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COUNTIES COLLABORATE ON CONFLICT DEFENDER SERVICES

By Colleen Pillus, Dutchess County and Mark Longtoe, Ulster County

In December, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and Dutchess County   Executive Marc Molinaro jointly announced a shared services agreement  between the two counties to address the soaring State-mandated costs of  providing legal defense counsel to indigent clients. The county executives  have forged a cooperative agreement to garner a level of cost containment over a State mandated expense that has now reached a combined total of  nearly $3.9 million annually in Ulster and Dutchess counties, while maintaining high quality representation.

To date, when a Public Defender’s Office is disqualified from representing an eligible indigent client due to a legal conflict, a private attorney is  assigned. The attorney then bills the county according to rates established by New York State in a process referred to as “assigned counsel.”

The skyrocketing cost, coupled with decreased program aid from New York State, has placed a significant additional burden on counties to cover the cost of this mandated service. In 2011, this system of providing representation cost Ulster County taxpayers $1,345,653 while Dutchess  County taxpayers spent $2,540,000.

“Governments at every level must learn to work past political differences and municipal boundaries to focus on delivering results for the people. I am confident that the citizens of Ulster and Dutchess will benefit from this innovative collaboration,” said Ulster County Executive Hein.

County Executive Hein continued, “Not only does this pilot program  represent a $175,000 savings for Ulster County’s taxpayers, it represents a $300,000 total savings for our region’s taxpayers, all while those in need continue to receive high quality legal representation. This is truly a  win/win collaboration, and we both look forward to working with our respective legislatures to make it a reality.”

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “This agreement is the  first of its kind in New York State for county Public Defender’s Offices and  represents exactly the type of cooperative partnerships we need to embrace if we are to be successful in our efforts to deliver smaller, smarter government to our taxpayers. I am grateful to Public Defender Tom Angell for seeking out new and better ways to meet our residents’ needs, while reducing costs. We were very pleased to bring this plan to Ulster County and appreciate the support and cooperation of County Executive Hein to  make this partnership a reality.”

Ulster County Public Defender Andrew Kossover added, “I want to thank  both County Executive Hein and County Executive Molinaro for this  innovative, cooperative approach to a fiscal problem that is plaguing  counties throughout the State. I am excited to take part in this shared  service arrangement, and look forward to working with Dutchess County’s  Public Defender Thomas Angell.”

Dutchess County Public Defender Thomas Angell noted, “This new  arrangement will permit each of our Public Defender Offices to create cost efficiencies while at the same time increasing the quality of legal services  provided. I look forward to this new partnership with Ulster County Public Defender’s Office. Our clients will better served by having access to full time defenders as well as the investigators, social workers and outside resources that our respective Public Defender Offices can provide.”

The one year agreement unveiled today will be a pilot program in County Court, City of Kingston Court and Town of Ulster Court in Ulster County;  and County Court and City of Poughkeepsie Court in Dutchess County.

Posted in NYSAC News Winter 2013 | Comments Off

NYSAC News Spring/Summer 2014 Table of Contents

Posted in NYSAC News Spring/Summer 2014 | Comments Off

NYSAC News Fall 2014 Table of Contents

Posted in Counties in the News, NYSAC News Fall 2014 | Leave a comment

Counties in the News, November 20, 2014

NYSAC
Oneida County History

STATEWIDE
Snowstorm Again Pounds Western New York

LONG ISLAND
Toys For Tots Makes The Holidays Brighter

Mangano: Outdoor Ice Rinks to Open for the 2014-2015 Season

NEW YORK CITY
New York Today: Plastic Bag Talk

HUDSON VALLEY
Westchester green vehicle fleet signed into law

Ulster County lawmakers oppose Common Core educational standards

Westchester Knicks keep crowd happy

SOUTHERN TIER
Mountain Fresh Dairy to Move into Former Crowley Plant in Binghamton

CENTRAL NEW YORK
How the Cayuga County Legislature has amended the proposed 2015 budget so far

Health Officials Urge People to Get Flu Shots

FINGER LAKES
East Bloomfield OKs dog control law

WESTERN NEW YORK
Erie County Officials Confirm Eight Deaths Due to Buffalo Snow

Bills Get Snow Day and Logistics Headache

Erie County budget hearing set for Thursday is postponed

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Counties in the News, November 19, 2014

NYSAC
How the New GASB Requirements on Public Pension Funds Impact Financial Reporting

STATEWIDE
Silver: Use surplus for infrastructure

NYRA’s governing structure under review

LONG ISLAND
Mangano and Eisenstein Offer “Turkey Tips” To Safely Prepare Your Holiday Meal

HUDSON VALLEY
Walkway to launch marathon in June

CAPITAL
Cool but spared from heavy snow

MOHAWK VALLEY
Griffiss closer to landing Customs office

County reduces proposed tax rate

SOUTHERN TIER
Info line launched for Otsego, Delaware counties

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Cayuga County Ways and Means Committee mulls motor vehicle tax

WESTERN NEW YORK
National Guard is deployed to help as the snow keeps coming

Group seeks to bring broadband to parts of Orleans and Niagara counties

Thruway Authority aids more than 100 snow-stranded drivers

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Counties in the News, November 18, 2014

NYSAC
AARPNYS 50+Survey

NATION
Mike Hein honored as Public Official of the Year

STATEWIDE
Tax cap puts pressure on local governments

Cuomo: Settlement money won’t go to operating expenses — like school aid

LONG ISLAND
Nassau County to Honor Two Police Officers That Saved a Residents Life And Apprehended An Armed Criminal

CAPITAL
Better economy not seen at area food pantries

Previous winter, current shortage blamed for spike in rock salt cost

Greene County weighs options for replacing its 106-year-old jail

Optimism spurs spending

Challenge raises money for local food bank

MOHAWK VALLEY
Pilot program to test 911 link into Oneida Co. schools

Local foster care cases climb, funding falls

County landfill fees set to decline

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Salvation Army’s Annual ‘Red Kettle’ Campaign Under Way

Onondaga County to provide free flu vaccinations Wednesday

WESTERN NEW YORK
Counties fight tax sale lawsuit

Genesee County legislature approves big-game rifle hunts

Genesee tax rate holding firm for 2015 budget proposal

Erie County DPW crews geared up for winter

Orleans celebrates bridge reopening

Sales Tax Revenue On The Upswing

Thruway, other highways closed in western New York

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Counties in the News, November 17, 2014

NYSAC
View the Fall 2014 issue of NYSAC News

STATEWIDE
Tax cap puts pressure on local governments

Cuomo: Settlement money won’t go to operating expenses — like school aid

Follow-up: Canal flood warning system heading for completion

New York manufacturing grows at faster pace

LONG ISLAND
Meet Long Island’s newly elected lawmakers

CAPITAL
Better economy not seen at area food pantries

Previous winter, current shortage blamed for spike in rock salt cost

Greene County weighs options for replacing its 106-year-old jail

HUDSON VALLEY
Westchester’s new green vehicle law lauded by Dutchess lawmaker

Neuhaus predicts as many as 200 layoffs if legislature’s budget stands

MOHAWK VALLEY
Manufacturing jobs continue to decline locally

Lawmakers push for DFAS protection in bill

Local foster care cases climb, funding falls

County landfill fees set to decline

Legislature to weigh non-bargaining proposal

FINGER LAKES
Seneca County board OKs work to improve water/sewer districts

Seneca County officials to Albany: award license to Tyre casino

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Onondaga County to provide free flu vaccinations Wednesday

SOUTHERN TIER
Broome County Legislators Suggest Replacing DA Clerical Position

WESTERN NEW YORK
Genesee County legislature approves big-game rifle hunts

Genesee tax rate holding firm for 2015 budget proposal

Erie County DPW crews geared up for winter

Round two of health care enrollment in state exchange off to good start

Sales Tax Revenue On The Upswing

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Counties in the News, November 14, 2014

NYSAC
In Madison County, Tons of E-waste Collected

STATEWIDE
Broad coalition joins Farm Bureau in opposition to expanded Clean Water Act

HUDSON VALLEY
Westchester may ban plastic bags

CAPITAL
Rensselaer County Legislature holds budget hearing

NORTH COUNTRY
Property Taxes to Rise As Lawmakers Pass County Budget

SOUTHERN TIER
Brooks unveils county budget that complies with tax cap

Delaware board discusses solar-power initiative

County aids in property foreclosure legal battle

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Salvation Army Counter Kettle Battle

FINGER LAKES
Sparring continues between Seneca, Oneida counties

Ontario County’s $212.9M budget OK’d

Ontario County’s Korean War veterans receive South Korea’s thanks

No tax hike in county budget plan

Genesee County Airport work receives final approval

WESTERN NEW YORK
Poloncarz gets flu shot, encourages others to follow his lead

County Completes Integrated Sewer Management Plan

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Counties in the News, Wednesday November 12, 2014

NYSAC
The Millennial Remaking of Community Is Well Underway

STATEWIDE
Sponsors condemn Cuomo for vetoing veterans pension bill

NYS Veterans Affairs Director: Pension Sweetener ‘Not Dead’

HUDSON VALLEY
Westchester Legislators Consider Plastic Bag Ban

DeStefano hopes Orange County agrees to move into city space

Astorino budget proposal would boost spending 1 percent.

Westchester increases fuel efficiency of motor vehicle fleet

CAPITAL
Honoring veterans by increasing mental health care

NORTH COUNTRY
Jefferson County Budget Carries First Tax Hike in Nine Years

Northern Tier Recreation Trail to connect Clinton County villages

MOHAWK VALLEY
County budget vote today; fire district funds in question

SOUTHERN TIER
SUNY Broome salutes veterans (with photos and video)

Broome County Auction of Tax Foreclosure Properties Takes Place Saturday

FINGER LAKES
Seneca County’s Hayssen to Oneida County’s Picente: Let’s hold I-90 Casino Corridor Summit

Sheriff’s personnel complete training

WESTERN NEW YORK
Nesbitt to deliver budget message Wednesday

Chautauqua County Executive discusses planned improvements in water district

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Counties in the News, November 10, 2014

NYSAC
Working with the State: Understanding the Legislative Cycle and How It Impacts County Advocacy Efforts

STATEWIDE
New York pushing back on emissions

New York: Be Prepared to Save on Energy Costs This Winter

LONG ISLAND
Mangano Announces “Kids Helping Kids” Holiday Benefit

CAPITAL
Rensselaer County veterans honored at 16th annual Veterans Breakfast

Greene County Legislature to rescind law allowing it to override state tax cap

MOHAWK VALLEY
Seneca County official blasts Turning Stone protectionists

NORTH COUNTRY
Essex County arrives at tentative budget

SOUTHERN TIER
County Announces Watershed Project in Town of Union

Addiction Center of Broome County Hosts Chocolate Fundraiser  (Video)

FINGER LAKES
Seneca County official blasts Turning Stone protectionists

WESTERN NEW YORK
Erie County to start next phase of Goodrich Road reconstruction

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Counties in the News, November 7, 2014

NYSAC
State Releases Guidance on the Property Tax Freeze

HUDSON VALLEY
Orange County Government Center rehab on hold

Few speak during Dutchess budget hearing

War memorial awaits transfer to Dutchess County

CAPITAL
Homeless veterans remembered at concert

Warren County chooses $16 million court expansion, renovation project

Oil line tactics spark anger

MOHAWK VALLEY
Forums to let citizens vent on taxes, spending

Impact report says proposed Seneca County casino will cannibalize other regional gaming sites

On the Bright Side: Textile-recycling program aims to ‘clothes the loop’

SOUTHERN TIER
Chemung County Executive Unveils Proposed 2015 Budget

CENTRAL NEW YORK
‘Not a fun job:’ Proposed 2015 Cayuga County budget includes 30 job cuts, tax levy increase

WESTERN NEW YORK
Boston cancels snowplowing contract with Erie County

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Affiliate Focus: Coroners in NYS: No Training Required

By Scott M. Schmidt, CFSP, President, New York State Association of County Coroners and Medical Examiners

Having just started my third term as president of the NY Association of County Coroners and Medical Examiners (NYSACCME), I still have one project I would like to see through. Since the early 1990’s NYSACCME has been working to develop minimum training  requirements for newly elected or appointed coroners. Believe it or not, there is currently no training requirement for coroners in New York State.

NYSACCME continues to offer training and is leading the charge in advocating for state legislation that would require minimum training for Newly Elected Coroners. I urge all county supervisors, legislators, and public health department directors to, at the very least, have your coroners join NYSACCME and attend our bi-annual educational confrences. Experienced and properly trained public officials (such as your coroners,) are an asset of your county. Coroners without proper training are a liability and are sitting ducks for any defense attorney during a homicide trial.

Medical Examiners are appointed as well, but there are requirements for the position: they  have to be medical doctors, preferably pathologists or, even better, a Forensic Pathologist. Their knowledge of Medicolegal Death Investigation is usually cutting edge and they have staff to aid them in determining cause and manner of death. A coroner,  while holding the same power and responsibility as a medical examiner, has only these requirements: to be at least 18 years old, have lived in the county where he/she works for  at least 30 days, and be elected by the constituency or appointed by the county legislature  or board of supervisors. Anyone can become a coroner—there is no training required.

For over 15 years, NYSACCME has offered a “Coroner 101” class to newly elected coroners, sitting coroners, medical examiners, law enforcement, investigators and anyone involved  with the investigation of a death. The class provides enrollees with basic but important information regarding how to handle their first case. Topics include determining cause and manner of death, scene investigation, working collaboratively with other agencies,  talking to the press, and communicating with the family. This class is an indispensable  asset to those taking the position for the first time and is a valuable refresher for the  seasoned public servant. We typically offer this class every three years and have had  excellent class attendance and tremendous reviews about the content.

With that said, since 1997, bills have been introduced seeking minimum training requirements for newly elected coroners. Our 101 class has been included in the language  of several of those bills as a possible resource to satisfy the requirements. NYSACCME has spent significant funds to record the class on DVD and adapt to the language of a recent re-write of the bill which would require the Coroner-elect to take the class within 60 days  of being elected. NYSACCME’s position is that this training should eventually fall under  the auspices of the State Education Department as well as the Department of State for licensing purposes, but our training is a good starting point while the legislation gets off  the ground. State lawmakers must pass this bill during the next session.

However, this important piece of legislation keeps getting referred back to committee. We  don’t know if this is because of ego, political affiliation of the bill sponsor or lack of proper information. However, we do know that a county coroner with no training or proper relevant education can bring serious potential liability to his/her county.

Posted in NYSAC News Fall 2014 | Leave a comment

State Court Strikes Down Local Anti-Cyberbullying Law

By Patrick Cummings
Assistant Counsel, New York State Association of Counties

On July 1, 2014, the New York State Court of Appeals struck down a county  anti-cyberbullying local law, but in doing so may have offered a roadmap on how such future laws may be passed. In The People v. Marquan M. / County of Albany New York’s highest court stated a county may have the constitutional authority to pass and enforce anti-cyberbullying measures protecting children, but the local law must be narrowly  tailored to protect an individual’s freedom of speech rights. To understand why and what  the court ruled, it is important to look at the fact pattern that preceded the case.

How the Local Law Came to Be
In 2010, Albany County, like other counties throughout the state and country, passed a local law with the intent to prevent or deter cyberbullying within the county. The Albany County Legislature and Executive recognized the disturbing bullying epidemic that is growing by way of electronic means. The county stated that children historically have been  victims of bullying and have unfortunately had to deal with the physiological effects associated with such abuse, but this generation faces a new challenge in the form of  cyberbullying, which can be spread publicly and done anonymously by the bullier. To  combat this problem, Albany County adopted a local law defining and criminalizing  cyberbullying that occurs within the county. The law defined cyberbullying as:

“…any act of communicating or causing a communication to be sent by mechanical or  electronic means, including posting statements on the internet or through a computer or email network, disseminating embarrassing or sexually explicit photographs;  disseminating private, personal, false or sexual information, or sending hate mail, with no legitimate private, personal, or public purpose, with the intent to harass, annoy, threaten, abuse, taunt, intimidate, torment, humiliate, or otherwise inflict significant emotional harm on another person.”

The local law criminalized any cyberbullying within the county against any minor or  person (emphasis added because this term person will later help shape the court  determination). The penalty for such action is guilt of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and/ or a fine of up to $1,000.00.

The Law’s Validity is Challenged

One month after the local law was enacted, according to court records, a high school  student within the county used the social media website Facebook to create an anonymous page where he posted pictures of classmates and detailed descriptions of their alleged sexual practices and other types of personal information. A police investigation ensued and authorities discovered the identity and elicited a confession of the act from the creator of the Facebook content. This individual was later charged with violating the newly created local law.

The defendant challenged the validity of the local law as part of his defense in  city court, stating, amongst other defenses, that the local law violated the Constitution’s First Amendment. The court ruled that the county’s local law was constitutional to the  extent that it prohibited such bullying towards minors and the county court affirmed on appeal.

The High Court’s Ruling
This holding was then appealed to the State’s highest court by the defendant with the  support of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Again the defendant stated that the local  law was too broad in nature, violating the 1st Amendment, freedom of speech, and the 14th Amendment, equal protection.

The High Court lauded the county’s intent to protect minors from cyberbullying. However, the court found this local law, as constructed, was too vague in nature. The court states,  “(a)lthough the First Amendment may not give the defendant the right to engage in these activities, the text of Albany County’s law envelopes far more than acts of cyberbullying  against children…”

In reaching this conclusion the Court drew from past landmark First Amendment rulings.  In the ruling, the Court cited U.S. v. Stevens, as a general First Amendment canon, “the government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its  subject matter or its content”. However, the Court points out there are exceptions to this general rule as prohibitions of speech may be allowed in cases of “…fighting words, true  threats, incitement, obscenity, child pornography, fraud, defamation or statements  integral to criminal conduct.” The Court also stated that the government has an  “unquestionable compelling interest in protecting children from harm and that  cyberbullying is not conceptually immune from government regulation.”

With the possibility of government regulation recognized for this type of speech, the Court turned to look at this specific local law to see if it overreached into constitutionally  protected rights. The Court determined this specific local law was too vague/overly broad. They found the intent of the law was to protect children from cyberbullying, yet the law  itself includes criminalizing such acts against any minor or person. As written the Court found this law could be enforced against adults. Additionally, the Court found that the  definition of electronic means may be too broad, it may include unintended technologies such as phone or radio transmissions. Ultimately, the Court stated if the local law was tailored more narrowly when defining electronic means and only to prohibit these  intentionally sent communications to minors that infect emotional harm, this local law  may (please note, the Court seemed deliberate with “may,” implying this issue could still be a case-by-case basis) be constitutionally valid. The Court also concluded it was not within their power to invalidate only pieces of the law, like “or persons” and validate the mremaining portions dealing with child protection because this would rewrite this specific law too greatly and thereby crossing over into separation of powers issues.

The Amended Law
In repose to this holding, on September 8, 2014 the Albany County Legislature passed an  amended cyberbullying law. This local law was drafted by the county with the direction  given by the High Court. This amended local law includes the following updated  provisions: 1) limits the potential victims to those under 18 years of age; 2) more narrowly defines electronic communication; 3) adds the term “not of public concern” making more  types of speech allowable under the law; and 4) adds a clause allowing any county  resident, not just those that are charged, to challenge the constitutional validity of the local law within 60 days of its adoption. With these added provisions, Albany County believes  they are in keeping with the Court of Appeals direction and will achieve their goal of  adding more protection of cyberbullying to the children of their county.

Posted in NYSAC News Fall 2014 | Leave a comment