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New positions stir up debate for legislature

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - Updated: 11:41 AM


For the C-S-E

FONDA -- Feathers were ruffled during Tuesday's Mont-gomery County Legislature meeting while its members debated creating two new positions: a deputy clerk and a legislative research analyst.

The deputy clerk, to be paid $2,500, will support Clerk Cheryl Reese, and fill in if she is absent.

The legislative research analyst will be responsible for helping the legislature create the charter's administrative code, and crafting amendments for the charter in a November ballot proposition.

District 6 Legislator John Duchessi was the most vocal opponent of creating two positions.

"I don't think that establishing a code is beyond our ability here as legislators," Duchessi said. "I think we are unnecessarily creating a full-time position at $42,000, whose need will go away once the code is established."

District 4 Legislator Ryan Weitz disagreed.

"I think we have a lot to do as a legislature and we can't have one person in the office," Weitz said. "We need that second, full-time position."

District 8 Legislator Joseph Isabel was concerned with the longevity of the second position.

"This is a new position, things are busy over there," Isabel said. "What if the person is not needed as much as anticipated?"

Chairman Thomas Quackenbush said the county will create a budget every year and determine if the position is needed.

"This will be the same decision as every other budget decision," Quackenbush said.

District 7 Legislator Barbara Wheeler was in favor of creating the new position. However, she was able to see both sides of the dispute.

"If this position is not utilized I have no problem [eliminating it]," Wheeler said. "We are the stewards of the taxpayers' money and that's our responsibility. So if we have to eliminate a position because we're not utilizing it, that's what we have to do."

It wasn't just the addition of the new position that had Duchessi fighting against the resolution, it was how it was added.

"This decision was made counter to what was discussed," Duchessi said. "The intent of the committee can clearly be seen. There was never a time when two positions were mentioned -- ever. Pure and simple. So the next day it turns out that two positions were created for other purposes and we already know who the person is that's going to get the job. Now that was kind of quick for me."

District 3 Legislator Roy Dimond agreed that the original intent was to create one position and not two.

"I'm very torn on this," Dimond said. "The legislation itself just really smells bad to me."

Duchessi seemed to be disappointed with the way the legislature attempted to pass the resolution to create two new positions.

"The problem here is that at the committee, based on good faith, which I will never yield again -- that's done. I thought we could go along with moving that open-ended," Duchessi said. "Very clearly here the intent, I believe, was to create one and not two positions and I will never ever give an open-ended OK to proceed that way in the future."

District 1 Legislator Martin Kelly took a fiscal standpoint on the matter.

"I'm torn. It's a very difficult choice that we'll have to make," Kelly said. "I'm against taking money out of the fund balance or contingency accounts to create new jobs. However, on the flip side, I do think we need someone to do research for us."

Kelly tried to impress upon the other legislators the fact that they are there to represent the county and they have to look at every avenue they can to save money.

"I don't feel it is in the best interests of the county to spend so much money so quick into the game," Kelly said.

Wheeler attempted to lighten the debate.

"We have to pick and choose our battles," she said.

The resolution passed 6-3.


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