Family Court mailing ‘inappropriate, maybe illegal’ says lawmaker

Ulster County legislators expressed surprise — and in some cases anger — Thursday night at a county-financed mailing to voters which some say improperly advocates the relocation of family court from Kingston to the Town of Ulster.

“It didn’t come from us,” said legislature clerk Victoria Fabella of the mailing authorized by County Executive Michael Hein.

“I called the exec as soon as I got it and asked him what he was doing,” said Richard Gerentine of Marlboro, chairman of the legislature’s Ways and Means Committee and a staunch supporter of the relocation of the plan to re-house Family Court in currently vacant space at the Business Resource Center just off of Ulster Avenue. “He said it was only informational. I told him it was inappropriate to use county funds for that purpose and that he should have taken the money out of his campaign fund.”


Deputy County Executive Ken Crannell also said the flyer was “informational,” but said he did not know what it cost or how many were mailed. “The county attorney [Bea Havranek] said it was legal,” he said. He also noted that the legislature had approved the ballot wording.

The 8.5 by 5-inch flyer cost 47 cents to mail, according to a Postal Service clerk on Friday, approximately $28,000 if mailed to all 60,000 households in the county. Addressed to “postal customer,” it carries a “County of Ulster” return address.

The flyer states that the move has been approved by the state Office of Court Administration” and also details why the relocation would be beneficial.

Legislator Dave Donaldson of Kingston, who with fellow lawmaker John Parete tried in vain to get a judge to order the pro-referendum wording of the referendum changed to more neutral verbiage, called the mailing “an outrageous misappropriation of county funds.”

“Inappropriate and maybe illegal,” said Parete. “It inhibits the democratic process.” Parete said he intends to consult the district attorney on the matter.

The 71-word “Proposition Number One” will appear on the back of ballots on Election Day.

Last month, a state Supreme Court justice ruled against Donaldson and Parete who had argued the  lengthy wording was an attempt to influence voters — “placing the thumb of government on the scales,” according to Donaldson. Legislator Jennifer Schwartz Berky said ballot propositions that attempted to “lead” voters have been overturned by the courts in other localities.

The legislature by a 9-9 vote upheld the wording last month after voting 18-4 in June to relocate Family Court. By law, to move a court facility outside the county seat must pass a referendum.

After the Ways and Means committee heard a report from legislative consultants on the proposed 2017 county budget proposed by Hein in September, Gerentine allowed Donaldson to address the 10 legislators in attendance on what Donaldson called “the Family Court debacle.” Donaldson charged the Hein administration with deliberately withholding information on costs and choices available to the county, allegations administration spokespersons denied in court.







There are 6 comments

  1. endrun

    Another piece of evidence this county executive will do whatever he wishes no matter how appropriate or legal. Havranek might as well have gotten her law degree from a Cracker Jack box if she believes this was legal(but of course, it is only of negative consequence if someone decides to challenge this absurdity in court and prevail). Parete and Donaldson are reasonably designated as political hacks but they happen to have the right opinion on this. You don’t really need much more than common sense to know this was completely inappropriate for the county to spend one red cent on in espousing a point of view on any ballot measure They are behaving much like the school district now in this regard–and the Tsars and Tsar mentality heading such instititions are becoming more Tsar-like by the minute. Hein should be IMPEACHED(if that were legally possible even). The man has long been so far out of control it is absurd.
    And what ever happened to the statement that the state mandates(remember those?) that the Family Court be located in the county seat? In the end, whatever is voted in or out still has to run up against whatever the state mandates. This is a whole bunch of UTTER FOOLISHNESS, especially when you consider that if Kingston and Ulster had merged–which is what demographics would ordinarily have dictated some time between the departure of IBM and now, some time in that 22 year interim–that THIS issue would then be MOOT, because the county seat would have already been Kingston/Ulster(or whatever creative minds would have preferred to call the new municipality which was begging to be formed for that period of time but of course never was–presumably because political hacks were happy with leaving political offices as they are). Just more evidence as to just HOW SILLY–and seemingly UNREFORMABLE— this area is politically.

    1. Ben

      End run, your anger is misdirected. Under the present county charter creating a county executive, the legislative branch checks the executive branch by controlling the executive’ budget. Hein could not have spent the money for the mailing if the legislative branch had exercised a check on spending by the executive branch. The legislative branch failed to act according to the checks and balances provided under the County charter.
      What would be a more suitable solution to this problem would be term limits for Ulster County legislators, or a reduction of legislative positions to less than 10.
      And we gave them a raise for this…..

      1. endrun

        Ben, I believe your identification of the problem is in fact a misidentification of the problem.
        You identified two specific and one general source of your anger, which is the salary of county legislators, the performance of county legislators, and specifically the lack of ability of county legislators to check the power of the executive. The first thing in that mix is that what was “supposed to happen in terms of checks and balances, per Gerry Benjamin’s laudable vision but vision that has run into political reality here”–which is to say that the Democrats simply have rolled over and played dead up against this county executive in particular ever since they adopted this Republican as their own(and I know you take great pleasure in my saying this, since it is crystal clear from the issues you spout what your enrollment is). Secondly, the idea that exercising a check on the budget for the executive branch absolves the executive himself from responsibility including legal responsibility for his actions here is SHEER NONSENSE to which I can say “tell it to the judge!!” Secondly, giving county legislators a raise to a more livable wage is certainly acceptable compared to the enormous salary in comparison of the county executive–who in the person of the current and only one, has managed to promote only himself and in a manner that is entirely beyond his level of service to the people of this county and the day to day operations of county government. I happen to know because I had occasion to seek those services at some point and there is just no responsibility taken for serious issues according to what one would minimally expect of a true leader. So therefore, your argument fails the test of experience and the test of true leadership. To absolve the county executive of his Narcissistic approach to everything including the stupid and retarded opposition his office has had to the railroad, and to absolve that office from what appears to be here illegal spending on an election issue is to then suggest that pigs can fly, the sky is purple, and the sun sets in the East. You may insist all you wish that all three of the foregoing is true, but since none of these are true, your insistence upon these is delusional.

  2. Pgurrieri

    A. There is a ‘vacancy’ in the Towne of Ulster, that needs to be filled…
    B. The County Government is Subservient to the Corporation’s Economics Council…
    C. The People Public is the Commodity Consumer of the Corporation’s Economics Citizenry…
    D. Personal hardships of transportation, are of no consequence to the Corporation’s Economics Council…
    E. This is a RePublic, where Democracy is ReServed to the Corporation’s Economics Citizenry…
    F. As a RePublic, people have no voice beyond 3 minutes…
    G. As a RePublic, We The People*USA*Public are Subservient to the Government who is Subservient to the Corporation that is Subservient to its Corporate Board Of Director’s of the Corporation’s Economics Council… On this Merry~G0~Round attempting the Grasp the Gold Ring of Bernie Sanders, Organic Meals Presidency…
    H. Keep the Family Services upon the KingStone,
    I. The County Executive, Michael Hein seems to be convinced this is 1936 Anarchist GERMaNY, where We The People Public are silent & obedient to Authority being ReBorn in Ulster County, USA 2016…
    J. Without Bernie Sanders, We are all in serious trouble…

  3. Valley Always

    I think Kingston and Town of Ulster should merge.
    No joke. Create administrative efficiencies. Eliminate overlapping services.
    Combined population opens up a host of fiscal benefits, and opportunities for transportation,
    education and development funding.

    Same thing is true for Town of New Paltz and Village of New Paltz — Merge.

    Now, everyone freak out at sensible truth! Go!

    1. endrun

      Oh, how your message here is ENORMOUS!! And the truth is this:literally the ONLY way voters have any POWER over these lazy politicians who refuse to do what is right for the PEOPLE over the period of 22 consecutive years since IBM left the area is to send the message here that “you’re laziness and lack of attention to serve the PEOPLE you are elected to serve will NOT be rewarded with a yes vote on this boondoggle–go back and merge the municipalities first, and THEN come to us the voters with your plans to save money and modernize facilities and so forth and so on so that the county executive should appear the brilliant man to the degree only his silly perma-smile suggests he in fact is when he in fact is not.” Amen, and Amen!!!

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