Several county board members contacted by The Daily Star said they were unaware of the ruling until they were informed of it by a reporter.
Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, the chairwoman of the board’s Manor Committee, had made one of the motions to go into executive session Sept. 5, saying the reason was “contracts.”
She said that she believed she had a valid reason for asking for the executive session. She said she could not discuss the ramifications of Cerio’s decision until she discussed it with County Attorney Ellen Coccoma, who represented the board in the lawsuit and who offered legal guidance during the meeting that Cerio said failed to comply with the Open Meeting Law.
Rep. James Powers, R-Butternuts, said he didn’t think the Cerio ruling would prompt the board to veer away from its goal of privatizing the Manor.
“The state wants counties out of the nursing-home business,” he said. “They have reduced the reimbursements to the counties, and therefore you’re going to have to raise taxes 20 to 40 percent to keep it. Where I’m at is that taxes are already at their maximum. They can’t go any higher. If we have to redo the vote, so what.”
Powers said that the CSEA lawsuit should serve as a reminder to board members why a plan to keep the Manor as a county-owned property — touted by Rep. John Kosmer, D-Fly Creek — was flawed. One component of what Kosmer called a “framework” hinged on opening negotiations with CSEA with the goal of getting the union to make significant contractual concessions that would yield savings for the county.
“If you ever did go into a legal negotiation with the union, they would use every trick in the book to their advantage, and it would be years before you could ever sell the Manor,” he said. “You’re better off getting out of the nursing home business quickly” while qualified potential buyers are still in the market to acquire the properties.