continued Board members Kyle Kotary, Joann Dawson and George Lenhardt said they did not feel justified advancing the idea to a citizen’s vote since they would each vote no when the time came.
“I have to say it would be a totally different dynamic here at the board if we were ward against ward... in budget discussions,” said Dawson. “I can’t think of anything that we do where it would not play a major factor in how we voted and how we carried out our functions here.”
Department head debate continues
The committee also researched how nine different towns of similar makeup choose their department heads. In Bethlehem, four are appointed, five are selected through a civil service exam and three are voted in by the public.
The committee focused its efforts on the elected positions of town clerk, receiver of taxes and highway superintendent. The results showed each of the 932 towns within New York choose their department heads in different ways and there does not seem to be a pattern with how this is performed. Depending on size, some smaller rural towns combined the clerk and receiver of taxes position.
“There are lots of ways to skin a cat and these nine towns skin a cat differently,” said Liebschutz. “There is no trend.”
Officials from some towns interviewed felt electing certain department heads was better because it promoted public participation in selecting those who worked within the government and resulted in higher accountability. Others cited low voter turnout, that those running did not have to meet the “professional qualifications” for the position and non-partisan tasks became politicized.
The Town Board said instead of changing how department hears are selected, managerial methods may need to be changed instead. When a 20/20 committee investigated turning elected positions to appointed offices in 2011, the public generally disapproved of the idea in a series of public meetings.