Government Operations Committee

Regular Meeting Notes – Draft 7-11-17

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 3:30 PM

Legislature Chambers



Attendee Name



Daniel Klein



Carol Chock

Vice Chair


Dooley Kiefer



Rich John



Will Burbank



Joe Mareane

County Administrator


Paula Younger

Deputy County Administrator


Greg Potter

Director of ITS


Rick Snyder

Finance Director


Michelle Pottorff

Chief Deputy Clerk, Legislature Office


Jonathan Wood

Tompkins County Attorney


Marcia Lynch

Public Info. Officer, County Administration



Guests:  Rod Howe, History Center

Call to Order

              Mr. Klein, Chair, called the meeting to order at 3:30 p.m.

Changes to Agenda

              There were no changes made to the agenda at this time; however, it was agreed following Privilege of the Floor to move up the discussion of the blue form used by the public to sign up to speak.

Comments from the Public

              Four members of the public attended the meeting and spoke in opposition to the requirement for members of the public to identify their name and address on the blue sign-in form for Privilege of the Floor.  Concerns expressed related to fear of retaliation, the potential for inhibiting candidness, it is not a State requirement, and it is a barrier to civic engagement.


Privilege of the Floor - Sign-in Form (ID #7142)

              Mr. John said this item was included on the agenda at his request.   He explained a situation that happened at a recent meeting at which a public speaker refused to identify themself.  He said the individual had attended a prior meeting and verbally attacked a County employee and this is one of the areas addressed on the blue sign-in form.  He said Legislators are elected officials and can expect this but feels strongly this should not be allowed to happen to County employees and noted there are ways the public can communicate about an employee if they feel the employee has done something wrong.   Mr. John believes Privilege of the Floor is one of the most important parts of the meeting and having people express views without fear of retaliation is critical.  He also said if there is going to be an effective system of feedback you have to lookout for whistleblowers.  He questioned, however, if the County would be more or less transparent by not identifying speakers because Legislators would not know who speakers are or what their interests might be as individuals who do not identify themselves or where they are from could be lobbying on behalf of an organization.   Mr. John also spoke of the evolution of the internet and said people now say anything without there being any consequence.  He stated the County wants to be protective and wants to make sure that people who come before the Legislature are comfortable and feel protected.  He presented a compromise and said if an individual wants anonymity they could submit an anonymous written statement that could be read by a Legislator or the Clerk with the condition that the rules are followed.  This would provide a protection and the Legislature would be aware of who the individual is.


              Ms. Chock spoke of the general mistrust of government and it being at an all-time high.  She thinks this Legislature should begin to think about setting standards that can begin to influence that in this community.  She believes it is time to recognize there are concerns and end use of the blue sign-in form.  She spoke of research she has done and circulated advisory opinions from Bob Freeman of the New York State Committee on Open Government.  The documents site Mr. Freeman stating he has been asked the question several times and does not believe that persons can be required to provide their identity or address as a condition to attending or participating in the same manner as other public.  She said it is helpful for Legislators to have this information where people voluntarily give it.  One concern she has is that over the years there have been times when several people who don't live or work in Tompkins County have spoken and suggested a question be asked as to whether the person resides or works in Tompkins County.


              Mr. Burbank said the Legislature needs to be cognizant of the current climate; it can be very stressful and also noted the blue sign-in forms came about because a very small group of people decided to defy the Legislature's rules for speaking and refused to stop when asked to do so.  He said this is a legislative body that operates under a series of rules and procedures.  He said sharing an opinion is inherently taking a risk regardless of where the opinion is shared.  He also said that anyone who speaks to this body should be aware that what is stated is part of a public record and noted many meetings are televised.  He suggested language could be added to the form to make it clear that presence in the room during a meeting could be made public by virtue of the video system.  Mr. Burbank thinks the Legislature would be doing the public a disservice by doing away with a system of order that was put into place over time.  He would be willing to consider tweaks to the form but would not support abandoning.


              Ms. Kiefer said although informed and helpful, Bob Freeman’s opinions are advisory.  She thinks the blue sign-in forms have served a purpose and would not support doing away with them.  She has found it helpful to know each speaker’s name and what constituency they are in.  She said this is a public forum and information is going to be public in some way.   She responded to comments about inaccurate information contained on the blue card and said information is only useful to the extent it is true.  She would like the Legislature to continue using the blue sign-in forms and ask for the speakers name, part of the County they are from, and an option to list the topic; she would also consider amendments to the three minutes when several people are speaking about the same topic. 


              Mr. Klein said he is interested in knowing where people are from.   He said the opinion of someone who is from Tompkins County is more valuable to him and referenced comments made in the past by individuals from outside the area and State who were lobbying for a particular issue.  Mr. Klein said Legislature meetings are public meetings and is unclear why there would be an expectation for anonymity.  Although he understands there may be reasons an individual would not want to come forward with their identity there are many alternative ways members of the public to contact a Legislator without publicly identifying one’s self.  


              Mr. Klein asked that any proposed changes to the form be submitted to him in advance of the next meeting.


              Ms. Chock asked if there would be any penalty if someone did not list their name on the form or if they included incorrect information.  Mr. Wood said the Legislature has never imposed a penalty on anyone for not including their name although a chair could refuse to call on someone.  In terms of whether completing the form with false information could be a crime he isn’t aware of a similar case. Ms. Chock said she would find it helpful to have more information on this at the next meeting.

* * * * * * * * *

Minutes Approval

June 7, 2017

RESULT:              ACCEPTED [4 TO 1]

MOVER:              Rich John, Member

SECONDER:              Will Burbank, Member

AYES:              Klein, Chock, John, Burbank

NAYS:              Kiefer


Advisory Board Appointment(s) (ID #7124)

Greater Tompkins County Municipal Health Insurance Consortium Board of Directors

Alternate - Stephen Estes; no set term


MOVER:              Dooley Kiefer, Member

SECONDER:              Carol Chock, Vice Chair

AYES:              Klein, Chock, Kiefer, John, Burbank

* * * * * * * * *

Information Technology Services

Tompkins County Intranet (ID #7141)

              Mr. Potter provided the Committee with a demonstration of the work that has been done to rebuild the County's Intranet.  The intent of the Intranet is to provide information to County employees or anyone who needs access to a level of information that is directed to employees.   Legislators will be able to get to the site from any location with an account and password that will be provided.

* * * * * * * * *


Local Update of Census Addresses Program (LUCA) (ID #7140)

              Mr. Potter provided a memorandum to the Committee on the 2020 Local Update of Census Addresses Operation (LUCA), a program that takes place in advance of the Census count and is scheduled to begin in February 2018.  He explained there is a two-year window of opportunity to improve address details locally to which the Census distributes its surveys. This is particularly important in Tompkins County because of the Ithaca College and Cornell dormitories.  In 2000 there was a large problem because the Census Bureau had misaddressed some of the Cornell dorms resulting in some of the City of Ithaca population ending up in Cayuga Heights that led to a lawsuit during the redistricting effort that was filed against the County by some of the local municipalities.  He said it is important that addressing details are done properly at the start of the project and also for other local programs such as emergency response.


              Mr. Potter said the next decision point is some authorization or directive that would allow him to have conversations with municipalities that would allow the process of submitting information to move forward.  He suggested that this Committee would serve as the oversight committee for this initiative as it moves forward.  There would be no cost for helping municipalities other than time that has already been built into the program.  Mr. John said he would support this as it is at the taxpayers benefit.


              Ms. Chock said she served as a member of the committee the last time the County prepared for the Census and spoke of how crucial the census is to the County's operations and said there are all kinds of federal and state money at stake by the population falling under 100,000.  She suggested having a Legislator involved at some point; Mr. Potter responded that the group Ms. Chock referenced would be put into place after the LUCA efforts.  In response to Ms. Kiefer, Mr. Potter said he would be taking this back to TCCOG (Tompkins County Council of Governments) as well as communicating with municipal clerks and code enforcement officers.   The Committee was supportive of Mr. Potter moving forward and having a dialogue with municipalities.


              Mr. Potter said this is particularly important at this point because this time they will not be hiring field people as they have in the past due to budget cuts at the Federal level.  Prior to the actual survey work they would have people validate addresses and these workers now will not be going out. 


              Mr. Klein asked what happens to houses that are built after the database is assembled.  Mr. Potter did not know but will check with his contacts at the Census Bureau.

* * * * * * * * *

Finance Department

Resolution No. - Authorization to Execute Quitclaim Deeds – Sale of Foreclosure Properties at Public Auction (ID #7117)

              Mr. Snyder reviewed the memorandum contained in the agenda packet providing details of the auction.  He called attention to the year 2016 being listed and asked that it be changed to 2017 in both instances.  Carol asked about income raised from the cost of properties and how the auctioneer expense was paid for.  Ms. Kiefer requested and it was agreed by the Committee to change the word "thru" to "through" in line 4 of the first Whereas.   At Ms. Chock's request Mr. Snyder agreed to revise the memorandum to clarify that after subtracting expenses, the County’s net gain for the sale of 8 properties at auction was $88,048.


MOVER:              Rich John, Member

SECONDER:              Will Burbank, Member

AYES:              Klein, Chock, Kiefer, John, Burbank

              WHEREAS, in accordance with the procedures outlined in Policy 01-07 - Land Transactions, the Government Operations Committee approved on May 3, 2017, the list below of Tax Parcels to be acquired through tax foreclosure, and then sold at public auction to recover unpaid taxes, and


              WHEREAS, by tax foreclosure proceedings, the County acquired certain parcels in the County, and


              WHEREAS, said properties were sold, contingent upon Legislature approval, at public auction on June 19, 2017, now therefore be it


              RESOLVED, on recommendation of the Government Operations Committee, That upon payment in full of the bid price, plus current taxes and filing fees, that the County Administrator be and hereby is authorized to execute quitclaim deeds for all parcels sold at the public auction:

              Town of Dryden - 601 Bone Plain Road - 30.-1-15.2

              Town of Dryden - 805 Midline Road - 59.-1-29.7

              Village of Groton - 211 Barrows Street - 108.-2-18.1

              Town of Caroline - Slaterville Road - 8.-1-4.2

              Town of Caroline - Slaterville Road - 8.-1-68

              Village of Dryden - Ellis Drive - 8.1-1-1.4

              Town of Lansing - Portland Point Road - 36.-1-2

              Town of Newfield - Elmira Road - 11.-1-20.2


* * * * * * * * *


Trust Company Building Name (ID #7143)

              Mr. Howe outlined the process that has taken place to date and said Iron Design, a local firm that helps with branding, marketing, and communication, was chosen through a competitive process.  The name he presented for discussion came out of the Project Advisory Committee that is comprised of most of the partners who will be located in the building.  Several names were forwarded by Iron Design based on suggestions of the Project Advisory Committee and by consensus they chose the "Center for History and Culture in Tompkins County". He noted there will be further branding; therefore, not only the name will be marketed.  He said they feel an urgency to move this forward quickly because of the capital campaign that needs to begin very soon.  They are also recommending that in the foyer of the building there be two plaques, one to recognize the County made a decision to purchase the building during the County's Bicentennial and a second plaque to recognize the role of the Tompkins Trust Company.


              Mr. Howe said some of the names that were proposed didn't tell what the building was about and the Committee felt it was important that the name convey what is happening in the building.  Mr. John said it has been a long process for the Advisory Committee to come up with a name and urged the Committee to give the building a name so this can move forward.  Mr. Burbank said the proposed name is long but was supportive of the proposal.  Ms. Chock asked if the Committee had consulted with Carol Kammen.  Mr. Howe said the only strong message Ms. Kammen communicated was not to use the word "heritage" in the name. 


              Following discussion it was suggested to shorten the title and there was consensus to amend the proposed name to the "Tompkins Center for History and Culture".  Mr. Howe said this was the original proposal but the Committee thought the Legislature would prefer having "Tompkins County" in the title.


              It was MOVED by Mr. John, seconded by Ms. Chock, and unanimously adopted by voice vote, to recommend the name of the Tompkins Trust Building to be the "Tompkins Center for History and Culture".  This will be added to the Legislature's agenda tomorrow evening.

* * * * * * * * *


Committee Chair

              Mr. Klein said he thinks the best practice is to submit things in advance of a meeting for the Committee to consider and restated his earlier request that if anyone has proposed revisions to the blue sign-in form to send them in.

County Administrator

              Mr. Mareane reported the State approved the sales tax extender for three years instead of two years.  The Shared Services Panel will meet this evening.  Some elements that will be included in the report include 1) centralized training under the TCCOG Training academy, 2) Service Modernization Plan (computer applications that automate very routine functions (marriage licenses and permits), 3) joint purchasing Consortium to look at joint financial systems software to see if there is a common platform that could be used by those municipalities that choose to; and 4) a transition of street lights to LED lights.


              Mr. Mareane said the Panel has agreed to continue meeting to look at other things such as the back-office operations, idea of centralized code enforcement, wastewater treatment and stormwater management savings, and the idea of a common fleet maintenance operation. The second public hearing will take place on July 19th.  This evening there will be a strategic conversation that will take place, as well as a discussion of the stormwater situation where more monitoring and patrol will have to be exercised whether there are opportunities for funding from the State.


              Other items Mr. Mareane is working on related to options for the Biggs parcel and filling the positions of the Commissioner of Planning and Sustainability and Commissioner of Social Services.  Mr. Mareane said those search processes will not be complete before the positions are filled; therefore, interim appointments have been made until a successor is chosen.  He called attention to when the Legislature changed the position of Commissioner of Planning and Sustainability in the Charter it went from being an exempt position to begin a competitive position.  He is confident that the position will be exempted once reviewed by the State Civil Service office but it is important to be up front with candidates. 


              Ms. Kiefer said she would like the Environmental Management Council information about dangers associated with street lights be shared.  She also said the Public Service Commission has yet to make a decision on putting value on the bulbs that are already there and until that is figured out this cannot move forward.  Mr. Mareane said he wasn't aware of this but the City will be meeting with towns and villages in coming weeks to talk about moving forward.

County Attorney

              Mr. Wood had no report.

Director of Finance

              Mr. Snyder reported sales tax receipts are six percent ahead of the budgeted amount.

Public Information Officer

              Ms. Lynch reported on a candidate who has applied for membership to the Public Information Advisory Board.


              On motion the meeting adjourned at 5:20 p.m.

Bdgt Adj. & Transfers (Info. Only)

Information Item - Tech Training Expenses (ID #7115)

RESULT:              COMPLETED

* * * * * * * * *