Democratic Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature

Press Releases

Legislator Sheppard Advocates for Office of Public Integrity that Fully Complies with National Standards

Press ReleasesTom MorriseyComment

Rochester, New York – Legislator James M. Sheppard (D – Rochester), a former director of the City of Rochester’s own Office of Public Integrity (OPI), believes that Monroe County’s proposed office is compromised by not being given the appropriate independence and oversight necessary to do its job effectively.

Legislator James M. Sheppard is a former Office of Public Integrity director and has proposed applying national standards to ensure that the county's new office has the appropriate independence and oversight necessary to be effective.

 “I took the initiative to reach out to the County Executive in writing because she has shown a willingness to amend this legislation to better serve the needs of the people of Monroe County. My colleagues and I share her vision of creating a county government that is the most transparent and ethical in the nation,” said Legislator Sheppard.  “I believe that the citizens of Monroe County deserve oversight of county government that is neither compromised in its creation nor weak in its execution.  Furthermore, this is an opportunity to create a legacy of accountability in government that all citizens can be proud of.”

Legislator Sheppard suggested a series of additional changes to the draft legislation in a letter to County Executive Dinolfo on February 17.  Drawn directly from the standards of the national Association of Inspectors General, these changes include:

  • Establishing an independent selection committee to recommend candidates for the County Executive to select from, with its members being:
    • The Monroe County District Attorney;
    • A Police Chief, designated by the Monroe County Association of Chiefs of Police;
    • An attorney with experience dealing with investigations of fraud, theft, deception or conspiracy, designated by the Monroe County Bar Association;
    • A Certified Public Accountant with experience in forensic auditing or internal controls, designated by the Rochester Chapter of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants;
    • The chairperson of the existing Monroe County Board of Ethics, whose members are appointed by the County Executive, subject to Legislature approval.
  • Giving the Office the mission of establishing fraud control programs, inspections, and operational surveys to identify and address shortcomings that could lead to abuse or fraud before there is any waste or misuse of public funds.
  • Establishing specific qualifications for those appointed as Director of the Office of Public Integrity, including ten years of experience in relevant fields, such as the judiciary, law enforcement, or fraud investigation.
  • Requiring that the Director and office staff attain certifications to the qualification standards of the Association of Inspectors General.
  • Requiring that audit and investigative findings be publically reported.
  • Establishing legal consequences for those found guilty of purposely impeding or obstructing an investigation of the Office.
  • Giving the Office the authority to conduct criminal investigations when necessary.

“Four guilty pleas were just entered in relation to the criminal LDC scheme that an independent audit says cost county taxpayers tens of millions of dollars,” Legislator Sheppard said.  “Creating an Office of Public Integrity that does not have a proactive mandate to prevent fraud, waste and abuse through inspections, review and audits, and provide the kind of oversight that could have prevented that scandal is unacceptable.  We need to demonstrate that we have learned from the past and are not willing to compromise our integrity as we look to the future.”

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Ban on Microbeads Protecting Great Lakes Introduced by Legislator Styk

Press ReleasesTom MorriseyComment

Legislator Dorothy Styk (D – Perinton, East Rochester) today introduced a bill to ban the sale of products containing microbeads in Monroe County.  Microbeads – small plastic balls added to many personal care products as an exfoliant – have been shown to pass straight through treatment systems and into local waters.

“I am the proud mother of two Eagle Scouts, and through Scouting my family learned the value of conservation, preserving the natural splendor of our region for recreation and commerce,” Legislator Styk said.  “This ban will help ensure that the Great Lakes, which contribute so much to our quality of life and to diverse industries like tourism, winemaking and commercial fishing, remain clean and safe for generations to come.”

Once in the Great Lakes, microbeads absorb toxic chemicals like PCBs and DDT, and are then ingested by fish.  As larger animals – including humans – eat lake fish, the toxic substances bioaccumulate at higher and higher levels.

Recent groundbreaking research at the State University of New York at Fredonia, which showed that Lake Ontario has some of the highest measured plastic levels of any body of water on Earth, has prompted local governments to work towards removing microbead products on local shelves.  In late July, the Erie County Legislature passed a ban on such products with bipartisan support, and several large retailers, including Tops and Wegmans supermarkets, have already voluntarily begun removing the products from shelves statewide.  The products, however, still remain widely available.  A state ban stalled in the New York State Senate last year after passing in the Assembly by a vote of 139-1.

“This is an important measure to pass locally in part because the state has not yet taken any action,” Minority Leader Carrie Andrews (D – Rochester) stated. “We should be a leader in protecting our community’s vital environmental resources and this bill will help us do that.”

The legislation will be considered at the September 29th meeting of the Agenda/Charter Committee of the Monroe County Legislature, currently scheduled for 5:45 p.m.  If you wish to speak on behalf of this legislation, contact the Clerk of the Legislature at 753-1950.

(Note: the original version of this release stated that Agenda/Charter would be meeting Wednesday at 5:30, its normal day and time.  The committee meeting was rescheduled by the majority on Friday the 25th.)

Legislator Andrews' Update to Cyberbullying Law to Appear Before County's Agenda/Charter Committee

Press ReleasesTom MorriseyComment

Rochester, New York - In July of 2012, the Monroe County Legislature voted to enact a local law entitled 'Prohibiting Cyberbullying in Monroe County.' At that time, the sponsors stated that it was modeled after a law passed in Albany County. However, in a July 1, 2014 decision, the Court of Appeals ruled that the Albany County law was overly broad and violated the First Amendment. Legislator Carrie Andrews (D - Rochester) has submitted legislation to address the concerns raised by the court's opinion.

"This law was written with a very worthy goal in mind, protecting our children from cyberbullying and harassment," Legislator Andrews stated. "However, since the law it was modeled after was deemed unconstitutional, so could ours. This amendment reflects the court ruling and is necessary to ensure Monroe County's law can withstand a potential legal challenge."

The legislation more narrowly defines the term cyberbullying and focuses on electronic communications that are sexually explicit; it is narrowly focused to withstand judicial scrutiny and still protect our children from heinous and detrimental acts. Legislator Andrews' legislation will appear before the County Legislature's Agenda/Charter Committee August 19, 2015 at 5:30pm in the Legislative Chambers. If you would like to speak in the public forum, please call 753-1950 to sign up.

Documents Reveal Monroe County to Take Over Navitech Contracts

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Rochester, New York — April 8, 2014.  According to documents obtained by Democrats in the County Legislature, it appears the County Executive has decided to have the county take over the work previously performed by Navitech Services Corporation, the entity at the center of the LDC debacle and the prime contractor for UTC and M3S LDCs. This means the county will be contracting with the LDCs, and then entering into another contract with the LDCs to provide them with management services, creating a circular loop that raises questions about why the LDCs are still needed.

“These LDCs have been shrouded in secrecy since day one,” Democratic Leader Carrie M. Andrews (D-Rochester) said. “The public deserves to know what is going on. The only thing that is clear is that these LDCs have wasted a great deal of taxpayer money, as each and every independent review has shown.”

Minority Leader Andrews has sent the County Executive a letter requesting information about how this new LDC structure will operate. Additionally, the county has previously said the Navitech contracts were to be terminated on either April 1 or May 1 of 2014, but little information has been provided since then. The letter from Minority Leader Andrews also requests all agreements between Navitech and the county or LDCs related to the contract cancellation.

“We should be able to tell our constituents what is going on with these significant sums of public money. Given everything that’s taken place thus far with the LDCs, one would hope our Republican colleagues would be interested in going above and beyond to provide as much transparency as possible. Unfortunately, they won’t even tell the public what the ‘irregularities’ were that led to the decision to cancel the Navitech contract. Everyone deserves to know much more about these LDCs than has been provided to date,” Andrews added.

The revelation about the county assuming control of the Navitech contract was contained in the most recent audited financial statements for UTC and M3S, which states that “the County will undertake the services previously provided by Navitech upon execution of an amendment to the Service Agreement.”

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Legislators Submit Resolution Opposing Casino in Henrietta

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Rochester, New York — April 7, 2014.  Democratic County Legislators announced that they have submitted a resolution against the proposed casino in the Town of Henrietta. The resolution was submitted today by Legislator Justin Wilcox (D-Brighton, Henrietta). Each legislator will then have until May 16 to decide whether they will support the resolution.

“Over the past few weeks, it has become clear that there is significant opposition to a potential casino in Henrietta,” Legislator Wilcox said. “Given the concerns the residents have expressed about the negative impact to local businesses and the quality of life in Henrietta, we simply do not feel that a casino is in the community’s interest. While I support economic development projects that stimulate the local economy and create jobs, it is not clear at all that a casino would have this net effect nor is it clear that it would bring in any additional tourism dollars. In fact, based on evidence presented in studies, instead of attracting new visitors, these establishments compete with local businesses and draw dollars from local residents.”

“The local community has spoken when it comes to this project. At each opportunity they’ve had, we have seen local residents overwhelmingly oppose this proposal. In addition, there does not appear to be any clear or convincing economic benefits that will result from building a casino in Henrietta,” Wilcox added.

The resolution calls on the Governor to oppose amending the agreement with the Seneca Nation, which currently allows only three Seneca Casinos in the state.

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Democrats: Brooks Flouting Law in Denying Access to Information & Records

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Rochester, New York — March 19, 2014.  Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature today released a legal opinion authored by the counsel to the Legislature in 2001 stating that “a legislator should not have to file a Freedom of Information request to obtain information.” In December 2013, Democrats received a letter from the Brooks’ Administration denying a request for records related to the contract with former lobbyist and Republican Attorney Dennis Vacco and telling legislators the records may be accessed via a FOIL request. In light of the 2001 legal opinion, Democrats today sent Brooks another letter demanding the records.

“If there is one hallmark of this county government, it is that it prefers to operate in the shadows,” Democratic Leader Carrie M. Andrews (D-Rochester) said. “The practice of hiding or deliberately obfuscating serious issues has long been the policy under the current administration. They even violated an opinion from their own legislative counsel by refusing to provide legislators with certain financial records related to the contract with Mr. Vacco. The County Executive and our Republican colleagues in the legislature must set aside this desire for secrecy and provide this information so the public can know how their tax dollars are being spent.”

“This isn’t the County Executive’s money,” Legislator Justin Wilcox (D-Brighton) said.  “This is the public’s money and we have a responsibility to know what’s happening with it. We’ve now shown that they are in violation of our county charter by refusing to provide the most basic information on the significant sum of tax payer dollars already spent on Mr. Vacco. It’s long past time for them to be faithful to the basic premise that taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent. We believe this year’s Sunshine Week provides a perfect opportunity for this administration to change course and become more transparent.”

Although no concrete numbers are available, based on previous invoices released to media, Democrats believe it is highly likely that more than a quarter of a million dollars in public funds have been spent on the contract with Mr. Vacco and his firm to date.  Please find attached the legal opinion from then Legislative Counsel Fredrick Holbrook affirming legislators’ rights to access information. Ironically, Mr. Holbrook today serves as an appointee on the Monroe County Charter Review Committee.

Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. For more information on Sunshine Week, please visit their website at www.sunshineweek.org.

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Democrats Propose LDC Revolving Door Ban to Prevent Conflict of Interest

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Rochester, New York — March 13, 2014.  Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature have introduced legislation that would prohibit county officers or employees from working for a Local Development Corporation (LDC) or any LDC contractor or subcontractor for two years after leaving county employment. The legislation was prompted by the steady stream of former county officials who have left county employment to work for LDCs and their contractors, including a former county official currently under indictment.

“This legislation would go a long way toward restoring public confidence in county operations,” Legislator Cindy Kaleh (D-Rochester), the proposal’s sponsor, said. “Under existing law, county employees are prohibited from soliciting or accepting private employment that creates a conflict with or impairs the proper discharge of their duties. We are deeply troubled that several former county employees created at least an appearance of a conflict of interest when they left county employment and immediately began working for an LDC or one of their contractors." 

Since the current administration took office, at least three high-ranking county officials—the former Deputy County Executive, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Technology Officer—have left county employment to take positions with LDCs or their contractors. Most alarmingly, the former Chief Technology Officer resigned county employment and almost immediately began working for an LDC subcontractor, despite the fact that the former officer is under indictment for allegations of misconduct related to the very same LDC he now provides services to.

“When county officials—especially those officials with a responsibility to oversee LDCs—leave county employment to work for the LDC they were overseeing, it creates a strong appearance that they may have conflicting interests,” Legislator Paul Haney (D-Rochester) said. “This proposal would establish a mandatory cooling off period which would help restore the public’s confidence that county officers are acting in the public interest and not in the interest of their future employment prospects.”

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Legislature Democrats Offer Good Government Reforms to Charter Committee

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Rochester, New York — March 6, 2014.  Monroe County Legislature Democrats submitted a letter with their suggestions for charter revisions, objections to current proposals, and questioning the legal standing of the Committee to the Charter Review Committee today. The Charter Review Committee was constituted in May 2013 to do a periodic review of Monroe County’s Charter.

“The Charter Review Committee represents an opportunity to update the way Monroe County operates, and we should use this opportunity to add transparency and restore accountability to our government,” stated Minority Leader Carrie Andrews (D-Rochester). “We hope that the Commission will give fair consideration to our ideas.”

Democrats proposed eleven significant changes to the charter in their letter. Among them are proposals to create an independent redistricting commission, reform Local Development Corporations, prohibit elected officials from receiving a pay raise without public notice, and create an Office of Public Integrity to oversee complaints of misconduct in county operations.

Lastly, the Democrats also question the authority of the Charter Review Committee. “The current charter clearly states that a Charter Review Committee shall present findings within 6 months of the committee’s appointment. As it was constituted in May, it lapsed in November. To extend the time, the Legislature should have voted to do so, but we have not,” explained Legislator Justin Wilcox (D-Brighton). “While we understand this process will move forward, any enacted proposals could be subject to dispute.”

The full text of the letter sent to the Charter Review Committee along with detailed explanations of the recommended and opposed proposals are available. 

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Legislator Proposes School Board Apointee to COMIDA Board

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Rochester, New York — February 25, 2014.  Monroe County Legislator Justin Wilcox (D-Brighton) has sent a letter to President Jeff Adair requesting that he fill a vacant seat on the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA) Board with a member recommended by the Monroe County School Boards Association.

“Our school boards deserve a voice on the COMIDA Board,” Wilcox said. “As the primary economic development tool for our county, COMIDA must begin to regain the faith of residents and dispel any notion that they are merely a rubber stamp for well-financed interests. Tax break deals are now raising serious questions from the Medley Center in Irondequoit to Marketplace Mall in Henrietta and it’s time we take action.”

Section 856-2 of the New York State General Municipal Law specifically provides that Industrial Development Agency board members “may include representatives of local government, school boards, organized labor and business.” The President of the Legislature is responsible for recommending an appointee for the COMIDA board to the full legislature for confirmation.

“By soliciting a new COMIDA board member from the school boards association, this county will show that we believe in an inclusive, responsive government. The perception of COMIDA must be changed and we must ensure all of their projects are subject to rigorous review. This proposed action will be a powerful first step towards that goal,” Wilcox added.

Please find the letter attached.

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Democrats: Public Deserves to Know Whole Story Behind Golf Contract Termination

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Rochester, New York — January 13, 2014.  The County Executive announced last Friday that the County is ending a contract to manage and operate publicly owned golf courses three years early. The contract has been the subject of controversy and questions of impropriety for many years. Democrats believe there is much more to explain the contract termination than has yet been revealed.

“We first requested an audit of this contract in 2007,” Democratic Legislator Paul Haney (D-Rochester) said. “While we welcome the news that the contracts have finally been terminated, we question whether the public is being told the whole story. We have repeatedly expressed concerns about whether the vendor in this case was abiding by their contractual requirements. Unfortunately, the Brooks administration has not been forthcoming with answers. Therefore, it is extremely suspicious that the contract would be ended early only days after the State Comptroller began an audit of the contract.”

“County taxpayers deserve to have well maintained golf courses, but over the past few years the county administration has failed to provide this service to residents," Legislator Joseph Morelle Jr. (D-Irondequoit) said. “Democrats have asked for information surrounding the golf courses in the past and while we still believe the County Executive owes all of Monroe County answers on what has been happening, we find this move in terminating the current contract and providing the service ourselves to be a good one.  We hope that county residents will be proud of our courses and enjoy or learn to enjoy such a great sport on what should be well kept public facilities." 

As recently as September 26, 2013, Democrats have requested information from the Brooks Administration about the courses. No response has been received to date.

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New York State to Complete Work on new County Children's Detention Center Location

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Rochester, New York — December 30, 2013.  The Regional Director for Empire State Development today informed Monroe County officials that the new location for the Children’s Detention Center (CDC) will be ready to receive children on or before January 10, 2014, which will allow the CityGate project to proceed as planned.

 Democrats received a copy of the letter and are releasing it to ensure the public knows that the CityGate project will be able to proceed as planned, if the County allows the children to move when the new location on the Industry juvenile justice residential campus is ready. The recent dispute about approving bond resolutions for the County’s Capital Budget has no impact on fact that the children housed at the current CDC location can be moved to the new location in as little as two weeks. Having the children moved to a new location is the primary hurdle for the CityGate project.

“We are pleased that New York State has offered viable paths forward to complete the CityGate project and ensure the children in our care are housed appropriately,” Democratic Leader Carrie Andrews (D-Rochester) said. “It is incumbent upon the Brooks administration to make certain that the children are relocated on or before January 10. Our community needs these jobs and the children deserve a safe new location to reside. Needless brinksmanship at the expense of children and economic development is not in the interest of the citizens of our county.”

Please find the letter attached.

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Democrats Outline Plan to Approve Children's Detention Center Funding

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Rochester, New York — December 23, 2013.  Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature this morning sent the County Executive a letter outlining a path forward to successfully approve funding for the Children’s Detention Center (CDC) and forestall any delay with the CityGate project. In the letter, Democrats requested that Brooks call for a meeting of the Planning Board as soon as possible so they can amend the 2013 Capital Budget to include the CDC funding. After the planning board approves that amendment, the Legislature can hold a meeting to approve the financing and the project can move forward.

Democrats offered an amendment during last Friday morning’s special Legislature meeting to do include the CDC in the 2013 Capital Budget, but Republicans blocked the move saying it required the approval of the Planning Board first. On December 18, at the request of the County Executive, the Planning Board held a special meeting to include the CDC in the 2014 Capital Budget. The resolution to provide financing for the project was tabled by Republican Legislators.

“Just last week the Planning Board held a special meeting to approve the County Executive’s request,” Democratic Leader Carrie Andrews (D-Rochester) said. “We are simply asking them to meet again and include the project in this year’s Capital Budget, which is entirely appropriate because the County has incurred expenses this year for the rehabilitation of the facility at the Industry site.”

Once the Planning Board approves the amendment, the County Legislature would be able to hold a special meeting. If the project is included in the 2013 Capital Budget, Democrats have pledged their support to get it passed.

“Today we have offered a simple path forward to approve funding for this project while protecting taxpayers and creating jobs with the CityGate project. As we saw last week, Republicans have no problem acting rapidly, so unless there are other reasons they don’t want this project approved, we would expect them to accept this offer so we can move these projects forward,” Andrews added.

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Republicans Block Children's Detention Center, Jeopardize Costco Project

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Rochester, New York — December 20, 2013.  Republicans in the County Legislature, during an early morning meeting called with less than 24 hours’ notice, voted against passing the Children’s Detention Center project as part of the 2013 Capital Budget and then proceeded to table a bonding resolution that could have been passed and immediately authorized funding for only that project.

Yesterday County Executive Brooks and Republicans tried to order work to stop at the new Children’s Detention Center in Rush, unbeknownst to the public or Democratic Legislators. The state had already begun work at the site, which is able to house the children effective immediately. Nonetheless, the County Executive has decided that neither the Children’s Detention Center nor the MCC downtown campus will proceed. 

The MCC project has already begun, with the purchase of the building having been completed for approximately $3 million. When that purchase was made a substantial amount of the project’s funding had not yet been approved. In fact, the state funding still has not been approved.

“It’s contradictory and illogical for the County Executive to say she won’t proceed with these projects until all the funding is in place,” Democratic Leader Carrie Andrews said. “The fact is that even if the Capital Budget bonding resolutions had passed, all the state funding for the MCC campus would not be in place, so the Executive’s claims are clearly false. The only reason these projects will be halted is that the Republicans want to manufacture a crisis to further their goal of shielding the County Executive from scrutiny regarding the internal review of her own actions related to LDCs.”

“Republican legislators had a chance to vote this morning to approve bonding solely for the Children’s Detention Center, but they instead chose to table the resolution. This clearly demonstrates that they are only out to score political points at the expense of the well-being of the children in our care and the jobs to be created at the Costco site. They should be ashamed,” Andrews added.

Republicans also backed off their previous claims that former lobbyist and Republican elected official Dennis Vacco is performing a ‘joint investigation’ with the current Attorney General. They do acknowledge that Mr. Vacco is performing an internal review and that he reports to the County Executive, which is the basis of Democratic concerns.

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Republicans Inject Children's Detention Center into Already Defeated Plan

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Rochester, New York — December 19, 2013.  Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature are blasting County Executive Maggie Brooks and her Legislature allies for manufacturing a crisis with the last minute inclusion of the Children’s Detention Center in the 2014 Capital Budget, which was already defeated last week. Notably, this move comes after it was conclusively shown that the failure of the Capital Budget would not delay the MCC downtown campus, contrary to Republican claims.

“We’ve been asking for information about the Children’s Detention Center for more than a year,” Democratic Leader Carrie Andrews (D-Rochester) said. “As recently as last week, this administration refused to share any information about the project with the legislature. But today, with their hysterical claims that MCC downtown campus would be delayed having been proven false, Republicans sunk to a new low. They are now intentionally putting this project in jeopardy by injecting these kids into a plan that has already been defeated and is currently in dispute.”

“It appears the Children’s Detention Center does need to move forward soon in order to safeguard the children and create jobs for our community. We support this project and don’t want to see it entangled in the battle currently being waged over the County Executive’s ability to investigate her own actions. As such, we will make a motion at the special meeting tomorrow to allow an up or down vote on that project alone. If the Republicans are truly interested in doing what’s best for this community and not playing politics to protect their allies from investigation, then they must vote in favor of our motion to separate this project from the Capital Budget and approve it as a stand-alone resolution,” Andrews added.

 The special meeting tomorrow will take place at 6:30am. Democrats were provided notice of the meeting at 11:00am today, less than 24 hours before the meeting is scheduled. It is unprecedented for the legislature to hold a meeting at 6:30am.

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Democrats to Vote in Favor of MCC Downtown Campus Contracts

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Rochester, New York — December 17, 2013.  Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature will vote in favor of two contracts for the MCC downtown campus during tonight’s meeting of the Recreation and Education Committee. The legislation proposed by the County Executive would authorize contracts with LaBella Associates for design services and DiMarco Constructors LLC to provide design phase and construction phase construction management services.

The contracts total almost $7 million and are the first steps towards designing and constructing the new downtown campus. Funding for the contracts is contained in capital fund 1665, which according to page 415 of the 2014 County Budget has $24 million available to pay for the downtown campus.

“This caucus is pleased to support these two contracts so the work at MCC can finally begin,” Democratic Leader Carrie Andrews (D-Rochester) said. “The notion that the MCC project is being held up is a complete misrepresentation of reality. The truth is we have $24 million available for the project from the 2012 Capital Budget and only $7 million in proposed contracts, leaving a balance of $17 million to be spent on future contracts.”

“Republicans should be embarrassed for trying to use this project and MCC’s students as pawns in their effort to continue allowing the County Executive to investigate her own actions. They need to reevaluate their course of action. As we vote in favor of these contracts tonight, we would hope that they will consider the value in compromise and working together to protect taxpayers and restore the community’s faith in their representatives,” Andrews added.

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Democrats Block Capital Budget, Demand Independent Internal LDC Review

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Rochester, New York — December 10, 2013.  Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature have for months been denied requests for information and for years seen their LDC reform proposals stifled with no debate. In response to this extensive history, Democrats have blocked passage of the county’s Capital Budget until the County Executive and her administration are no longer overseeing the internal investigation into LDC misconduct. Democrats have submitted a proposal to create a Legislative Committee to take over the investigation in a bipartisan manner, which will be considered at the Agenda/Charter Committee meeting on December 16.

“Everyone has a line in the sand,” Democratic Leader Carrie Andrews (D-Rochester) said. “After years of being stifled and months of having our legitimate requests for information denied, we can no longer stand idly by while the County Executive investigates herself. As a caucus, we believe that while the criminal investigations are ongoing, the Legislature must take over the internal review. To allow otherwise would be to jeopardize the very foundation of our government and we will not let that happen.”

“The idea that the people who created this environment will now be able to perform an unbiased review of their own actions is not credible. It’s time for the legislature to step in and exercise its oversight responsibilities,” Andrews added.

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County Administration Rejects Requests for Information about Vacco Contract

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Rochester, New York — December 9, 2013.  In response to several requests for information about the contract with Dennis Vacco, the County Attorney, on behalf of County Executive Maggie Brooks, has written to legislators saying that records related to the contract will not be shared and a FOIL request must be filed for any information.

“We’ve been asking for this information for five months,” Democratic Leader Carrie Andrews (D-Rochester) said. “Now, on the eve of their asking us to approve hundreds of thousands of dollars in new spending on the contract with Mr. Vacco in the 2014 budget, they tell us that we’re not going to be informed of any details related to this spending. These actions by the administration are another significant step away from transparency in this government and are exactly what we should not be doing to reassure taxpayers at this time. We need to do everything in our power to ensure that every dollar being spent is subject to public review.”

Democrats sent the administration four requests for information on or about August 2, October 29, November 15 and November 19 of this year. Immediately before 5:00pm on Friday, December 6, the administration delivered their six sentence reply, which directed legislators to file a FOIL request if information is sought.

“Unfortunately, this is another effort on the part of this administration to misrepresent and, we believe, violate the law,” Democratic Legislator Justin Wilcox (D-Brighton) said. “There is absolutely no reason that these records cannot be provided to the elected officials responsible for this government. If they feel a FOIL request is necessary for us to gain access to information, that’s absurd. Our four prior letters requesting the information should have been sufficient. We are elected officials with a legal duty to make sure public dollars are spent appropriately. Therefore, in addition to having a legal right to the information, we have a fundamental obligation to understand basic facts about this contract and it’s inexcusable for this administration to deny our legitimate requests for records and information.”

“Simply put, this administration is playing games to avoid disclosing information to legislators about the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars on an investigation being overseen by the same people being investigated. That’s unacceptable,” Wilcox added.

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Democrats Want Answers on New $37,000 Pay Hike for Sheriff O'Flynn

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Rochester, New York — November 25, 2013.  “Nobody in Government deserves a $37,000 pay raise in one year while serving in the same position.  This proposal is tone deaf and brain dead and should not be allowed to stand,”  stated Monroe County Legislator Michael Patterson (D-Rochester). 

He has written a letter to the County Executive requesting that Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn attend the December 5 meeting of the Ways & Means Committee to justify why the proposed 2014 budget would increase his salary from $136,700 to $174,000. The December 5th meeting also serves as the public input session of the proposed County Budget. 

By way of background, there was widespread outrage in December 2011 when Republican Legislators passed an eleventh-hour budget amendment to increase the Sheriff’s pay from $123,000 to $136,700.

“Sheriff O’Flynn is already one of the highest paid sheriffs in New York State,” Legislator Patterson said. “This County is balancing its budget by laying off staff and eliminating staff positions.  We are reducing the number of families that will receive child care assistance, and we claim that we still can’t afford to bury our indigent dead.  But we have plenty of money to put in the Sheriff’s pocket?  The Sheriff really needs to justify his proposed raise during the Ways & Means Committee meeting.”

When the previous raise was authorized for the 2012 budget, Republicans argued that the Sheriff should be equal to the District Attorney’s salary. But what they didn’t say is that the District Attorney’s salary is set by State Law and that the State pays for the salary—not local property taxpayers. However, because State Law does not require this salary for the Sheriff, his entire salary is paid from local property taxpayer funds.

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Democrats Propose Bipartisan Legislative Committee Take Over Internal LDC Review

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Rochester, New York — November 21, 2013.  Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature have proposed legislation to create a special bipartisan investigatory committee to assume control of the internal review into LDC contracts currently being performed by Dennis Vacco under the direction of the County Executive. Democrats believe there are clear conflicts of interest with the County Executive and that she cannot perform a credible review.

Democrats have been requesting information from the County Executive related to the internal review since August 2, but none of those requests have been answered. While the administration has acknowledged “irregularities” in the contracts with Navitech, the details of those irregularities have not been shared with the Legislature, the LDC boards or the public.

“If it weren’t for the County Executive personally authorizing the $100 million contract assignment, Navitech wouldn’t have any business with the County,” Legislator Carrie Andrews (D-Rochester) said. “We are deeply troubled by this situation and it is simply not acceptable to deflect attention by saying our calls for an independent review are ‘political’. We no longer have faith in the review being performed by Mr. Vacco and it’s time for our colleagues to join us in demanding some level of transparency for the citizens we represent.”

Democrats have previously raised concerns about whether any due diligence was performed by the County Executive prior to awarding the $100 million contract to Navitech, because it had only been in existence for a few weeks prior and had no experience whatsoever.

“In order for the public to have faith in this internal review, it must be performed by the Legislature,” Legislator Justin Wilcox (D-Rochester), the proposal’s sponsor, said. “The Legislature was created to act as a check against abuses of power in the Executive branch of government, and it’s clear that abuses have taken place. We need to step in as soon as possible, in a bipartisan and credible way, to ensure the integrity of this review and any recommendations that result from it. This should be a decision made by the Legislature and we need to act whether the County Executive accepts it or not.”

The special committee would be comprised of three members from each party and would be required to report monthly to the full legislature about their activities. The meetings of the committee would be open to the public. The proposal has been submitted to Legislature President Jeff Adair. If allowed to come up for a vote, the proposal would be considered during the week of December 16, giving Republican Legislators ample time for review.

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Democrats Propose Series of Eight Sweeping LDC Reforms

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Rochester, New York — November 12, 2013.  Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature unveiled a proposal to enact a series of eight sweeping reforms to Local Development Corporations created for the benefit of the county. Democrats have asked Legislature President Jeff Adair to accept the proposal for a vote tonight to set a public hearing on the bill on December 10.

“We simply cannot allow these entities to continue having unfettered control over our vital public safety communications infrastructure without enacting serious reforms,” Democratic Leader Carrie Andrews (D-Rochester) said. “These reforms are a meaningful first step toward ensuring that our vital public safety systems are protected and subjected to the appropriate level of accountability and transparency.”

The eight reforms include requiring:

  • Legislative consent before any LDC contract is assigned to a new vendor.
  • Legislative confirmation of all LDC board appointments.
  • Two legislative appointments to each LDC board.
  • That LDCs be subject to competitive procurement laws.
  • Legislative approval of LDC budgets.
  • Legislative approval of any amendments to contracts between LDCs & the county
  • The filing of all LDC contracts and subcontracts with the Clerk of the Legislature, including a statement detailing the principal officers of the entities receiving contracts
  • The filing of quarterly and annual financial statements with the Clerk of the Legislature.

“We must do everything within our power to ensure due diligence is performed and that there is adequate oversight of these contracts,” Democratic Legislator Paul Haney (D-Rochester), the sponsor of the proposal, said. “We’ve been proposing some of these reforms for many years. Each time, our colleagues have blocked them. We hope that they now understand the seriousness of our concerns and work with us to increase oversight of these significant contracts.”

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