How much should a business currently contracted to do work for a municipality, or one seeking such a contract, be allowed to contribute to the campaigns of candidates running for office in that municipality? Given our upcoming town election on Nov. 5, this is a relevant question for New Paltz voters.
Legislators in neighboring Orange County happen to be discussing this very issue at the present time. They will soon vote on a law that would limit donations from companies seeking county contracts. Such campaign contributors would be restricted to giving no more than $250 a year to a candidate if the contributor plans to later pursue a contract that the candidate would be involved in awarding. So, with $250 as the proposed limit for campaign contributions at the county level, what do you think would be a reasonable limit for contributions to candidates running for supervisor at the town level? Specifically for our town, what would be a reasonable limit for individuals and businesses with a clear and vested interest in being hired or re-hired by the newly constituted New Paltz Town Board in January 2014?
In these pages you have read that in 2012 David Clouser and Associates was paid $160,610 by the Town of New Paltz to provide various consulting services. In the first six months of 2013, the same company has received checks totaling $95,194. Susan Zimet, our current supervisor, has shown no inclination to provide outside consultants with annual feedback on their performance. She has also rejected the notion of conducting open bids for significant outside consulting services such as engineering and legal. This is too bad. A company working on a town contract and receiving that many tax dollars needs to be monitored closely and managed well. We can all benefit from feedback. Yes, consultants build up ‘institutional knowledge’ and there is no question that such knowledge is valuable. That is why well-managed organizations require that institutional knowledge be codified and documented and provided to the hiring organization in the form of intellectual property that has been paid for and which then becomes a usable asset of that organization.
The New York State Board of Elections website shows that in the past several years David Clouser has contributed $2,500 to the campaigns of Susan Zimet. This amount is in addition to certain work provided by Mr. Clouser and not charged for, which Ms. Zimet has described as work performed as a “professional courtesy.” The question is whether or not it is ethical for consultants under contract to the Town of New Paltz to provide services to the town that are not subject to its formal accounting practices. At the very least it creates a whiff of impropriety.
It will be interesting to visit the Board of Elections website this year to see who contributes to whose campaigns and the specific amounts of those contributions.
Since recommending Randall Leverette, the current chair of the New Paltz Police Commission, as a candidate for the office of town supervisor, I have decided to volunteer as a coordinator of volunteers for his campaign. I believe a change in town government is needed and that Randall’s personal characteristics and policies will be beneficial to our community in the 24 months beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
If you check the New York State Board of Elections website, you will see that I have contributed $100 to Randall’s campaign fund. At this time, I pledge neither to seek nor accept, if offered, any paid or volunteer position in a new administration, should he be elected.
So far Randall Leverette is the only announced candidate for the office of supervisor of the Town of New Paltz. The current supervisor has indicated ‘no activity’ for her fundraising committees registered with the Board of Elections. These are the weeks running up to an election when candidates are normally ‘dialing for dollars’ as the politicos say. We have an interesting fall political season ahead.