Tag Archives: Oswego County Clerk

Four incidents in county clerk’s office prompt call for action

by Carol Thompson

Employees of the Oswego County Clerk’s office have reached out to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission in hopes of ending what they allege has been three years of bullying and abuse at the hands of management.

Four incidents last week were the last straw for the employees, they said. The EEOC will investigate the claim and, if founded, the county could be fined up to $300,000.

Two weeks ago, an employee threw a staple puller at another employee, hitting the employee in the shoulder. While an investigation is underway, the employee who allegedly threw the puller has been moved to another department.

Last Wednesday, the staple puller that was thrown at the employee was found in the trash. The employees check their trash at the end of each day to be sure nothing is thrown out in error. They said the staple puller was not in the trash when they made their inspection. The next morning, in search of a missing check, the trash was checked  once again and the staple puller, considered evidence, was found.

Upon opening a desk drawer, an employee found a new staple puller, which several legislators referred to as an act of intimidation.

The following day, an employee of the county DMV telephoned two clerk employees to inquire as to what was going on in the office. The DMV employee allegedly reported she had heard a woman was taken away from the clerk’s office in handcuffs. The employees did not understand why they were being called and not management.

The so-called arrest story circulated throughout the county building for a majority of the morning, with legislators being contacted. The “arrest” was later said to be a hoax or misunderstanding.

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

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Sweet considers write-in campaign for county clerk

by Carol Thompson

Susan Sweet, a registered Conservative and 29-year employee of the Oswego County Clerk’s office, said Wednesday she is considering a write-in campaign for the clerk’s position that will be on the ballot in November due to the death of George Williams.

Sweet did not receive the endorsement of the Oswego County Conservative Party. She was not made aware the Conservative Committee was holding a meeting to nominate a candidate to put on the ballot.

Instead, the Conservatives nominated Michael Backus, a Republican, who did attend the meeting.

County Conservative Party Chairman Ron Greenleaf said he was surprised Sweet had not sought the nomination because he was aware she had been interested in running for the office in the past.

He said Sweet had not been notified that a meeting was going to be held for the purpose of nominating a candidate.  A notice had been issued stating than an organizational meeting was to be held, however, it did not reference the nomination and Sweet did not receive it, Greenleaf said.

“We had a short time frame,” Greenleaf said, adding that no one had called Sweet to tell her of the meeting in the event she was still interested in running.

“I was approached after the fact,” Sweet said. “I had calls the day after the meeting asking why I didn’t attend and why I wasn’t running.”

Sweet said she has been encouraged by members of her own party and some residents of the county to launch a write-in campaign.

“I’ve had calls from registered Conservatives who said they were disappointed the line went to a Republican and not someone from their own party,” she said. “They encouraged me to do a write in campaign.”

Sweet said she has not made a firm commitment, although she said she has had many offers of help with a campaign, should she decide to run.

Two years ago, Sweet attempted a run against George Williams, however, her nominating petitions were not valid due to a technicality.

At that time, she did interview with the Conservative committee and was passed over for Williams, a Republican.

Her campaign theme was to add a mobile office to the clerk’s office, which would travel to towns around the county on a regular schedule.

“I wanted, and still would like to see, a traveling office so that it is convenient for those living a far distance from the Oswego office to have easy access to the services the clerk’s office provides,” she said.

Sweet said she also campaigned on the negatives of outsourcing the clerk’s office to Onondaga County-based Info Quick Solutions, Inc., the company that provides the data imaging services for the office.

“Before IQS, the public could come to the Oswego office and purchase a map at a very low cost,” Sweet said. “Now maps must be ordered from IQS and not only are they more costly, but the public is forced to pay a shipping fee. The price of a map for the public has more than doubled and I firmly believe that it is wrong.”

 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

Appeal likely in clerk case

by Carol Thompson

An Article 78 proceeding filed against Oswego County Clerk George Williams has been dismissed by Oswego County Supreme Court Judge Norman Seiter.

“Judge Seiter dismissed our proceeding. We are waiting for the order to be prepared,” said Scott Chatfield, who represents APS Information Services and its owner, Aaron P. Smith.

Chatfield said he will obtain a copy of the judge’s written decision as for the reasons for dismissal and will review the information.

“It’s highly likely an appeal will be filed,” Chatfield said.

The lawsuit was filed to challenge Williams’ charging a fee for criminal record searches. The lawsuit contends that criminal records are public records and should be made available for public searches free of charge.

At issue, Chatfield said, is whether Williams, when charging the fee, is acting as the clerk of the court or the county clerk.

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