July 27, 2001
Democrats suggest monitor for Bigger
By John-Henry Doucette
The Times Herald-Record
Goshen ² Members of the Democratic legislative caucus say Orange County should hire someone to help Sheriff Frank Bigger open the new jail.
A "monitor and transitional administrator" would both keep an eye on the sheriff's books and help close the old jail in the heart of this village and move into the new $92 million facility in the town nearby.
Legislator Jeffrey Berkman, D-Middletown, said he had consulted with state corrections officials and retired Sullivan County Sheriff Joe Wasser, a Democrat, before assembling this plan, which has apparently been blessed by all but one member of the caucus.
"I hope Sheriff Bigger embraces this idea," Berkman said yesterday. "I think it would be a good move if he does."
Berkman spoke at the government center and was flanked by Legislators Michael Paduch, D-Wallkill, Tom Pahucki, D-New Hampton, and Richard K. Roberts, D-Port Jervis.
The four said Democrats would not accept a representative of the state Sheriffs' Association as monitor. That professional group's executive director, Peter Kehoe, offered this service on Tuesday.
The association is concerned that troubles, perceived and real, under Bigger might lead Orange to dissolve his office. The group even shipped in experts to polish Bigger's operation.
"I do not want Mr. Kehoe or his group as the monitor," Roberts said. "I do not want a group with a predetermined goal."
Orange's minority party, eight legislators in a 21-member body, has taken pains lately to speak with one voice. However, yesterday's pitch for a monitor sounded like seven yesses and a maybe, Legislator Michael W. Farrell, D-Goshen.
Berkman conceded that Farrell has qualms.
"I didn't necessarily think the timing's right, Farrell said. "I want to see specifics."
Legislator Spencer McLaughlin, R-Monroe, seemed interested as Berkman explained things after a meeting.
"Would you consider accepting the offer from Mr. Kehoe?" McLaughlin asked Berkman.
"I would rather see an independent monitor," he responded.
"So you need at least two others," McLaughlin said, indicating that he was with the Democrats on this one.
All but Farrell, that is.
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