Allegany County legislators proposed pay increases confirmed to have suddenly appeared to the public

BREAKING – EXCLUSIVE: Allegany County officials apparently are contending that a proposal for a more than 40 percent personal wage increase for each of its legislators next year magically appeared in a board resolution last month which set last week’s public hearing on the 2024 tentative budget.

County Board Chairman W. Brooke Harris of Alfred, in response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request by Allegany Hope Community News, confirms that the only public record of discussion by legislators in regard to the proposed pay hike, from $8,500 to $12,000 annually and double that for the chairman, was when the resolution was introduced at the November 8 Board meeting.

His response only comes following a formal appeal after an initial request for information was ignored, and a week after the public hearing.

Only discussion
As we reported earlier, the only public discussion at the November 8 meeting came when County Legislator Gary Barnes of Wellsville, who had been a proponent last year of an unsuccessful attempt for a wage increase, told fellow board members he would support the hike to $12,000, being “better than nothing,” but “much less” than an inflation-adjusted rate.

This brought attention to the action, which resulted in further limited discussion.

The public hearing notice was adopted by an 11-to-3 vote, with Board Vice-Chair Kevin (Fred) Demick of Angelica, Dwight Fanton of Wellsville, and James Rumfelt of Andover voting against and Adam Cyr of Bolivar absent.

Mysterious introduction
Although the resolution was introduced as coming from the Board’s Ways and Means Committee, and with committee approval, Allegany Hope Community News filed the FOIL request due to no recollection of any prior committee action.

Harris’ response yesterday confirmed that the only public discussion of the matter came at the Board meeting.

The chairman also said that there was no record of any e-mail, text or other written communications by anyone to the Allegany County Budget Officer or Assistant Budget Officer “requesting, suggesting, or otherwise conveying that any such increases should be included in the 2024 budget.”

Closed-door origin?
This leaves a presumption that the matter was determined by the all-Republican board at a closed-door caucus meeting and then passed on verbally to the preparer of resolutions.

Caucuses generally occur prior to every Board meeting, again presumably to discuss public business prior to voting in the regular session, during which little or no discussion takes place.

The county board is expected to vote on approval of next year’s budget at this coming Wednesday’s meeting of the body.