Barnhart Statement on GOP’s Proposed Changes to the County Charter

The Republican majority on the Monroe County Legislature submitted a proposal that would expand the legislature’s oversight over the county executive. 

Some of the ideas have merit. Lawmakers should have a greater role in approving expenditures. We should require the budget to be delivered to the legislature earlier in the year. The county executive should be required to respond to legislators’ requests for information. Some of the suggested appointment confirmations are not out of line with other counties.

But the proposal oversteps in requiring the legislature’s approval of the deputy county executive appointment and removing flexibility in the county executive’s ability to create positions and set salaries. It also requires legislative approval of far too many job categories.

Reasonable people can disagree on the level of oversight required over the executive branch. For example, I plan to push for an elected comptroller and a real ethics board. These kinds of changes require thoughtful discussion and deliberation.

The Republicans want to bypass the legislative process. They want to bypass the charter review process. They introduced their proposals as a “matter of urgency,” meaning they could be voted upon at next month’s meeting.

After substantial backlash from the public, GOP leaders indicated they are open to negotiating the proposals. First, actions will speak louder than words. Second, we shouldn’t rush through proposals made in bad faith. We should do a comprehensive review of the county charter and go through the normal legislative process. 

The Democratic caucus, which has the minority on the county legislature, is exploring all options to prevent these changes to the charter from being enacted.