June 15, 2013

County manager appointment in flux

MALONE — Franklin County legislators appointed Thomas Leitz to a three-year term as county manager last week, but they have been advised to revamp that resolution.

An appointee for county manager is not supposed to serve a term that is longer than the term of the board that makes the appointment, according to a 2005 advisory opinion from the State Attorney General’s Office.

Leitz took over the job from former County Manager James Feeley at a salary of $76,000 under a two-year contract that expires June 28.

Legislators recently passed a resolution to reappoint him to a three-year term at a salary of $84,400.

All seven seats on the County Legislature are up for re-election this fall.   

When a Press-Republican reporter pointed out that a sitting board cannot obligate future board members to their choice for county manager beyond their own term of office, county legislators disagreed.

They asked County Attorney Jonathan Miller for an opinion, but he said he did not know the appointment was going to be discussed that day and had no information for them.

Legislators then voted unanimously to reappoint Leitz.


But according to an informal opinion from February 2005 requested from Seneca County, the Attorney General’s Office said, since the issue was first raised in 1903, “common law has long recognized … that a governing board operating in its governmental or legislative capacity may not bind a successor board.”

The Attorney General’s opinion, which cited county law, election law, Municipal Home Rule and village law, determined that in Seneca County “a county board of supervisors may not enact a local law creating for the position of county manager a term of office that is longer than that of a majority of the supervisors.”

When contacted by the Press-Republican days later, Miller said he had researched the issue, found the 2005 opinion and, after talking to Leitz, decided to advise legislators to rescind the June 7 resolution they passed and create a new one that appoints the manager to a six-month term that expires in December.

Then, whichever candidates win County Legislature seats in the November election will appoint a new county manager.

The revised resolution is expected to be on the agenda for the legislators’ regular meeting next Thursday.

Email Denise A.

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