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Comptroller criticizes way Giambra set salary for appointee Hartman

County Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz doesn't like the way his predecessor was awarded a big salary from County Executive Joel A. Giambra, but acknowledges there is not much he can do about it.

Poloncarz sent a letter to county legislators noting that James M. Hartman served as interim comptroller last year before his appointment on Jan. 1 as Giambra's director of management initiatives. Though Giambra forecast a salary of "about $95,000" when he announced the Hartman appointment in December, Poloncarz pointed out that the position was not budgeted, so the administration slotted Hartman into a vacant job that paid $68,973.

Poloncarz said his review indicated Giambra approved a "variable minimum" raise that county law allows to compensate for "cases where there are difficulties in recruitment." That move brought Hartman's salary to $91,466, effective Jan. 7.

Poloncarz said Giambra and Personnel Commissioner John W. Greenan followed the rules, but argues that the rules should be changed.

"This office believes that variable minimums should always be formally requested by the administration and only awarded after appropriate legislative approval," he said in a letter to the Legislature.

Legislature Chairwoman Lynn M. Marinelli agreed that the idea of hiking salaries to attract competent employees should be approved by the Legislature. She said a series of budget reforms proposed last year would have required legislative approval for such moves.

"The executive had it withdrawn, and that's one reason why I voted against the budget," she said, adding she still hopes such legislative reviews will become part of the process in the future.

Giambra issued a statement through a spokesman defending the practice.

"Any county executive must have the flexibility to adjust salaries in order to attract the best qualified prospects to positions," he said. "Those adjustments should be based on experience and credentials."

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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