Reprising the role of public advocate he played so well with the old 33-member legislature, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein painted its 23-member successor with the same sticky brush last week. Hein didn’t use the word “dysfunctional,” since he’s looking for favors from the original dysfunctional legislature inAlbany. Rather, he went with the legislature “dragging its feet” on the establishment of a board of directors for a local development corporation (LDC) to sell Golden Hill.
Hein, accompanied by a battery of lawyers, convened a Friday-afternoon press conference where, as usual, he took charge of events. The legislature, he said, has had some 45 days to take action on naming three people to an LDC board. Time being of the essence, he named his three and slapped on a March 10 deadline for the legislature to act.
Hein named Kingston gastroenterologist Dr. Michael Steckman,Kingston attorney Regina Fitzpatrick and former Saugerties town supervisor Greg Helsmoortel to the LDC board. The legislature will name three others and those six will elect a seventh member.
Blind-sided Republicans bemoaned Hein’s preemptive strike. Legislative majority Republicans thought they were still in negotiations. Not any more, it seems. That’s how this administration does business, and the sooner the new legislature adjusts the better it will cope with future conflicts.
There was one small wrinkle. Under informal agreement between the executive and the new legislature, the legislature as a body was to name its three. Hein got the temporary LDC board he appointed last year to amend that agreement to allow the minority leader (not the minority as a body) to name one of its members. That someone will apparently be Jeanette Provenzano, arch-advocate for county retention of the nursing home. Some, including the state and county comptroller, have called for the exclusion of county legislators because of potential conflict of interest on what is supposed to be an impartial LDC board. Just don’t say that to legislator Provenzano or to her on-again off-again ally, Minority Leader Dave Donaldson, who will make the appointment. As we’ve said time and again in this space, politics doesn’t have to make sense …
Let’s cut to the chase — as with most other things in county government, this LDC, once established and functioning, will be firmly under the control of the county executive and his coterie of lawyers.
Majority Leader Ken Ronk of Wallkill seemed prescient when he predicted that “four, probably five” of LDC members will be Hein votes. “We can only hope that the qualified independent people we plan to appoint will have some influence,” he said.
Legislative Republicans, led by Chairwoman Terry Bernardo, must have felt their hired gun, Langdon Chapman, state Sen. John Bonacic’s chief of staff, was a match for Hein’s barrage of barristers. Not this time. Let’s just say the GOP paladin ran into a Gatling gun.
I counted four lawyers at Hein’s press conference, including, of course, County Attorney Bea Havranek and Chief of Staff Adele Reiter, both almost always at elbow’s reach. Havranek, in fact, stood over Hein as he read his prepared remarks. Talk about being carefully managed.