December 1, 2021

Legislator: We’re being shut out on virus

Lawmaker says they are being told not to talk to interim director of health

Cortland County residents are asking a multitude of questions regarding the coronavirus pandemic, but the legislators who represent them are being told not to talk to county health officials to find answers.

Legislator Joe Nauseef (R-Cortlandville) said this came after he asked a question on the county health department’s Facebook page about when the county would publish the daily coronavirus numbers.

“The next day, we got an email saying we couldn’t talk to the interim health director,” Nauseef said.

On Dec. 10 Legislature Chairman Paul Heider (R-Cuyler, Solon, Truxton) sent an email telling legislators to direct all questions to County Administrator Rob Corpora.

“As we all know our public health department has been working diligently and have been keeping up with their work of contact investigation,” Heider states in his email. “We all see our community numbers going up like never before. After meeting with Public Health Director Lisa Perfetti and county administrator I have directed Ms. Perfetti not to answer out any questions or emails to legislators, this includes instant messages from legislators to the health dept. on Facebook.”

Heider said Monday the decision to have Corpora handle questions was so that Perfetti and the health department could focus all their efforts on the pandemic “and not become inundated with questions from legislators.”

He said legislators can also send their constituents to information resources, including the health department website, which he said is routinely updated.

“I have spoken with County Administrator Corpora and he has been able to answer out any questions or concerns in a timely manner and this policy has helped out our Public Health Dept. in saving resources needed,” Heider said in an emailed response. “I have not heard any concerns about this policy since its implementation.”

Heider also said a monthly report is done by the health department, news releases are put out on a regular basis, he sends out pandemic-related emails and speaks to legislators on a weekly basis.

Nauseef said he feels the county is shutting out many legislators from what is happening.

“It’s getting ridiculous,” Nauseef said. “There’s only a few legislators in the know.”

Nauseef also said when he does speak out about issues within the Legislature, he is reprimanded.

“I get mad and that’s when I start speaking out and get removed from this committee or that committee,” he said.

However, Legislator Beau Harbin (D-Cortland) said it makes sense to him to route questions from 17 legislators through one person and then get responses, so Perfetti can make the best use of her time responding to the pandemic rather than possibly answering the same question multiple times.

“I think it’s to try and facilitate greater communications,” he said.

Harbin said he has been following Heider’s email and has gotten timely responses.

However, Harbin said this move may not be ideal for everyone and perhaps their questions may not be answered in as timely of a manner as they may like.

“We have to find a balance,” he said. “I think that’s what he’s (Heider) attempting to do with the email. We’re all just trying to get through it together.”