This post has been updated with a comment from the county administration.
It's going to be a long haul to the November elections. And not just with the presidential race; the local stuff is going to be pretty heated, too, by the looks of things.
The latest skirmish involves the office of County Clerk Adam Bello, a Democrat who was appointed to the post in March by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the administration of County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, a Republican. And it centers on the clerk's office budget.
The administration started taking funding for three auditor positions from the clerk's office budget on April 1, a move that will add $120,000 in costs for 2016, according to a statement from Bello's office.
The administration didn't inform Bello's office of the change, the statement says; staff uncovered it during routine budget monitoring. The release says that as far back as staff can tell, the positions were never paid through the clerk's budget. The 2016 budget placed the three auditor positions under the Finance Department.
Bello sent a letter to the Dinolfo administration this morning asking for an explanation and for legal justification for the transfer; the letter is attached below. He also says that the administration has been slow to respond to his requests to fill vacant customer service positions, and that he assumes this budget shift will impact his ability to fill them.
The clerk's office has processed more transactions to date this year than it did by this point last year, he said.
Bello is running for the clerk's office and faces a challenge from Republican Cheryl Rozzi, who is Greece town clerk and former clerk of the County Legislature.
The administration released this response from finance director Robert Franklin:
Over a period of many years, several positions in the County’s budget have been allocated to departments other than the area where those employees physically work. The process of rectifying these various assignments began in 2014 and 2015 in the Department of Human Services and in 2016 in the Department of Human Resources. The approximate number of these changes to date is 80, and the County will continue to rectify these assignments in the preparation of the 2017 budget. The current number of employees in which this situation exists throughout the County is approximately 20.
I authorized the shifting of the expense for the three positions to the County Clerk’s budget to take effect March 12th, not April 1st. These positions are employees reporting to and working for the County Clerk’s Office. Had Mr. Bello come to me as the Finance Director, I would have explained to him that through a regular 4th Quarter omnibus re-appropriation, taken to the legislature, an adjustment will be made so that the Clerk’s Office will be within its 2016 budget. The contention that the change impacts the Clerk’s Office’s ability to deliver service to residents is not accurate. This action does not transfer any employee from or to the County Clerk and should not have any impact on the day to day operation of that office.
Most importantly, in my role as Chief Financial Officer, the taxpayers of Monroe County will not be negatively affected in anyway.
Dinolfo Ltr - 2016-06-01