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PROBATION OFFICERS FAIL TO REGAIN JOBS

Thirty-four Erie County probation officers who lost their jobs in Erie County's budget cutbacks failed in court Friday to win back their jobs.

State Supreme Court Justice Joseph G. Makowski ruled that the State Legislature has never set minimum staffing requirements for probation officers -- unlike prison guards.

After Friday's court session, David W. Polak, the lawyer for Erie County's 106 probation officers, including the 34 laid-off workers, said he plans to push minimum staffing levels in Albany.

Polak said he will return before Makowski within the next month or so if he can get the State Legislature to agree on minimum staffing levels.

Other options, Polak said, are requesting further arguments before Makowski or appealing the case to the state's higher courts.

The attorney said the county's probation officers believe the layoffs represent "a loss for the community" because of sentencing delays and fewer people keeping track of those on probation.

After ruling he was "constrained by statute" from ordering the officers, who lost their jobs March 4, reinstated, Makowski declined further comment.

Later this month Makowski will hold hearings in similar lawsuits filed by the Civil Service Employees Association, Sheriff Patrick Gallivan, Comptroller Nancy A. Naples and Clerk David Swarts.

Court sources said Monroe County (Rochester), which has a smaller population, currently has 143 probation officers, compared with 71 for Erie County.

Probation officials Thursday said the loss of the 34 probation officers -- 30 percent of its staff -- means that presentencing reports, which probation officers must prepare for judges, are taking 12 weeks to prepare instead of six, increasing the cost of incarceration in local jails.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com