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SIGNATURES RULED INSUFFICIENT TO FORCE VOTE ON RAISES

Cattaraugus County Legislator Larry G. Mack has failed to gather enough valid signatures to force a public vote on raises for county department heads.

That was the ruling Monday by County Administrator Donald E. Furman, acting as clerk of the Legislature.

The Board of Elections spent several weeks going over the 3,014 signatures that Mack, a Democrat from Humphrey, submitted in late December.

Mack had 45 days from Nov. 12, when legislators adopted a law and other resolutions granting the raises, to gather enough signatures. He spent most of that time soliciting petition signatures outside grocery stores.

All signers had to be registered voters, and Mack needed 10 percent of the qualified voters in the last general election, or 2,514 signatures.

Furman said a report from the staff at the Board of Elections shows that Mack fell short by 119 signatures and that only 2,395 were valid.

Furman said some of the signers were not registered voters, and some signatures were not legible or were duplicated signatures. There also were incomplete addresses, incomplete dates or altered pages.

Furman said several pages of signatures appeared to have been "taped together."

County Attorney Dennis V. Tobolski is expected to determine whether Mack can appeal the ruling.

Since Jan. 1, the raises and increases, ranging from $1,400 to $8,200, were put on hold.

Instead the department heads received 3 percent raises, in line with other workers. In exchange for the higher raises, the workers gave up some benefits such as days off and incentive pay. Whether the raises can now be added to paychecks will be decided by Tobolski.

In 1996, Mack tried to block other raises by forcing a public vote. Then he needed more than 2,600 valid signatures, and only 1,606 were ruled valid.

Officials have estimated that a special election would cost about $25,000.

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