County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo says that she expects to refinance the debts and contracts of three county-linked local development corporations and then dissolve the quasi-governmental organizations by the end of the year.
Those plans depend on whether the state Assembly and Senate pass legislation allowing the county to borrow money to buy out those contracts and debts. Republicans Joe Robach and Rich Funke sponsor the legislation in the Senate, while Democrats Joe Morelle and Harry Bronson sponsor a matching bill in the Assembly. This morning, the County Legislature unanimously passed a home rule measure, which is basically an official communication stating that the county government wants the law.
Dinolfo says that the state legislation is the first in a series of steps that the county needs to take in order to assume the functions performed by the LDC's and the assets they hold. Ultimately, taking over those functions and assets will save the county more than $12 million, Dinolfo says.
"Certainly it creates more transparency and accountability," Dinolfo said to reporters after this morning's Legislature meeting. "These are essential government functions that really do belong in the hands of county government and the people who are here, so they can provide essential oversight of those functions."
Dinolfo wants to dissolve Monroe Security and Safety Systems LDC (M3S), Upstate Telecommunications Corporation (UTC), and Monroe Newpower. She campaigned on eliminating the county's LDC's, particularly M3S and UTC, which were at the center of a recently-concluded public corruption case. Dinolfo told legislators that as she and her staff reviewed the details of M3S and UTC, they found that the county could save around $8 million by taking over the functions of Monroe Newpower and dissolving it.
Legislature President Anthony Daniele has been in the Legislature since 2008 and his caucus has defended the county's use of LDC's. The concept of LDC's is useful in all governments, he said, but by eliminating the three LDC's in question, the county will realize cost savings from lower interest rates. Dissolving the LDC's will also put the public's mind at ease, he said.
"We couldn't forsee problems in the leadership at the time we put the LDC's into place," he said.
Democrats disagree. For years, they've pointed out that LDC's operate without adequate oversight, creating an environment ripe for abuse. When the Legislature created M3S, Democrats tried to attach a provision requiring all of its contracts to come to the Lej for approval. The Republican majority rejected that idea. Ultimately, however, rigged and inflated contracts involving M3S became an issue in a criminal case brought by the state Attorney General's Office.
Democratic Minority Leader Cynthia Kaleh supported the home rule message and state legislation, and said she's glad to be a part of cleaning up the LDC's. But she also gave "a hearty but sober — and I hate to say it — I told you so."