County seeking to correct ‘illegal’ raises to legislators

(Photo Source: Cortland County).

The County Legislature Government Operations Committee voted unanimously Thursday to correct a resolution passed in 2015 that allowed legislators to get a raise of $150.

The amended resolution lowers the salary of legislators from $10,150 to $10,000. The amendment to the resolution from half a decade ago would correct a process that was conducted “illegally,” legislators and its officials said.

Legislative chair Kevin Fitch (R-LD-8) said the Legislature is righting a wrong with this resolution. 

“In reviewing the original resolution, we found this was done illegally in error,” he said. “We received an increase and we were put under management when we couldn’t be put under management. Our attorneys looked at it and concurred with us that it was done improperly. We are trying to correct that.”

County attorney Victoria Monty echoed Fitch’s sentiment.

“The raise should not have happened the way it did,” she said. “I recommend doing this.”

Legislature clerk Savannah Hempstead said legislators cannot approve an annual increase in salary if there is no approval of a local law. She also noted legislators cannot approve a raise in the middle of a term.

“That clause in the original resolution was not legal,” she said. “This is why the amendment is needed.”

Legislator Sandy Price (D-LD-14) said she wants the Redistricting Commission to look into the matter. The commission will meet in the fall to discuss the state of the legislature. 

“(Salaries) need some study. (The Redistricting Commission) would be an excellent place for them to study what compensation should be for legislators, and give recommendations for us to act on,” Price said. “We are rushing things a bit.”

The resolution will be sent to the Finance and Administration Committee meeting on May 17, and subsequently to the legislators at its legislative session on May 26.