MAYVILLE - The work of reapportionment is again moving forward in Chautauqua County.
Legislature Chairman Fred Croscut, R-Sherman, confirmed Tuesday that county Republicans have retained the services of a local private attorney.
The county's attorney, Steve Abdella, was told Monday to stop legal work on the new districts created by the reapportionment commission. In order to downsize the County Legislature in time for November's elections, those legal descriptions have to be finished and mailed out to legislators on or before Friday. If that deadline is missed, legislators will have nothing to vote on at the special meeting called for Wednesday, April 20.
Minority Leader Rudy Mueller, D-Lakewood, halted Abdella's work Monday, citing legal issues with the plan that the commission had passed.
As explained by Croscut, only he and Mueller have the power to instruct Abdella to stop his work - Mueller as the minority leader and Croscut as the legislature chairman.
So, because of the stop-work order issued by Mueller, Croscut said he and the Republicans were left with no choice but to hire an outside attorney to pick up where Abdella left off.
"There were two options," Croscut said Tuesday. "The first and my most desired option would have been to have Rudy and I agree on a plan, which we did Saturday.
But, as you know, Monday he changed his mind.
"I agreed to have another meeting if they would pay the consultant to come down," Croscut continued. "But I was informed by Dr. Mueller (Monday) night that there was no way that they were going to pay for the consultant to come down. So therefore, we're not having a meeting and consequently, the county is not going to pay for the consultant to come down."
Similarly, the county will not be paying for the outside attorney hired Tuesday.
"That is being done at our expense, at the Republicans' expense," Croscut said.
Mueller said Tuesday that he's not surprised the party decided to hire outside help.
Now, with work continuing, Croscut said the County Legislature is on track to have a reapportionment and downsizing plan to vote on at its April 20 meeting.
"I for one (want to see this brought to the floor), and I think I am not the only one," Croscut said. "There are many legislators that want to see this brought to the floor and passed. And so, this is the only way that I have to do it, so I will be forwarding it on under my name and as chairman of the legislature. I think we deserve, the public deserves, the chance to view it and the full legislature needs the chance to vote on it."
During Saturday's reapportionment meeting though, Mueller pointed out that the plan does not adhere to the guidelines set forth by the municipal home rule law. Republicans responded by saying that recent court cases have set a different precedents, meaning they don't have to follow the municipal home rule law.
County Attorney Steve Abdella disagreed Saturday.
The county has a very short window in which to pass a downsizing plan to affect the 2011 elections. In generating the April 8 and April 20 dates, Abdella said he had been banking on the fact that the plan would be following the municipal home rule law.
"I feel you really do need to use (municipal home rule law) in order to take advantage of the shorter 45-day petition period that's available," Abdella said Saturday. "Otherwise, if we go it outside of (municipal home rule law), we're facing a longer petition period which would make it impossible to adopt this in the timeframe that we're trying to."
The plan the Republicans are moving forward with at this point does not follow municipal home rule law.
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