow. We are to take no more than a cup of coffee to avoid the appearance of impropriety, improper influence and favoritism. No Democrats attended the luncheon because we knew better.

The Democrat caucus will continue to watch every dime spent and keep the public informed on what the Republicans are doing. Interestingly, Backus stood in the doorway at the Feb. 14 meeting, hawking over the press as if he was trying to intimidate. Maybe he’s trying to keep the public from seeing through the Republican’s veneer?

In the latest county GOP newsletter, Backus pointed out that there are only five Democrats, so “obviously” they can pick the next county treasurer, something they intend to do even though there is a case law to show the governor makes the appointment. But they will do what they want and fight it out in court at taxpayer expense.

Backus said it all, when he concluded his newsletter with, “We are a strong committee because of our hard work, loyal friends and supportive benefactors.” Go check out the Oswego County Republican Committee financial reports on the state Board of Elections website and compare those benefactors to those who get the bid awards in the county. There’s some veneer worth stripping.

Water district vote

by M. Malette, Granby

There will be a vote at the Granby Town Hall Feb. 26 for the establishment of Water District 6.

The roads involved are Wyborn, Pralll, Ritchie, County Line, County Route 55, South Granby Road, County Route 14 and 8 South, Sharp, Leo Mar, and Merritt.

The district will be established with the majority of votes for that day only. All deed holders should vote — whether you want the water or not. If the majority vote yes, every property owner will have a 38-year assessment added to their taxes of about $535. Those who want the water will then have to hook up their houses to the lines and, of course, pay for their usage.

If you do not want to hook up to use the water you will have this assessment for 38 years anyway. Please let the town know by voting.

It would be a shame for this to pass or fail by having only a few deed holders making this decision for you.

Common sense measure

by Bob and Sandy Weston, Fulton

We appreciate Assemblyman Will Barclay’s “View from the Assembly” column in the Feb. 16 edition of The Valley News. He continues to provide all of us with up-to-date information on issues that are being presented to the Assembly for their consideration.

We especially found this week’s column concerning the public assistance benefit system and also legislation that would require a criminal background check on those applying for public benefits both timely and on target.

The legislation that he sponsors called the Public Assistance Integrity Act would prohibit anyone who receives public benefits from using EBT (Electronic Benefits Card) for the purchase of cigarettes, alcohol, lottery tickets or adult material.

It would also penalize retailers from offering these items in exchange for public assistance benefits and prohibit the withdrawal of cash with an EBT card at casinos, liquor stores or adult establishments.

This resolution passed the Senate last year but did not come up for a vote in the Assembly.

Assemblyman Barclay will be reintroducing the Act this year plus one that will require a criminal background check on those applying for public benefits. He pointed out last year that a man received public assistance in New York while he was wanted for attempted murder in South Carolina.

We realize, as many citizens do, that at times we may find ourselves in a situation where we might need assistance from a public agency. Ours is not one of making those decisions as to what people should receive but we feel, as many citizens do, that money coming from the taxpayer should be used for essentials only.

While most people who receive public assistance are appreciative and responsible something must be done for those who are not. That is why we feel what Assemblyman Barclay is proposing is a common sense measure that establishes guidelines and standards. We know that Assemblyman Barclay would like to hear from those of you who feel the same way.

Valley Viewpoints: Open door

by Michael C. Backus, Oswego County Clerk

Today I write in response to a letter from Legislator Doug Malone.

It has been a little over seven weeks since I took office as Oswego county clerk and there certainly have been many challenges that we have faced.

We brought indexing back in house, solving a major concern of many, including Legislator Malone.

We have seen an extreme up-tick in pistol permit applications, amendments and other questions related to the recent NY SAFE Act.

I have participated in several workshops and our staff has taken part in a webinar to get up to speed on other new developments regarding the NY SAFE Act.

We, as an office, made the decision to publicize our intention to request an outside, third-party audit of the Oswego County Clerk’s office – again, something that many including Legislator Malone had asked for.

And interestingly enough, we hosted an “open house” so that other elected officials and members of the public can come into our office and learn about what we do day-to-day.

Those items among several others have been on the top of my agenda as Oswego county clerk.

I also hope that you’ll notice that I say, “we” decided to ask for an audit and “we” have seen an up-tick in pistol permit applications, and “we” have brought indexing back in-house.

I write the word “we” because I have worked hand-in-hand with all the employees in this office to rebuild a positive, constructive culture in the Oswego County clerk’s office.

In seven weeks have we built a perfect system? Apparently not in some people’s eyes, but what I ask is what I asked on the campaign trail — if legislators, staff members or anyone have concerns, come see me.

Since day one, my calendar has been filled with meetings with groups of employees, individuals, abstractors, attorneys, concerned citizens, and legislators.

Not once has Legislator Malone brought any of the concerns he penned in his letter directly to me; he chose to keep up the game, play politics and publish them.

I trust you see through the veneer and I hope that Legislator Malone takes the initiative like several of his colleagues have and brings his concerns directly to me. My door is open to him and anyone else — as it always has been.

Valley Viewpoints: Just rhetoric

by Louella LeClair, County Legislator

Last week, Legislator Doug Malone wrote a letter to the editor and I feel it is my duty to respond to his accusations.

One statement was very true: Oswego County is going to have to make many adjustments this year to keep the budget within the state tax cap and also to realize some savings to keep taxes from rising.

Last year, the Republican caucus decided to look at each and every department and make more cuts than were offered by department heads. To the credit of each department head and all outside agencies, they came back with more cuts.

We do not want to cut people or services. We worked very hard to make sure this did not happen.  Through attrition and retirements, it was determined not to hire more people to fill the vacancies. Some departments are very small so it could not operate properly if several people retired.

I have questioned the department head on each and every hire for the past three months. If the position requested was to fill a vacancy and it was in the budget for the year, and if it would hamper services, then I supported the hire.

Every department is well aware of the policy. Mr. Malone, of course, failed to give this information in his letter. He prefers politics and innuendo to make false statements.

Bashing Republicans and fellow legislators when he knows full well, or should know full well, that his statements are not true is just plane bloviating, something he prides himself on.

The people of Oswego County should be very proud of the county legislators…we look at every dime that is spent. We look at the money as if it we coming out of our pockets because we are concerned about the budget.

More than 68 percent of the monies collected is mandated by the state and we cannot cut any of it…we have to pay.

There is very little wiggle room in many departments to keep services flowing. Our department heads are very dedicated and they deserve our respect and allegiance not Legislator Malone’s rhetoric.

Valley Viewpoints: NY SAFE Act

by George M. Clark, Oswego

Galicia, a geographical area nestled into southeastern Poland and western Ukraine, was the northern-most province of the Austrian Empire until the end of World War I.

Its ethnic background was traditionally mixed. One group of people played an important role in the historical development of this area – the Cossacks. Derived from the Turkic Kazak (free man) – their origins date back to the 14th century.

This was the homeland of my maternal grandfather and like many “free men” who came before him he served in a mounted military unit. In 1906, he emigrated to the United States seeking the vast opportunities in this country; the greatest being freedom.

In the course of history, rule of Galicia changed frequently.  In 1938, with the reunification of Austria and Germany, new laws were imposed by the National Socialist German Workers Party (NAZI). One of those laws was regulations against Jews purchasing and possessing weapons.

The 1928 weapons law, enacted in a democratic Germany, included the registration of firearms. This expedited German leaders’ ability to locate individuals selected in the 1938 law and confiscate their weapons – there lies the peril of registration.

The recently passed SAFE Act in New York State is riddled with infringements regarding ownership of firearms by law abiding citizens. The preponderance of misleading statements, by anti-gun zealots, about the dangers of “military type weapons” in the possession of law abiding citizens speaks to their ignorance of constitutional law and New York history.

May 15, 1939, in United States v. Miller, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously decided: “The significance attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These demonstrate that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense ‘A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline.’ And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at that time.”  In fact, attorneys, for the United States, argued that “The Second Amendment protects only the ownership of military-type weapons appropriate for use in an organized militia.”

Further, the importance of personal ownership of “military-type weapons” can readily be seen from the “Extracts of the Revolution of the Convention for calling out one-fourth part of the militia of Suffolk, Queens and Kings Counties passed July 20th, 1776. That the non-commissioned officers and privates who shall furnish themselves with a good and sufficient Musket or firelock, Cartouch Box and Belt and Bayonet or Hatchet …”

The New York State SAFE Act will only make it safer for criminals and terrorists – who obviously have no intention of complying with any law. Exploiting the tragedy in Connecticut, as a justification for this blatant attack on the law-abiding citizenry of this state when that incident was perpetrated by a criminal or terrorist, is unthinkable.

It is by the injudicious passage of laws like these that the freedom my grandfather and many others sought, and found here, is vanishing.

Valley Viewpoints: More pressing needs

by Doug Malone, Legislator

While I don’t oppose the resolution the legislature has prepared in opposition of the NY SAFE gun legislation, I do wish we could spend as much time on other pressing issues that need attention.

Not one thing has changed in the county clerk’s office. Some of the employees say it’s gotten worse since the first of the year. When we have employees leave crying in the middle of the day because they reached a breaking point, something’s got to be done. But nothing gets done because the Republicans are too busy writing opposing resolutions, politicking and trying to advance to county jobs.

The taxpayers are paying too much for the data services in the clerk’s office. We learned that last year when the Republicans voted to give the contract to the more expensive company. Mike Backus, the county clerk and county Republican chairman, tells us he’s going to change things. I don’t see anything changing with the IQS contract when the Republican party he leads accepted a $500 donation from IQS.

We are faced with the closing of the transfer stations and we are warned that next year’s budget is not looking good. We should be worrying about the county’s finances and not having to deal with problems in the clerk’s office or worrying about which legislator is going to be the next treasurer or whatever other county job they’ve been eyeing.

While we have legislators looking to advance themselves into county jobs, we talk about downsizing the workforce. Legislator Louella LeClair made a big speech at the Finance Committee meeting last week about promising her constituents there would be no more hiring and then she votes to hire two people. This is what goes on every day.

Nothing’s going to change until the public wakes up and demands accountability. I don’t think anybody in the public would work under the conditions the girls in the clerk’s office have to work under and I don’t think anyone in the public would pay more for a service than they have to.

It’s time to get down to business and start doing the work of the people.