Tag Archives: Michael C. Backus

Valley Viewpoints: Changing the culture

by Michael C. Backus, Oswego County Clerk-elect

There was little doubt in my mind that come Jan. 1 I would face many challenges as the newly elected Oswego County clerk. Anytime any institution transitions from long-time established leadership to a new administration there will be a lot of discussion regarding the best path forward.

I am thankful to everyone who has reached out to give their input regarding the office. This newspaper in particular has been very vigilant in its monitoring of the office and through its reporting clearly has “its” own opinion.

One thing that I greatly appreciated on the campaign trail was the opportunity to share ideas with Phil Vasho. Since the election, I have greatly appreciated my former opponent’s willingness to set the election aside and help get this office back to business.

We have shared some great ideas and frankly have agreed on many ways forward for the office. I have invited him to regularly stop by the office and I hope to keep up the conversation in the days, months, and years to come.

When George Williams, our former county clerk, passed away the office was thrust upon the shoulders of Deputy Clerk Georgiana Mansfield who has, since George’s passing, served as acting clerk. That is not an easy task for anyone.

Certainly there are things that could have been handled differently as all people have different opinions on how to handle any given situation. I have spoken with Georgiana as acting clerk regarding the most recent situation that was reported by this newspaper. She, along with the employees involved and the Oswego County Personnel Department, are working through the situation.

It did not go unnoticed that several legislators quoted by this newspaper questioned the supervisory nature of management in the clerk’s office. I thank many who have reached out to me regarding this situation with management and their concern over current staff’s ability to supervise the office.

There are many things that I will be reviewing once sworn into office Jan. 1 and certainly the interaction between all employees, supervisory/management or not, will be one of them.

It is my goal, as I stated during my interview with this newspaper during the campaign, to change the culture in the office to a much more open, inviting experience for both the taxpayers and the employees.

All I ask is for the opportunity to witness it all with my own eyes once sworn into the office the voters of this county elected me to in November.

I know I have a job to do and I look forward to working with each and every one of you as you interact with the Oswego County Clerk’s office.

Backus ready for challenges as Oswego County clerk

by Carol Thompson

When Michael C. Backus takes office Jan. 1, he has his work cut out for him.

Backus, 28, of Mexico, won the race for Oswego County clerk, an office that has been plagued with controversy.

“My approach as clerk will be gradual and measured,” he said.  “I look forward to meeting with the employees in the days ahead and hearing their ideas on the office as it currently exists. Then we’ll begin implementing some new practices and programs that we’ve outlined throughout the campaign.”

Backus did not fully address the question of whether he will call for an audit of the office nor how he intends to rebuild the office that legislators have referred to as “dismantled.”

Oswego County Legislature Minority Leader Mike Kunzwiler said Wednesday that while he remains hopeful Backus will work toward betterment of the office, he will continue to keep a close watch.

“Mr. Backus has an opportunity to go in and make the proper changes in that office, but to sit there and say he needs to evaluate…the evaluation has been done, the damage has been done and someone needs to go in and correct that damage,” Kunzwiler said.

“We’re going to hold him to that level that he will correct what’s wrong in that office.”

Phil Vasho, a former legislator who challenged Backus, said he, too, will keep up to date on the clerk’s office. Vasho had the support of several employees, whom he had met with prior to the election to hear their concerns.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

Backus denies a deal was made with union organization

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.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

Candidates look at IQS contract

by Carol Thompson

The fate of a recently awarded contract to Info Quick Solutions, Inc. of Liverpool that some legislators claim will cost taxpayers $300,000 more than necessary will be determined by the next county clerk.

Republican candidate Michael C. Backus and Democrat candidate Phillip E. Vasho each have a different approach to the controversial contract.

The contract award to IQS was not unanimous with all Democrat and some Republican legislators voting against it. The contract award was shrouded in controversy and it took legislators more than 18 months to award a proposal.

Backus said he will give the company until next year to determine how to proceed.

“At the end of the year, October of next year, if that contract is not serving in the best interest of the taxpayers and at the end of the day if it’s not working out in the best possible regard for the clerk’s office, we will seek another way to do it,” he said.

Backus did not want to comment on the Essex County Ethics Board investigation that resulted in the County Clerk admitting to allowing company officials to evaluate the other bidders and sharing that information with the Board of Supervisors to sway their decision.

“I have not reviewed that and I would want to review everything that came through that report and I would want to do that both so I am up to speed on what their county did.. just so I understand what they did,” Backus said.

Vasho said if elected, IQS will be gone. “I believe there’s something not quite right (with the contract),” Vasho said.

He added that the indexing must be returned to the clerk’s office and not done by IQS, who charges a fee for each indexing.

“The mapping, the shipping fees are too much,” Vasho said. “We need to be more efficient and give the taxpayers the best bang for the buck.”

As for the added positions in the office, Backus and Vasho had differing opinions.

In the mid-2000s, the deputy clerk was given a large raise and at the time the salary increase was justified by stating that the deputy would do all of the accounting.

Shortly after the raise was approved, the position of senior account clerk was added. A senior index clerk was eliminated and the position of deputy clerk of operations was added. The deputy clerk of operations was said to be a senior index clerk with only the title changed. Shortly after the deputy position was approved, the senior index clerk position was added as of the first of the year.

The senior index clerk position was said to be needed so the indexing could be returned from the office rather than paying IQS employees to do the work.

The indexing has yet to be returned to the county employees.

“That’s what started all the dissension in that office,” Vasho said. “It was the juggling of those positions.”

Vasho said he would streamline the office to make it more efficient and determine what positions are duplicated and not needed.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397
Oswego County clerk candidates Michael C. Backus  (left) and Phillip E. Vasho visited The Valley News last week to discuss their platforms and goals for the office. Backus is a Republican while Vasho is a Democrat. The election will be held next Tuesday, Nov. 6.

County clerk candidates offer differing perspectives

Oswego County clerk candidates Michael C. Backus (left) and Phillip E. Vasho visited The Valley News last week to discuss their platforms and goals for the office. Backus is a Republican while Vasho is a Democrat. The election will be held next Tuesday, Nov. 6.

by Carol Thompson

The next Oswego County Clerk faces many challenges as the office has been shrouded in controversy.

Two candidates are vying for the position.

Republican candidate Michael C. Backus said he will do a “personal evaluation” to determine what needs to be done. Democrat Phillip E. Vasho said he will take immediate steps to correct the problems that he said have gone on far too long.

The candidates sat together Friday and answered questions as to their plans for the office.

Vasho said he chose to run because he saw the need for change. “I looked at the situation and saw that we could definitely use some change in the county clerk’s office,” he said.

Backus said he chose to run because it’s an office he feels he can be very beneficial.

“I’m 28 years old, I’m a young person growing up here…as a young person I hope to be a part of the next generation of leaders that are growing up here in the county,” he said.

Both candidates hold political leadership positions. Vasho serves as the chairman of the City of Fulton Democrat Committee. He said if elected county clerk, he will step down from his committee seat immediately.

Backus serves as the chairman of the Oswego County Republican Committee. He said he will separate the two positions and make a clear distinction between his two roles.

A special election is being held for the position of county clerk due to the death of longtime clerk George Williams.

If elected, Backus said he has many connections in state government to assist with the transition as well as an association with other clerks throughout the state.

Backus currently works in the office of Assemblyman Brian Kolb. Backus’ campaign efforts have the support of State Senator Patty Ritchie, Assemblyman Will Barclay, former state Senator and U.S. Ambassador H. Douglas Barclay, Assemblyman Bob Oakes and former U.S. Senator and current lobbyist Alfonse D’Amato.

Vasho said he is running a grass-roots campaign with little financial assistance and added that his experience as a legislator is what he can bring to the office. He said he served five years on the legislature committee that oversees the clerk’s office and learned much about the operations of the office through that experience.

Backus said he will take the time to personally evaluate each aspect of the clerk’s office.  Vasho said he will take immediate action on some issues, including an independent audit of the entire department.

“The clerk would never allow the county treasurer to see his books,” Vasho said. “I think that’s wrong and the books will be opened to the county treasurer.”

Vasho said he will open the doors to any investigators. It has been reported that the clerk’s office was served with a subpoena by the U.S. Attorney’s office seeking 10 years of books and records.

Backus said he has no proof that investigators have been looking into the clerk’s office.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

County clerk candidates to be selected Tuesday

by Carol Thompson

Both major political parties will select a candidate to run for the office of County Clerk in November.

A vacancy has occurred due to the Sept. 3 death of George Williams, who had served in the position for three decades.

The Oswego County Republican Committee members will chose between Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley and GOP Chairman Michael C. Backus.

The Oswego County Democrat Committee has not announced their candidates although Oswego Town Clerk Theresa Cooper has expressed an interest.

As of press time, both committees have a meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397


Two Republicans seeking party’s nomination for clerk

by Carol Thompson

The Oswego County Republican Committee will meet next week to select a candidate to be on the ballot in November for the position of county clerk.

Oswego County Republican Committee Chairman Michael C. Backus and Oswego County Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley are both seeking the nomination.

The position will be on the ballot due to the death of George Williams, who had served for three decades.

The day after his funeral, several committee members said they received a letter signed by Williams’ wife, Norma Williams, seeking support for Beardsley. “Sadly we have come to the end of an era and the office of County Clerk is vacant,” the letter states.

“Fred has the campaign experience and the county wide name recognition to win the election. Fred has the integrity to run the County Clerk’s office. To me the choice is clear.”

The letter continues, “I am supporting Fred for County Clerk. It is not just what I want, I know it is what George would want.”

The letter concludes, “Please do the right thing for the office of County Clerk, the people of Oswego County and the Republican Party cast your vote for Fred Beardsley (sic).”

The Democrats will also have a candidate. As of press time, they have not made an announcement as to whom will be on the ballot.

Due to the timing of the vacancy, the position will be on the November ballot, however, each major party committee selects a candidate due to the lack of time for petitioning.

The office has been shrouded in controversy in recent years

Oswego County Democrat Chairman Mike Kunzwiler said that should his party candidate win the office, a complete audit of the clerk’s office will be the first order of business.

Backus said he will do an evaluation and make a decision once all the aspects of the county clerk’s office have been reviewed.


Delegates reflect on experience

by Carol Thompson

With the presidential election season in full swing, some local residents were part of the delegations of the two major political parties.

Michael C. Backus attended the Republican National Convention held in Tampa Aug. 27-30, joining 2,286 delegates and 2,125 alternate delegates from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories for the 40th convention held to nominate a presidential candidate.

The delegation selected Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, for president, and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, as vice president.

“I was honored to be among the New York delegation at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida,” Backus said upon his return from Florida. “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan, I thought, did a tremendous job outlining the challenge our nation faces and what they’ll do to turn around this economy and create jobs.”

Backus said he was personally struck by two particular speeches, those of Senator Marco Rubino and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Romney also had a low rating: at 48 percent unfavorable and 43 favorable.

To read the rest of the story, pick up a copy of the Valley News at our office or at one of several locations throughout the City. For Subscriptions call 598-6397.