When it comes to the price of a starting county attorney, we're going to have to side with Erie County Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz.
No offense meant to Jeremy A. Colby, the new chief legal counsel for, as he put it, a $1 billion entity. It's just that the legislative body made a decision in cutting the county executive's spending, which is allowed, and involves the county attorney's salary. It's not personal, just business. Albeit, political business with taxpayers footing the bill.
Poloncarz refuses to pay the new county attorney the $150,000-a-year salary the county executive promised. Instead, he'll cut a check reflective of the Legislature's authorized $99,000 a year. Frankly, we can see the case for the higher salary; $99,000 a year is barely above starting salaries for law school graduates in this area. Still, the budget allows only $99,000.
Normally, that would be the end of an argument if not for the strong personalities involved.
Collins has declared the county attorney's salary "null and void," on the premise that the cut from his proposed six-figure salary for the position down to a high-five figure violated a legal technicality. He's even willing to reargue his case in court. Poloncarz is standing firm.
If any of this sounds familiar, don't worry. It's not you.
Early this year, Collins made clear his intentions to collect roughly $8 million more in property taxes than he would have had he complied with Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia's ruling and accepted the Legislature's cuts to the 2011 budget.
The Legislature Democrats found it necessary to take the county executive to court to get him to follow their budget decisions. Glownia, in our opinion quite graciously, has agreed to hear the case again given the rushed first court arguments during a heated budget discussion. But the judge will not set aside his ruling, in the meantime.
No matter, the Collins administration has an answer to the possibility that the judge may rule that the county charter does not allow a county executive to declare the cuts null and void. The answer? An appeal, of course.
Meanwhile, what about that nearly $8 million more in the property tax levy Collins set than the Legislature's budget required? It includes nearly $51,000 to make up the difference in the pay dispute for the county attorney.