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Judge Lets Budget Ruling Speak for Itself

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – State Supreme Court Justice John Lane met with county officials and their attorneys Tuesday afternoon about his recent ruling on the legality of the 2005 county budget.

Justice Lane ruled late New Year's Eve that the County Legislature acted within the law in approving budget amendments as a single package. He did order the county executive to come up with a "new budget" that fixes some irregularities in the Board of Elections portion of the budget.

Still, there were some in county government who were hoping the judge would further clarify his ruling. But after Tuesday's meeting held behind closed doors in the judge's chambers, County Comptroller Nancy Naples said Lane simply let his ruling speak for itself.

"He did not clarify anything specifically in court, but he did continually refer to the county charter, saying it makes things perfectly clear," Naples said.

Naples said Justice Lane left it up to attorneys to instruct their clients on what to do next, based on the county charter. The county Legislature has until January 14th to approve the changes he ordered. For now, Naples says she has no regrets about challenging the budget in court.

"The most important thing is that the process and procedures are followed in any governmental and legislative action," Naples said. "They weren't in this case."

But the legal wrangling may not be over. County legislator Al DeBenedetti continues to argue that taped coverage of the December 8th Legislature meeting clearly shows one lawmaker objecting to the suspension of the rules to permit the approval of amendments as a single package. Unanimous consent was needed. DeBenedetti says he's calling on the state attorney general to investigate.