At a time when three-quarters of U.S. residents are living paycheck-to-paycheck and more than one in four have no savings at all, Onondaga County has paid upwards of $150,000 defending a lawsuit over pay raises for county officials.
Syracuse.com reports that as of July 28, Onondaga County has paid $154,340.82 to outside lawyers defending a lawsuit from another elected official. County Comptroller Bob Antonacci sued 19 county officials over raises approved the previous year.
“There’s been a lot of money expended on this lawsuit,” Onondaga County Comptroller said Antonacci. “I certainly don’t like the fact that we are fighting with each other. We’ve got important business in Onondaga County government, but this was a necessary process.”
However, Robert Smith, one of the defense attorneys the county has on the case, blames Antonacci.
“It is difficult to understand how a party sues two lawsuits, multiple parties, multiple kinds of complaints, then complains that attorneys’ fees are unnecessarily expended,” said Smith. “I’m pretty sure we didn’t start either one of these lawsuits.”
Normally, the county attorney takes care of any lawsuit filed against the county, but County Attorney Robert Durr had to recuse himself citing a conflict of interests. In his stead, the county hired five outside legal firms, an obviously costly move.
“I can’t control what they do,” said Antonacci. “Of course I care about the money and the taxpayers. That’s why I’m handling the case myself.”
The whole issue began last winter when the county legislature voted to raise their own pay and the pay of the County Executive. These raises were illegal, according to the Comptroller, because the vote didn’t occur during the budget process.
“This is about protecting the public treasury, passing laws in the right manner and certainly the roles and duties of the county comptroller that I was elected to protect and carry forward,” Antonacci said.