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Giambra at Odds with Law Enforcement Officers over Layoffs

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The latest budget crisis led to a showdown at dusk Tuesday between the Giambra Administration and his chief law enforcement officers.

In his latest directive to deal with the ongoing budget saga, County Executive Joel Giambra called for layoffs -- lots of them. But in a surprising act of defiance, Erie County Sheriff Patrick Gallivan and District Attorney Frank Clark refused to go along. The chief law enforcement officers wouldn't sign off on the notices, saying they would jeopardize public safety.

Then, the County Attorney's office set a 5pm deadline Tuesday for compliance -- accompanied by a legal threat. But Clark responded with a resounding no. He then threw down a gauntlet of his own.

"If all of the talk that's gone on back and forth, and this merry-go-round we've been on finally stops, and they say that these people are going to be terminated, I will seek court intervention to enjoin any county action anyway," said Clark.

Clark says, under the proposed layoffs, he would effectively lose more than 50 percent of his department -- and be unable to operate. Gallivan says his department would also be unable to function adequately. Assistant County Attorney George Zimmerman says the notices were being issued, with or without their approval. And he said the county could well end up suing Clark and Gallivan to recoup any payroll expenses incurred by the delayed notices.

"The Sheriff and the District Attorney are independently elected public officials with their own constitutional and statutory powers. Those do not include making budgetary appropriations," said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman also says employees who receive the layoff notice should take them seriously. Barring a resolution to the ongoing sales tax debacle, the county will lose about 3,000 of its employees -- a third of the county workforce.