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Lack of Decorum in Erie County Legislature

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Erie County's budget crisis offered the public a more candid glimpse into the workings of county governance. And as most now know, it's not a pretty picture.

Sparks flew last week at County Hall between Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples and Legislator Al DeBenedetti. Before that it was between Naples and Legislator Demone Smith. Not much of a constructive discussion took place during the two-and-a-half hour meeting. And this wasn't a rare occurence. Late arrivals of lawmakers, outbursts and tantrums are regular fare at County Hall.

Chairman George Holt says he has little control over individual style.

"You all know the demeanor of each and every one of us, in terms of how we respond to reporters and how we do business in the Legislature," Holt said. "Personally, I have no control of anyone's personality."

When asked about chronic tardiness of legislative meetings, Holt says he also has no control over lawmakers' schedules. Some, including Naples, see this lack of discipline and leadership as a serious concern.

"There are some pending issues today that are in front of them that they haven't even bothered to address," Naples said. "One is a cash shortage that is coming up very quickly. We're going to be in trouble. We're not going to be able to pay our vendors and payroll in late June unless something is done about it in these chambers."

Naples also warns about the massive, lingering deficit, the lack of oversight of tobacco fund projects, and other pressing matters of governance, which Naples says have not yet made it past the agenda of chaos.