County auditor to Legislature: Sell Sain Building

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BY KATHY KAHN

Rockland’s Legislature seemed caught between a rock and a hard place as it tried to  grill county auditor Bob Bergman on “missing” paperwork that Leg. Aiden Wolfe said had been requested repeatedly.

Bergman says he’s been trying to gather more information on possibly mishandled and misdirected funds, noting Community Development Block Grant information has been particularly vexing to get.

Leg. Aaron Weider, apparently dissatisfied with Bergman’s answers, asked bluntly: “Did you look at the county charter? Do you think you’ve fulfilled your duties?”  Bergman replied in the affirmative to both questions.

What Bergman did tell the Legislature was how to solve its $16 million deficit problem: Sell the Sain Building to the sole bidder for $4.5 million, and add another $4 million from county coffers to halve the deficit in 2017. “It would allow Rockland to work with the State Comptroller (Tom DiNapoli) and take us off the list of one of the most fiscally distressed counties in the state…it would also lift us up to a Moody rating of A-1.”

Wolfe was clearly unhappy with Bergman’s responses to the battery of insinuations that he is working with Ed Day rather than both Day and the Legislature. “There is confidentiality between the County Exec and myself…we’ve given a number of examples on how the deficit could be lowered, but we’re dealing in a difficult environment,” said Bergman.

Wolfe accused Bergman of trying to make Legislators look like the “bad guys, because if we pass a budget above the tax cap, we’re the ones who will get blamed.”

After the meeting, Bergman said the Legislature has ignored several initiatives that would cut costs for the county—one of which was to make new hires wait ten years before they are eligible for benefits. “It’s still three years,” said Bergman. “We are paying out millions and millions of dollars out each year, with no end in sight.”

The hearings continue on Tuesday, November 29 at 7 p.m. in the Legislative Chamber. The lack of interest the public has shown spoke volumes, as only a handful of people were in the room to listen to the repartee between Bergman, Wolfe and Weider.

Dylan Bestler contributed to this report

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