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Legislature chairman seeks to remove comptroller

The head of the Chautauqua County Legislature has started looking at ways to remove Comptroller Dennis Goggin from his post for allegedly failing to perform his duties.

Chairman Keith Ahlstrom submitted the request to County Executive Greg Edwards after the Legislature failed to muster enough votes Wednesday night to eliminate the comptroller's office.

Ahlstrom said Goggin has failed to submit a yearly report, as the charter requires him to do, for the past five years. He called it a "serious breach" of his duties.

"As an elected official, he has an obligation to fulfill his duties," Ahlstrom said. "He has not fulfilled them for the past five years, and I believe the Legislature, on behalf of Chautauqua County taxpayers, should look at removing the comptroller."

Edwards said he would forward Ahlstrom's request to County Attorney Steve Abdella.
"I have not had a chance to fully review the request, but obviously we'll take it seriously and meet with the county's attorney to determine what action should be taken," Edwards said.

Ahlstrom also questioned how Goggin could be a "watchdog" for the county when he hasn't fulfilled his own duties. Ahlstrom also took a jab at Legislature Republicans for condoning Goggin's "non-existent work."

Ahlstrom's action came after the comptroller's office narrowly escaped being abolished by the full Legislature. The action, which required 17 votes for approval, was defeated, 16-9.

The law's backers, including the entire Democratic majority, believe the county is not getting enough benefit from the office, which is budgeted at $120,000 a year.
Edwards assured several legislators that the county could fulfill the comptroller's duties at a reduced cost, Ahlstrom said.
Republican Lou Drago of Lakewood joined 12 Democrats, maverick Republican Bob Duff, Independence Party member Scot Stutzman and Conservative Tina Hallquist in voting to abolish the post.

Goggin, who attended Wednesday night's meeting but was not on hand for the vote, said Thursday that he was "taken aback" when he learned of Ahlstrom's intention to pursue legal means to remove him.

Otherwise, Goggin, R-Clymer, declined to comment.

In other matters:

* A resolution to hire the county's first Medicaid coordinator was withdrawn from consideration before Wednesday night's meeting. Heidi Marshall is proposed for the post, which would be fully funded by the state to help weed out fraud and abuse. Edwards, who appointed Marshall earlier this month, would not say why he withdrew the measure.
* The Legislature approved, 17-8, home-rule legislation asking the state's permission to raise the bed tax to 5 percent, from 3 percent.

The operators of some hotels and inns spoke out against the hike, but supporters said additional funding is needed to help maintain the county's lakes and streams.

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