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COURT ORDERS ACCOUNTING OF INTEREST ON TAX FUND

A show-cause order has been imposed on County Executive Andrew Goodell and county Finance Director Robert Beckman, requiring them to account for all interest earnings on the county's tax-stabilization fund.

State Supreme Court Justice Vincent E. Doyle signed the order Monday. It was sought by the chairman of the county's Independence Party, Randall J. Brown, County Legislator Michael Bobseine, D-Fredonia, and two other Democratic Party members, Gerald Thompson and Terrence Valentine.

"With an estimated $1.4 million of taxpayer monies perhaps missing or misused, a county lawmaker and other concerned citizens are calling for a full accounting of Chautauqua County's tax-stabilization fund," Brown said.

The four maintain that Goodell and Beckman did not provide an annual report to the County Legislature as required by state law. The county officials have been ordered to respond in State Supreme Court in Buffalo on Oct. 20.

The order directs Beckman to account for all interest earned by the contingency and tax-stabilization reserve funds and all capital gains or losses resulting from the sale of investments of the fund.

It also requires Goodell to stop spending any interest or capital gain from the fund during the rest of this fiscal year and to "restore all interest and earnings that should have been credited" to the fund.

Goodell said he had not seen a copy of the order yet but called it a frivolous suit and an "election year dirty trick."

"It should be no surprise that some of the campaign staff of my opponent, Mark Thomas, is using this to sensationalize something that really shouldn't be in a lawsuit at all," Goodell said. "They should have just asked for a copy of the report, and we would have been more than happy to accommodate them."

The county executive also said that "the county has a very strong financial reserve, and we have not had to use that tax-stabilization reserve fund, except once in 1995, when the Legislature itself appropriated some of the interest to offset the taxes. The only other time that fund was used was as part of a Niagara Mohawk assessment case."

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