The lawsuit that led to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz being charged with threatening to shoot a bailiff has been dismissed.
Poloncarz was one of three county officials personally sued over allegations that Health Commissioner Gale Burstein was illegally paid for overtime during the Covid-19 pandemic, beginning in 2020. Burstein received more than $282,000 in cash overtime in 2020 and 2021, unlike other politically appointed departments. heads.
The questions about Burstein’s overtime are simple: How much overtime did she get paid? And is there anything wrong with her getting that money? But getting real answers is tricky because of the political vagueness hanging over the conversation.
She, Poloncarz and Personnel Commissioner Timothy Hogues were named in a civil suit brought by attorney Todd Aldinger on behalf of two taxpayers best known as ‘The Financial Guys’ on WBEN radio – Michael Lomas and Glenn Wiggle .
Because the defendants were named individually, and not in their official roles as senior Erie County government officials, Aldinger had the charges served on the three county chiefs at their homes in late January.
This culminated in a bailiff alleging that Poloncarz threatened to shoot her if she did not leave her property when she attempted to hand over the legal papers to him. She signed an affidavit recounting the incident.
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A bailiff wrote in a sworn affidavit that in attempting to serve Poloncarz with a lawsuit that names him, personally, as a defendant, Poloncarz accused her of trespassing and said, “remove the (expletive) off my property before I shoot you!”
Poloncarz denied threatening to shoot anyone and said it was the first time anyone had tried to serve legal documents on him at his home.
On Thursday, state Supreme Court Justice Mark Montour dismissed the lawsuits against Poloncarz, Burstein and Hogues.
In a statement he posted on Twitter, Poloncarz reiterated as he did during his filing that the lawsuit was a “publicity stunt” and applauded the judge’s ruling.
“There was absolutely no merit to the prosecution,” he said.
As part of its written decision, Montour said Aldinger’s clients do not have the legal standing to challenge state public health law regarding compensation for the health commissioner or to make arguments. regarding eligibility for overtime pay.
Montour also said the lawsuit failed to argue that a fraudulent act was committed by Burstein receiving overtime pay.
“While we assume that an allegation of waste could be inferred from the complaint, the plaintiffs have not specifically alleged an unlawful act, or that Poloncarz de Hogues was motivated by personal gain, or that payment of overtime was linked to a bribery scheme to harm the public interest,” the decision states.
Additionally, Montour said, should there be a future ruling that high-level county administrators are ineligible to receive overtime, “it will be the responsibility of the Erie County Legislature to determine and the court will not invade their province.
In response to the court’s decision, Aldinger said his clients are considering their appeal options.
“Regardless of what happens next,” he said, “we are pleased that the introduction of this case has sparked a long overdue review of Erie County’s overtime policies.”
“During the pandemic, maybe it wasn’t the time to have that discussion,” Erie County Comptroller Kevin Hardwick said. “But now that we have a break, I think it’s time to sit down and ask some of those questions.”
Erie County Comptroller Kevin Hardwick said in March that the county’s policy on overtime pay for department heads and other political appointees should be reviewed after public attention and criticism fell on the county administration for awarding the named individuals hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional compensation for outside work. regular hours.
Poloncarz said he was not opposed to making changes, but it would be up to the legislature to take that action. He also said that while appointed managers will no longer be eligible for overtime, an analysis of the county’s current salary structure should be undertaken to allow senior administrators to receive raises.
The Erie County Legislature then asked the comptroller’s office to provide more information to help the legislature draft a new policy. Majority Leader Timothy Meyers expected more conversations to start after this information was provided in 60 days. However, since March there has been no notable effort to resuscitate a discussion of overtime policy.