Allegany legislators postpone major wage increases decision for county officials

BREAKING: Allegany County, NY, legislators this afternoon reversed direction, postponing a proposal to grant significant wage increases to some department heads and non-union employees, deciding to go public in a special session next week for discussion on both salary scales.

The action came in multiple parts today, with a special 10AM Committee of the Whole meeting at which the board went into executive session, possibly to discuss the wages package, a potential repeat of prior closed door meetings.

At 12:27PM, Allegany Hope received a county email with the tentative agenda for today’s regular 2PM board meeting, noting the addition of a new resolution.

After querying for a copy of the document, we received the resolution which provides for a special meeting of the Board of Legislators at 4PM next Wednesday, November 2, “for the purpose of discussion and adoption” of a local law pertaining to 2023 salary increases for 19 county officials, which we reported on Monday, and a three-page listing of other non-unit positions which we revealed exclusively last night. The Board generally holds committee meetings earlier in the afternoon next Wednesday.

Legislators then held at its 2PM meeting a previously scheduled public hearing on a local law which would provide wage increases of up to double digits for the 19 county officials. Approval of the law is subject to a permissive referendum of county voters upon legal petition.

Casey Jones, executive director of Allegany Hope, was the only member of the public to comment on the proposal, calling upon the Board to reject the local law and the resolution for salary changes for dozens of other individuals to “provide the public with sufficient information to be able to comment intelligently on the specifics” of the salary packages.

“Based on this Board’s seemingly increasing penchant for secrecy and working behind closed doors, out of the view of the public, as it relates to many policy issues, it is impossible to speak intelligently about the salaries set forth in the local law or the resolution noted,” he said.

Jones submitted that unless closed door meetings this month were for the purpose of discussing the employment history of each person, individually, who appears on the salary scales, many of which currently are unfilled, the sessions were illegal under the state Open Meetings Law.

He addressed piecemeal information which has been developed by Allegany Hope‘s Community News, of which he is editor, which indicates a wage comparability study is being used, in part, as one basis for the major wage increases, along with current high inflation.

“Without seeing the wage comparability analysis, it is impossible to determine the validity of the work performed” by a consultant, Jones said, adding that his own past experiences with consultants and attorneys has demonstrated that some work “was not ideal.”

Allegany Hope filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request yesterday for the wage comparability study, along with information as to who actually has received copies of the report. No response has been received as of today.

Jones also noted in regard to inflation consideration that he had negotiated labor contracts in the 1980s when the high rates peaked at more than 14 percent, but salary increases were much less than that due to the high point being temporary.

He also said that inflation “hits people in different ways, having a disproportionately negative impact on lower wage individuals.

“This is due to the price of bread, milk, other groceries, gasoline and utilities generally being the same whether one is earning minimum wage or $50,000, $80,000 or over $100,000 a year,” the organization director said, noting that some of the wage increases being proposed by the county are “approaching what some people in Allegany County earn in an entire year working at a full-time job.”

Copies of the wage increases for each category of employee appear in our reports of the last two evenings, with today’s testimony by Jones, starting at approximately 2:50 minutes, being available at https://bit.ly/3THWytE.

Following the public hearing the Board voted unanimously, with Legislator Adam Cyr of Bolivar absent, to table action on the local law until next week’s meeting, doing the same near the end of the session with the resolution for other pay increases.

Minutes later it approved the resolution to hold next week’s special session.

Board Chairman Philip Stockin, who sponsored the special meeting resolution, told Allegany Hope Community News after today’s session that board members wanted more information on the wage scales and confirmed that it will be conducting the meeting in the open.
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