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St. Lawrence County legislators spar over space committee, Wladis work

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CANTON — Transparency or the lack of it was the theme of Monday’s committee meeting of the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators. Legislators sparred over deliberations of a space committee that has been looking at how to rearrange the District Attorney’s office and the activities of Wladis Law Firm, the county’s lobbying firm.

Employees are buzzing about a potential multiple department shift that comes with a hefty price tag, with some departments winners and others losers, Legislator Daniel F. Parker, R-Potsdam, said.

“It sounds like you’ve been lobbied heavily. Any change creates worry,” said Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction, the head of the space committee. “I’ve heard some tremendous rumors. The committee’s not ready to make a recommendation at this time. The process right now is brainstorming. If you have any ideas, bring them to us.”

But Republicans criticized Mr. Morrill’s process as leaving them out of the loop.

“This has been going on two months,” Legislator Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, said. “I think we should be briefed.”

Plans have been offered, an architect has come and department heads aren’t happy, he said. Mr. Morrill then offered to make a report on the plans at a committee meeting of the whole board next week.

A full report from Wladis also is lacking, Mr. Lightfoot said. While Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire and legislators receive a list of pending bills the firm is watching, Mr. Lightfoot said he wanted more detail on meetings.

“We hired the firm to do work on our behalf,” Legislative Chairman Jonathan S. Putney, D-Waddington, said. “I don’t understand what brings this up all of a sudden.”

The firm costs $60,000 annually so lawmakers have a right to question how the money is spent, Legislator Kevin D. Acres, R-Madrid, said. “We’re actually just concerned about how the taxpayer’s money is spent,” he said.

Some Democrats agreed the request was not out of line.

“I understand the desire for more information,” said Legislator Vernon D. “Sam” Burns, D-Ogdensburg. “If you ask for it, I’m sure it will be forthcoming.”

However, Legislator Jason Clark said no lobbyist would provide the kind of details requested as it’s clear they’re sought for political purposes.

The issue is in wanting to know more, Legislator Mark H. Akins, R-Lisbon, said.

“It’s not political. It’s about transparency,” he said.

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