Former Massena town supervisor thinks MMH privatization should go to referendum
Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 2:44 pm

By ANDY GARDNER

MASSENA -- Former Massena town supervisor William G. Edwards spoke up at Monday night’s Massena Memorial Hospital anti-privatization coalition meeting, saying he feels the decision should be left to the voters.

In response to public comments in favor of keeping MMH public, Supervisor Joseph Gray said at the Massena Town Council’s July meeting that the voters should allow the board to make the decision when the time comes; they were put in office to make difficult decisions on behalf of the town.

Edwards said his research into state law revealed that voters can “challenge the decision-making ability of the town board” and petition for a referendum.

According to state law, if a petition contains a number of signatures amounting to 10 percent of the total voters in the last gubernatorial election, it can force a referendum vote. But the section of state law dealing with referendums on petition specifically lays out what can be decided by referendum, and privatization of a public hospital is not included.

Edwards also said that the voters could force a mandatory referendum, which he said “covers special instances not (voted upon) on a regular basis,” but that language isn’t anywhere in the mandatory referendum statute, nor is deciding whether or not to privatize a public hospital included in the list of laws eligible for mandatory referendum.

Sean Egan, CSEA director of member benefits and community relations, said at the close of Monday’s meeting that union officials would review legal options for referenda and report back to the coalition at their next gathering.