Supervisors refuse to discuss Cherry's union plan

By Patsy Nicosia

Bill Cherry insists he has a plan that would break Schoharie County’s impasse with the union. But angry over the way he’d dropped it—in emails to CSEA employees and in a four-page memo left on their desks—supervisors refused Friday to discuss it. “I can’t believe this is the way we operate,” Conesville supervisor Bill Federice, chair of the Personnel Committee said. “It’s very disrespectful to try to promote this through the public. We haven’t had any time to dive into the details. It’s ludicrous.” The Civil Service Employees Association has twice rejected supervisors’ contract offer with health insurance the likely sticking point, according to Rick Cain, CSEA president. Mr. Cherry’s proposal, which he predicted Thursday “will be almost universally accepted and applauded,” would keep all three existing health insurance plans—for both CSEA members and retirees. Those with individual plans would be required to contribute 10 percent of the cost—no matter which plan they choose; family plans would require a 15 percent contribution. Both would be increases over their contributions now, “but for once and for all, it would mean equity. It levels the playing field,” Mr. Cherry said. And, it would save the county $1.2 million a year, he said. Thursday, Mr. Cherry said he didn’t plan to present his “roadmap” to supervisors, their Finance Committee, or the CSEA, but rather wanted to distribute it by email “so it could be discussed “publicly and openly.” That angered some supervisors Friday. After Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe suggested they hear from Mr. Cherry, Republicans adjourned into a closed-door caucus for about 20 minutes, apparently to discuss the proposal and how to handle it. Back in session, Mr. Skowfoe criticized the move. “I’d just like to ask, what happened to the transparency we talked about?” At first, it seemed like Mr. Federice was going to support Mr. Skowfoe’s suggestion—but then he and supervisors’ labor attorney Jim Roemer both detailed a series of exchanges Mr. Roemer had had with Mr. Cherry. “I told him [Mr. Roemer] to accept it. [Mr. Cherry’s proposal.] I told him that it wouldn’t die in committee. But we needed time [to look at it].” Mr. Federice said. “We just saw it,” added Schoharie Supervisor Alan Tavenner. “What are we supposed to think?” It’s unclear what supervisors knew about the proposal—or when. Sharon Supervisor Sandy Manko said Mr. Federice had said at Wednesday’s Personnel Committee meeting that “a proposal was out there” that might be acceptable. “Not quite,” Mr. Federice answered. “We were told [there was a proposal]…that was acceptable to both sides.” Mr. Skowfoe argued that it’s time to settle the contract dispute and said he doesn’t want Mr. Cherry’s plan just dismissed. “We have employees that really need a raise,” he said. “If this is viable, if the savings show what I see there, I don’t want it left on the table.” Mr. Skowfoe pressed for a promise that supervisors would discuss it again in July; Cobleskill Supervisor Leo McAllister, Finance Committee chair, said a review would likely take a month or more. Mr. Skowfoe suggested a special meeting if needed—drawing applause from county employees in the room. Speaking afterwards, several employees said they thought the proposal was worth taking a look at and they wanted to know more.

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