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Erie County legislator Joseph Lorigo gives up West Seneca posts

Erie County Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo gave up his recent appointments to serve as a West Seneca town prosecutor and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance officer last week after receiving two legal opinions stating that he could not work as both a legislator and as a town appointee.

The salary for the town prosecutor position is $7,500, while the salary for the Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator position is $1,000. The West Seneca Town Board appointed Lorigo to those positions at its Jan. 4 organizational meeting.

There is no county law that explicitly prohibits a legislator from holding two public positions, as long as they are not both elected positions. Prior legislators have held town prosecutor positions.

However, Lorigo, C-West Seneca, was given two legal opinions from the Kavinoky Cook and Hodgson Russ law firms indicating he could not be both a county legislator and a town prosecutor. They contend that holding both positions poses a conflict of interest because Lorigo votes on the county budget, which affects town services and funding of the District Attorney’s Office.

The opinion by Kavinoky Cook, the former law firm of County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, went further in saying that because Lorigo accepted the prosecutor position, he was vacating his Legislature seat.

In response, Lorigo solicited a separate legal opinion from the Phillips Lytle law firm arguing there is no such conflict of interest, nor is the prosecutor position subordinate to Lorigo’s Legislature post because the prosecutor position is independent from county government.

Lorigo also complained that the two initial legal opinions were dropped on him out of the blue only one hour before last week’s Legislature meeting.

Poloncarz said he stands by the original legal opinions provided to the county attorney.

Though Lorigo already had done some work for the Town of West Seneca after being appointed town prosecutor, he said that work is unofficial because the district attorney had not yet formally ratified his appointment.

To read legal opinions on this matter, visit politicsnow.buffalonews.com email: stan@buffnews.com