Poughkeepsie…Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus announced today the retirement of County Attorney Ian MacDonald and Commissioner of Finance Rita Brannen. Mr. MacDonald has over 24 years of service with the County and Ms. Brannen has served the County for more than 34 years.
County Executive Steinhaus said, “Both Ian MacDonald and Rita Brannen have led key County departments. For many years their expertise and wisdom have been relied upon on a daily basis, and they both will be sorely missed.”
Ian MacDonald began his tenure in county government in 1980 as a Senior Assistant County Attorney and first appointed County Attorney in 1988 and was reappointed by County Executive Steinhaus in 1992. Prior to joining county government, Mr. MacDonald was in private practice and served as Assistant City Judge in the City of Beacon from 1971 to 1980. At 17 years, Mr. MacDonald is the longest serving County Attorney in Dutchess County history.
His accomplishments in public service are many. Mr. MacDonald has prosecuted cases for the County and represented all 22 departments of the executive branch overseeing all legislative measures presented to the County Legislature. He issues important opinions relating to the Dutchess County Charter and Code Provisions. The County Attorney also manages 13 attorneys within his office, six of whom prosecute Child Abuse and Neglect cases in Family Court and three who prosecute Juvenile Delinquent offenses.
Some notable areas of success during Mr. MacDonald’s tenure are his prosecution of a suit against the MTA in 1986 where he had the County reimbursed $200,000 of overcharges for station maintenance that was discovered in an audit conducted by the County Comptroller’s office. He is also responsible for drawing up the local law that provides a benefit assessment review process for all county water and sewer districts, -which, like local municipalities, offers a grievance board at the County level. Mr. MacDonald also participated in the up-date of the County’s Ethics Law.
In 1994, Mr. MacDonald was instrumental in drafting and securing agreements that led to the establishment of the Renegade’s Dutchess Stadium in the heart of Dutchess County. MacDonald was also responsible for drawing Charter amendments that consolidated departments to include the Dutchess Airport and Parks to reside under the Department of Public Works and the merging of the Civil Defense and Fire Coordinator into the Office of Emergency Response. Such amendments create more efficient government entities at an overall cost savings to the County.
More recently, Mr. MacDonald negotiated contracts for the acquisition of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail and the soon to be Maybrook Rail Trail. And, most recently in 2003, County Attorney MacDonald played one of his most important roles in facilitating the tobacco securitization bond which enabled the County to obtain $47 million dollars to offset the county budget debt service for 6 years easing the burden on the county budget though 2009 from $14 million to 5 million.
Mr. MacDonald said of his retirement, “I have enjoyed practicing law for 46 years but working for county government and County Executive Steinhaus have been the most exciting, rewarding and intellectually stimulating job I have ever done, and I’ve done just about everything there is to do in law.”
Mr. MacDonald was the Director and in 1990-1991 President of the New York State County Attorney’s Association and is currently a member of the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children.
The life-long attorney has no immediate plans for his retirement except to say he may continue to practice law in some other capacity and to play more golf.
Ms. Brannen, who has devoted over 34 years to county government, started out in 1971 as a Senior Account Clerk Typist at the Youth Board and worked her way up through the Finance Department including Deputy Commissioner and then named Commissioner of Finance by County Executive Steinhaus in 1998. As Commissioner she oversees 22 employees and is responsible for all treasury functions including cash management, financial reporting, property tax enforcement, payroll and issuance of general obligation debt. The County’s operating budget is $365 million annually.
Ms. Brannen has seen finance operations go full circle in her tenure. As the Sr. Account Clerk Typist, she was hired to set up the County’s process for funding contractual agencies and the receipt of state aid and agency contributions for the Youth Bureau. Five years later when she transitioned into the Finance Office as an Accountant in 1976 all of the inputs into the financial system were generated manually, including payroll to property tax collections, cash receipts, disbursements as well as posting to various ledgers. Since that time automation and computer technology have played an increasingly larger role in processing such functions. Commissioner Brannen noted, “The changes in the way we work now have been exciting to work through and being a part of that process has been especially rewarding.”
Ms. Brannen has been instrumental in keeping the county up-to-date with ever changing regulations and pronouncements set forth by the Government Accounting Standards Board, which oversees accounting for the government sector. Particularly impressive was the implementation of a new requirement, which re-engineered the County’s financial statements and accounting procedures to more reflect those in the private sector (GASB 34). This process was often grueling and complicated, requiring tremendous effort and time, yet Ms. Brannen smoothly accomplished the goal on time and effectively.
In 2001, she initiated a refinancing of three outstanding bond issues saving the county hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest payments.
Commissioner Brannen also worked closely with the County Executive, the County Attorney and Budget Director in securitizing tobacco proceeds in 2003.
This year Commissioner Brannen is serving on the implementation team for a new Financial Management System. Ms. Brannen served as Project Leader of the Vendor Selection team to select a new vendor that would both bring up-to-date and enhance the County’s financial system.
“The experiences I have had during my tenure have really focused on change and new ways in doing business for both cost savings and efficiency,” said Brannen. “I started out implementing a process where we first melded technology with finance operations as the county grew. Now I leave in a time where we are implementing a new and improved system that will further benefit the county for many years in the future. I appreciate the opportunity given to me by County Executive Steinhaus in leading many of these improvements.”
Commissioner has also served as President of the County Treasurers and Finance Officers Association during her tenure, which she described as a gratifying experience where she worked with many distinguished colleagues and associates throughout the state.
Commissioner Brannen concluded, “I am grateful to have had a long and satisfying career with the County. I will truly miss my staff and colleagues with whom I have worked and I look forward to enjoying the beauty and other benefits Dutchess County has to offer.”
Mr. MacDonald will complete his county tenure on June 30, 2005 and Ms. Brannon will leave her position effective July 29, 2005.