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Poloncarz to veto charter revisions set by Erie County Legislature

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he intends to veto changes to the county charter that legislators approved Thursday, including extended terms for legislators and expanded ethics requirements.

“I will veto this law because it weakens the power of county executive while the Legislature is strengthening themselves through the creation of four-year terms,” Poloncarz said.

The charter is the document that spells out how Erie County government should work, who is responsible for what, and how leaders get chosen, among other things. Poloncarz’s plan to veto the charter revision law marks the latest in a series of political maneuvers and power struggles on all sides that are blocking improvements many agree are necessary to guard the charter’s relevance.

Though most proposed charter changes are minor, some are controversial – like extending legislator terms from two years to four years, and making it nearly impossible for the county executive to fire his county attorney appointee on his own.

The Legislature passed a single law encompassing roughly 50 charter changes in a 6-5 vote along partisan lines, with the Republican-supported majority voting in favor and the Democratic minority voting against.

That means it’s highly unlikely the Legislature could override the county executive’s veto because that would require a supermajority vote of eight legislators.

Poloncarz said he’s primarily opposed to the law the Legislature narrowly approved because of changes that rob the County Executive’s Office of control over the County Attorney’s Office. Any changes pushed through by the Republican-supported majority would give legislators the right to fire the attorney without the executive’s consent, and the ability for any three countywide officials – excluding the county executive – to recommend the attorney’s termination.

“Three other independently elected officials could fire you,” Poloncarz said. “Who would ever take the job?”

He also said there are other charter revision changes the Legislature adopted that he believes are illegal.

Poloncarz’s veto will kill all the work done by the volunteer Charter Revision Commission unless the Legislature agrees to move forward a new local law that is more likely to gain broader Legislature support and be more palatable to the county executive.

Poloncarz said there’s still time to put such a measure together. He said he hopes the Legislature will do just that, because many other recommended charter changes are necessary to reflect the current workings of county government.

“I still believe that (they) have the opportunity to introduce a law that I would be willing to sign,” he said.


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