Niagara Gazette

Local News

March 19, 2013

GOP motion on ex-election chief draws threats from Dems

(Continued)

LOCKPORT —

Election law also authorizes commissioners to pick their deputies, and Allen, an ordained minister, told the Legislature on Tuesday that Smith was her choice.

Wojtaszek insisted Allen took an order from the the Democratic party to "pad" Smith's retirement. She needs to stay employed until she turns 55 in order to get the lifetime health benefit.

Minority Caucus Leader Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, shouted his objections to the Wojtaszek-Updegrove resolution. The Republicans are lying when they claim Smith isn't entitled to the lifetime health benefit, he charged.

County HR policy enacted in 1998 says appointees who worked for the county 10 or more years are entitled to partly or fully-funded lifetime health coverage if they're at least 55 years old when they retire — or if the "official is not reappointed or is terminated due to a change in control of the legislature by designation of a new majority party."

Virtuoso claims a retired judge to whom he showed the policy concluded that Smith would be eligible for the lifetime benefit even if she retired before her 55th birthday, because she was not reappointed by the legislature.

Called on by several legislators to interpret the policy, County Attorney Claude Joerg said Virtuoso's take was wrong. Smith would not be eligible because her lack of reappointment did not result from a change in party control of the legislature, he said; she'll only be eligible because Allen is keeping her on until she turns 55.

Virtuoso angrily wrote off the GOP leaders' resolution as "bullying (of) a public official, Mrs. Allen, into changing her mind about who she wants as employees." He threatened a resolution or two by Democrats this year going after Republican employees of the Board of Elections, "some" of whom he claimed are not qualified to be there.

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