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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

Committee Receives Living Wage Update, Takes Comment on Apprenticeship Policy

In an update report presented to the Legislature’s Government Operations Committee today, County Administrator Joe Mareane reported that the County is very close to attaining its living wage goals for County contracts—reporting that more than 90% of all covered contract employees are paid at or above the AFCU Living Wage, with nearly 80% of the contracts paying all covered employees at least the AFCU wage level.

But Administrator Mareane also cautioned that the County is reaching the point at which future progress will be limited by structural constraints faced by those few agencies that do not pay all covered employees the living wage—nearly all of which are mental health or elder care providers.  “Our contractors have estimated that the cost to bring the last 10% of contract employees to the living wage would exceed $2 million, and could cause complications so severe that some smaller agencies may simply choose not to participate in County work,” he said.

Actions taken in 2014 to improve attainment by specific agencies include adjusting County funding for FoodNet to enable the agency to pay the living wage to all covered employees; over-target funding included in the 2015 tentative budget for the Mental Health Department to permit all employees at Suicide Prevention to achieve the living wage standard; additional funds in the 2015 tentative budget to increase staff compensation at Southside Community Center; and the Human Services Coalition applying a portion of its City sales tax allocation to Tompkins Learning Partners to allow that agency to bring all covered employees to the living wage.  Administrator Mareane said a few more agencies will be worked with through the 2015 contracting process.

He said the County is moving toward a mode focusing on maintaining what has been achieved, and preserving attention to living wage issues through the institutional process—including contracting procedures, discussions with contractors, and an annual living wage report.  “While improvement is always possible and will continue to guide our actions, the County’s future focus should include measures to preserve what has been achieved by keeping the living wage policy and integral part of the contracting process and by regularly measuring, monitoring, and reporting attainment levels,” he said.

Chair Nathan Shinagawa observed that it is significant to note that activism regarding the Living Wage issue has produced institutional improvements.  Speaking to the committee, Theresa Alt of the Tompkins County Workers Center said it is clear that there has been great progress this year, but added there is still a long way to go, with the goal being a living wage for all contracted employees of the County, and ultimately, a living wage for all.

The committee also began examination of the County’s decade-old County Apprenticeship Policy, as directed by Legislature Chair Mike Lane, which requires Certified Apprenticeship Programs as a condition for award of construction contracts of $1 million or more.  The committee invited comment on the issue, and heard from six representatives of local labor and contractors regarding the policy.  Labor representatives spoke of the benefits of apprenticeship programs—in terms of training and putting local people to work, but noted limited impact so far—only the Health Department Building project a few years ago and next year’s Human Services Building renovation meet the $1 million threshold.  Reducing that threshold to $500,000—the level of the City of Ithaca’s discontinued apprenticeship policy—was also advocated in written comments submitted by the Tompkins-Cortland Building & Construction Trades Council and the local Carpenters Union.  McPherson Builders’ Jerry Stevenson, however, said maintaining an apprenticeship program is not feasible for his small local company and that the requirement excludes his company from working on such County projects.  He urged that it be ended.

As next steps, Chair Shinagawa said the committee  needs to know more about the City’s perspective on the issue and why its policy was ended; to understand financial impact of the policy, including any changes; and to receive more input on how the Apprenticeship Policy affects competition.   Administrator Mareane said he would work to provide additional information for the committee, as it continues its review of the issue.

Contact:  Nathan Shinagawa, Chair, Government Operations Committee, 280-7557; County Administrator Joe Mareane, 274-5551.

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Counties in the News, Wednesday October 29, 2014

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Have your looked at NYSAC’s job board

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STATEWIDE
Leaders Honored At Workforce Awards, New Board Members Announced

LONG ISLAND
Long Island Confronts Destructive Southern Pine Beetles

NYC
Free Broadband for Public Housing in New York Sought as Condition in Comcast Deal

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Auditor for Orange Legislature assesses Neuhaus budget

Molinaro says his 2015 budget focuses on “Moving Dutchess Forward,” with lower taxes, less spending

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St. Lawrence County legislators consider creating risk manager job

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Law requiring up-to-date taxes for building permits under review

WESTERN NEW YORK
5th annual Peanut Butter and Jelly Drive starts Saturday

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Counties in the News, October 28, 2014

STATEWIDE
Governor quiet on redistricting

Cuomo, CDC differ on Ebola

HUDSON VALLEY
Montrose Vet Takes Honor Flight

CAPITAL
12 new correction officers for Rensselaer County

Times Union Center could get $13.1M makeover

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Draft resolution urges restructuring of Medicaid

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FINGER LAKES
Genesee lawmakers set budget workshop

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Counties in the News, October 27, 2014

STATEWIDE
Governors stress home quarantine for Ebola workers

HUDSON VALLEY
Sullivan County Treasurer Ira Cohen, 69, succumbs to cancer

CAPITAL
How heroin claimed the life of a cop’s daughter

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Legislature declares October 4H Month

FINGER LAKES
Genesee County Legislature readies vote on $142 million budget

Firm cleared for FLCC Geneva campus work

WESTERN NEW YORK
Niagara County nets $2 million in tobacco bond deal

Board of elections officials hoping for better voter turnout

County Refuse District makes plans for landfill closure

Buffalo teaming with New York City to boost tourism in both cities

Food Bank asks for holiday turkeys

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Counties in the News, October 24, 2014

NEW YORK CITY
After 1st Ebola case in NYC, 3 others quarantined

NYC subway system seeing record ridership

CAPITAL
New contract reached with Rensselaer County’s largest union

Officials: No dogs on Warren County Bikeway

Two propane mishaps anger Albany County Executive

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Onondaga County asks state for help with jail overcrowding

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Counties in the News, October 23, 2014

CAPITAL
Oil train shipper has propane spill in Albany

Public hearing scheduled Thursday for airport environmental assessment

MOHAWK VALLEY
Tax hike of nearly 5 percent looms for Schoharie County

SOUTHERN TIER
Delaware County Board grapples with budget

WESTERN NEW YORK
‘It’s A Proud Day’

Legislature approves IDA purchase of ConAgra facility

IDA gives green light to foreign firm eyeing Olean manufacturer

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Counties in the News, October 22, 2014

NATION
Counties push crowdfunding for economic development

NEW YORK CITY
At Ebola Training Session in New York, Calm and Caution Are Urged

In New York, Cuomo Pledges More Aid for Lawyers of the Indigent

HUDSON VALLEY
Westchester First Responders Get Training In Classes Prompted By Sandy Hook

Dutchess, region’s jobless rates trend down

CAPITAL
Crude oil rule changes urged

No-tax plan on track

Police investigating bomb threat to Warren County building

CENTRAL NEW YORK
State will spend millions to revolutionize Onondaga County’s legal representation for the poor

MOHAWK VALLEY
Supervisors set tour of tech park

SOUTHERN TIER
New indigent burial policy contested among some funeral homes

FINGER LAKES
Lawmaker’s sex offender proposal (Video)

Desecration of veterans’ gravesites probed in Genesee County

WESTERN NEW YORK
Erie County prepared in the event of Ebola here

As Governor and Candidate, Cuomo Has Kept One Foot in Buffalo

Board Targets Erie County Roads

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Counties in the News, October 21, 2014

NEW YORK CITY
NYC campaign seeks volunteers

HUDSON VALLEY
Pitch for airport tax-free zones

CAPITAL
Fight to end bullying aided by technology (Video)

Some flu vaccine supplies are delayed in Capital Region

NORTH COUNTRY
Clark, Burns call on NYSERDA to commit more resources to rural counties

SOUTHERN TIER
County Board of Supervisors rejects pay increase

CENTRAL NEW YORK
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WESTERN NEW YORK
Erie County’s health partners meet today on readiness for Ebola

“Wipe Out Lead” Campaign Begins in Erie County

Chautauqua County Board of Elections offering extended pre-election office hours

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Counties in the News, October 20, 2014

STATEWIDE
Report: 34K people declared unfit to have guns in NY

Proposal asks $2B for school tech

LONG ISLAND
Nassau County to Honor Police Officers and EMS for Saving Life’s from Region’s Heroin Epidemic

HUDSON VALLEY
GlobalFoundries getting IBM’s fabs and workers

Axe Falls Hard On Rockland County Budget Proposal

CAPITAL
Greene County sheriff’s deputies receive three-year contract

New lab is ready to begin its work

Greene County Legislature OKs one-year deal on paramedic services

County chooses new public works head

MOHAWK VALLEY
Oneida County Safety Net program costs escalate

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Canal Corp lays out plans for rebuilding of Brewerton Pier

OCTOBER IS 4-H MONTH

FINGER LAKES
New York State Watercraft Inspection Steward Program Handbook Now Available

WESTERN NEW YORK
Grant to Land Bank provides funding to raze Chautauqua County houses

County legislators hear inmate displacement plan

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Counties in the News, October 17, 2014

NYSAC
Sales Tax Numbers Better, But Uneven

January thru September 2014 Sales Tax Map

STATEWIDE
Cuomo: State on alert for Ebola

HUDSON VALLEY
Rockland County Executive Ed Day lays out 2015 budget proposal (Video)

NORTH COUNTRY
Fifteen counties call for New York State to take over indigent defense funding

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CENTRAL NEW YORK
Increases in Emerson Park parking, boat launching fees being considered

FINGER LAKES
Genesee, Orleans seek indigent defense funds

County seeks to hire golf pros to manage courses

WESTERN NEW YORK
Chautauqua County executive calls for task force on budget deficit

Allegany Co. picks Jack Wood as economic development consultant

ConAgra Confusion

Meeting to unveil Northern Chautauqua County Water Agency

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