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Decision delayed on challenge to control board Giambra administration is opposing panel's move to tighten its fiscal grip

State Supreme Court Justice Diane Y. Devlin reserved decision Thursday on the Erie County control board's effort to quash a Giambra administration challenge to its recent decision to go "hard" and control county spending and hiring.

Opposing attorneys disagreed about the control board's legal mandate and the legality of the steps it took prior to its Nov. 3 decision to go hard rather than remain as an advisory board.

Devlin, who recently took over the case, said she may call attorneys back within a week for further discussions. She said she also will confer with former State Supreme Court Justice John P. Lane, who had the case before he retired and became a state judicial hearing officer at the end of December.

Andrea Schillaci, the county government's privately retained attorney, complained that the control board's "too amorphous" unwritten suggestions about county spending leave the administration of County Executive Joel A. Giambra and the County Legislature "in the dark" procedurally.

Schillaci contended that the control board's Nov. 3 vote to go hard was legally "premature" and violated both its statutory authority and County Charter mandates on budget processes.

David J. McNamara, attorney for the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority, told the judge the board acted that day because the four-year operating plan the county submitted Oct. 18 "wasn't structurally sound."

McNamara also disputed Schillaci's contention that the control board has failed to provide the Giambra administration with written recommendations on needed changes in the budgeting and revenue-estimation process.

McNamara contended that the state law creating the control board does not say that its recommendations "have to be in writing" but said that in late October, the board did provide the county government with 29 "enumerated" issues to consider in its fiscal planning.

The control board attorney also complained that county elected officials seem to want the control board "to do their work for them."

"It's been the county all along that thumbed its nose at the authority," McNamara contended in asking Devlin to dismiss the court case.

In response to a question from the judge, McNamara said the control board spent "six months of efforts in attempts to work with the county" on trying to resolve its fiscal problems before opting to go hard and prepare to possibly impose spending mandates.

The control board attorney also told the judge that the board currently is reviewing the county's recently adopted four-year plan. McNamara acknowledged that should the board approve of the new plan, it could revert to an advisory body.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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