The Putnam Examiner

Leg. Looks Into Greater Transparency Concerning County Costs

We are part of The Trust Project
Legislature Chairman Carl Albano discusses a proposed law that could lead to greater transparency about how county money is spent.
Legislature Chairman Carl Albano discusses a proposed law that could lead to greater transparency about how county money is spent.

Taking the idea from other local or county governments in New York State, Putnam County legislators discussed a push for greater transparency surrounding county spending at a recent Rules Committee meeting.

During the July 14 committee meeting, the idea of posting the expense of any county purchase, payment or renovation when a certain dollar amount is reached was brought forward with the goal of providing more accessible information to residents within the county. Currently, the City of Poughkeepsie and Ulster County both have a policy that list expenses on their websites, allowing residents to look at the information without filing a Freedom of Information Request.

Along with the listed expense, a reason for spending the money is also given and it would be posted once a month.

The legislator that brought it into discussion, Sam Oliverio said the cost benefit analysis would lead to improved communication with residents. He added it’s another avenue to keep residents updated on the county’s monetary procedures. The purchase would not be slowed or stopped, but once it is made, a reason for the expenditure would have to be given.

Legislator Dini LoBue agreed with Oliverio and said it enables the county Legislature to do its job and have stricter cost control. “Because we don’t even know sometimes, things sometimes get away from us unfortunately,” LoBue, the chairperson of the Rules Committee said.

“We keep throwing good money after bad without us knowing the outcome or the benefit,” LoBue said.

Most of the legislators also seemed interested in possibly bringing the initiative to Putnam, though the amount of money that would result in the expense being posted on the website was debated.

Oliverio said he thought the threshold should be $15,000, while Legislature Chairman Carl Albano thought the sum of money should be at least $50,000. Albano said if the county put this into law, he would want to see the sum of money high enough to avoid persistent questions over smaller purchases.

“I would say if it was a large number it makes it little bit of sense because people should know,” Albano said.

Right now, that information is available, but residents must FOIL the information.

One concern Legislator Kevin Wright voiced is questions over expenses in the budget might be scrutinized repeatedly; once during the budget season and then again when the expense finally comes to fruition. That could lead to legislators and department heads becoming overburdened with inquiries.

“I just don’t want to say it twice,” Wright said.

Poughkeepsie posts any cost that exceeds $5,000 and Ulster County post any price tag that is more than $50,000. Oliverio said other counties, including Dutchess County and Rockland County are also examining the same proposed law. He believes Putnam should be one of the first counties to implement the law.

“It is for the public, it is the public’s money, they need to know how it’s being spent,” Oliverio said. “We don’t do that, we don’t let the public know how their dollars are being spent.”

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.