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Lewis County continuing without manager through year’s end

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County legislators have decided to remain manager-less for the rest of the year.

“At this stage of the game, we decided there’s no point in trying to assign a county manager, especially when we’ve got the talent we have right now,” Legislature Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, said after a special meeting Monday morning.

Following a roughly half-hour executive session, the chairman simply announced that a resolution to appoint Brian J. Wohnsiedler, Harrisville, former executive director of the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District, as county manager had been withdrawn.

Afterward, Mr. Tabolt, who has been serving as acting manager since the April 30 retirement of former County Manager David H. Pendergast, said the county has been running well in the interim.

“It’s been great,” he said. “Everyone’s chipped in and made it very reasonable. If that continues, I’ll be fine.”

However, the semi-retired farmer then added, “I don’t know what my cows think about it.”

The county manager appointment runs with the 10 legislators’ terms, all of which expire at the end of the year, and next year’s Legislature appears likely to have anywhere between five and nine new members, with only Mr. Tabolt thus far running for re-election unchallenged.

Lawmakers initially interviewed four candidates in late April but decided to readvertise for the post after failing to land a consensus candidate and informally chose Mr. Wohnsiedler late last month at a annual salary of $70,000, about $14,000 lower than the previous manager’s. However, on July 2, they voted 6-4 to table the appointment for a couple of weeks to further vet the candidate after Legislator Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson, raised concerns about his departure in February from his prior post.

Jefferson County Attorney David J. Paulsen subsequently sent out a memo advising directors and staff that “details of his departure should be limited to the date of his separation from the organization and the fact that it was by voluntary separation.”

Mr. Tabolt on Monday declined to discuss whether any further information on Mr. Wohnsiedler was gathered or how the consensus shifted to not appointing him, noting that Lewis County Attorney Richard J. Graham had also advised county legislators not to discuss such matters. “We’ve got our own gag order,” he said.

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