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LEGALITIES DELAY APPOINTMENT OF PERSONNEL CHIEF

Albert T. Joseph's appointment as Niagara County personnel officer is on hold until the County Legislature jumps through some legal hoops discovered last week.

A resolution designating Joseph, who is already human resources director, for the additional title was written and set to be placed on Tuesday's Legislature agenda for action until County Attorney Edward P. Perlman, in consultation with state officials, determined the move had to go through a longer process, including a public hearing.

The Legislature voted in December 1998 to abolish the three-member Civil Service Commission and replace it with a single personnel officer, effective Jan. 1.

"There's no problem with the the human resources director also being personnel officer. A lot of counties do it," Perlman said Friday. "In order for us to do that, we have to enact a local law. You can't do it by resolution."

Perlman said he and Joseph Conboy of the state Civil Service Division researched the question and determined the local law process is needed to hire Joseph, in effect changing a department head's job description.

"They have to go through a local law if it's going to be Al," Perlman said. "If they wanted to hire (anyone else), it could be a resolution."

And in a fine point in the law, the local law process is not allowed to carry over the end of a year. Thus, the Legislature can't even vote on scheduling the public hearing until after Jan. 1.

Perlman said that if the Legislature did so Jan. 4, at its annual reorganizational meeting, the hearing and vote on the law could come Jan. 18. But he said a 45-day waiting period is needed before the law takes effect, moving the date of Joseph's appointment into the first week of March.

Legislature Chairman-designate Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, said the Legislature needs to hire a temporary personnel officer. He said, "We feel there's probably some people who would be good for it."

Perlman said the Legislature needs to hire someone who is willing to resign when Joseph becomes eligible, because the law creating the job of personnel officer establishes a six-year term. Perlman said the Legislature cannot fire the personnel officer during his term.

One of the key factors pointing to the selection of Joseph was that there was no money allocated in the 2000 budget for a personnel officer's salary. Burmaster said a small amount can be found to pay for a temporary personnel officer.

Joseph did not return a call to comment Friday.

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