Thursday, December 5, 2013

O'Flynn questioned over proposed raise

Posted By on Thu, Dec 5, 2013 at 9:52 PM

When it comes to his potential $37,000 raise, Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn has his story and he's sticking to it.

During a County Legislature committee meeting tonight, Democrats questioned O'Flynn about the raise, which he'd receive under the 2014 proposed county budget. The county administration has said that O'Flynn included the raise as part of the sheriff's office budget. Democrats, tonight, wanted him to justify the raise.

O'Flynn said that for the past 15 or so years — at least back to the time when Andy Meloni was sheriff — the position's pay was "aligned" with the county district attorney's pay. He said that  since the DA's pay has gone up, so should the sheriff's. By the end of 2014, DA Sandra Doorley will be paid $174,000 a year, which is what O'Flynn would also make under the proposed budget. That's the short version.

In New York, the pay for district attorneys is set by state law, which ties it to the pay received by some judges. New York's judges went without a pay raise for years, until the state Legislature finally passed a plan to increase their salaries. So in 2012 and every year after, the judges have received raises and so have district attorneys.

The sheriff's pay, however, is not set by state law. It's set in the county budget, and until the 2012 plan the sheriff made 90 percent of the DA's salary. But as the Legislature prepared to vote on that budget, Republican Legislator Anthony Daniele introduced a last-minute amendment to make the sheriff's pay equal with the DA's pay. During tonight's committee meeting, Democratic Legislator Carrie Andrews said she recalls that the arrangement wasn't supposed to be permanent. But O'Flynn said he could recall no such thing.

Andrews said she won't support the raise and that Democrats would introduce a budget amendment to remove it. The Legislature will vote on the budget Tuesday night.

For reference, the sheriffs in Erie, Onondaga, and Albany counties make less than O'Flynn. But O'Flynn said that the Monroe office is larger, that he has staff who are paid more than him, and that 40 percent of the county sheriffs in New York also collect pensions — which he doesn't. 

Twenty-nine people spoke during a public hearing on the budget also held tonight, though 28 of the speakers focused on funding for child day care subsidies for low-income, working parents. Thomas Gregory, the sole speaker to address the sheriff's raise, said the $37,000 should be used to instead create a job.

As for the other 28 speakers, all asked legislators to restore $1.3 million in local funding for day care subsidies and to add $600,000 on top of that to the program. Speakers included day care workers, attorneys, a former adviser to County Executive Maggie Brooks, children's advocates, and pediatricians. A few parents who are receiving subsidies also spoke.

Hemily Sotomayor, a mother of three and a full-time employee of the Rochester Housing Authority, said she relies on the subsidies so she can work.Though she said she doesn't expect to lose her children's slots — county officials have said no children currently receiving the subsidies will be cut off — she'd have to quit her job and apply for public assistance so she could care for her children. Without the subsidies, she said, she is priced out of day care.

"It's not something that would be affordable for me," she said outside of the Legislature chambers.

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