Dutchess County's charter government was approved by the voters in 1967. The Dutchess County Charter divides the government into two branches: legislative and executive. The Dutchess County Administrative Code sets forth the details of administration of the Dutchess County government, consistent with the provisions of the Dutchess County Charter.
The executive branch is headed by the County Executive, who is elected on a countywide basis to serve a four-year term. The County Executive is the chief executive officer and chief budgetary officer of the County. The Executive is responsible for preparing and submitting the annual operating budget to the Legislature for approval. The Executive has veto power over nearly all legislative enactments, though his veto can be overridden by a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature.
The executive branch consists of all administrative departments. Department heads are appointed by the Executive, subject to confirmation by the Legislature. Nearly all department heads serve at the pleasure of the County Executive. Major departments are Finance, Law, Public Works, Planning and Development, Social Services, Personnel and Health.
The county attorney, appointed by the county executive is the legal advisor for the county. This office prepares necessary legal papers and prosecutes or defends all civil proceedings involving the county.
The legislative branch consists of 25 legislators elected from single member districts for two year terms. The 25 members represent 25 districts, meeting on the second Monday of each month. The legislature has the power to levy taxes, adopt the county budget, make appropriations, and adopt local laws subject to approval by the county executive. It has standing committees and boards with citizen participation.
The chairman of the County Legislature is elected annually from and by the membership. The chairperson assigns committees and presides over the meetings of the Legislature.
The clerk of the County Legislature is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the legislature. The duties of this office include preparation of legislative meeting minutes and assistance to the chairman in planning and conducting legislative and committee meetings.
The county clerk, elected for a four-year term, is the official registrar of the county. The clerk's office contains records of real estate transactions and other documents which must, by law, be preserved and also oversees the county Motor Vehicle Bureau.
The three financial officers of Dutchess County are an independently elected Comptroller, who is elected for a four year tern on a countywide basis. The Comptroller is the chief auditing officer, charged with the responsibilities of auditing all County departments and disbursements.
The treasury responsibilities are those of the Commissioner of Finance, which includes receipt and disbursements of all County funds, investments, and borrowing on behalf of the County capital programs and operations when needed. Additionally, the Commissioner of Finance is the chief enforcement officer for all delinquent real property taxes, except for those properties within the boundaries of the cities of Poughkeepsie and Beacon.
The third officer is the Budget Director, who is responsible for the preparation and implementation of the County's Annual Budget, and to see that its objectives are carried out.
The chief law enforcement officers are the District Attorney and the Sheriff, both independently elected for four year terms. The county government also sponsors the Dutchess Community College pursuant to the New York State Education Law.
(Please see the Dutchess County Code of Ethics (.pdf) which establishes standards of ethical conduct for officers, employees, and certain appointed officials of the County of Dutchess.)
In Dutchess County, political consultants (“lobbyists”) must file a public disclosure statement with the New York State Secretary of State twice a year which discloses their clients and describes the work of the consultants.
This mandated disclosure is intended to inform the public of potential conflicts of interests. Political consulting services consist of political advice or services provided to candidates for office and elected public officials in New York.
In the interests of transparency, all political consultants must register with the New York State Secretary of State:
The County of Dutchess does not currently employ the services of any lobbying firms.
Dutchess County Officials have a paramount responsibility is to the public. The Dutchess County is committed to sharing information with citizens to provide open, accountable, and honest government. Government transparency is at the heart of how citizens hold their public officials accountable and free from improper influence.
Accordingly, the Dutchess County Code of Ethics ensures the highest standards of conduct by Dutchess County government officers and employees. These standards include, but are not limited to: