County Exec Fires Assistant County Attorney, Legislature To Hold Special Meeting

Earlier today Chemung County Executive Christopher Moss released a statement to the media saying he’d advised Assistant County Attorney Bryan Maggs that he would be terminated effective March 1st. In his statement, Moss cited what he called “conflicts of interest and ethical issues”, saying he’d voiced these concerns to Legislature Chairman David Manchester on multiple occasions.

Maggs, who was appointed as attorney to the legislature January 1, 2019, also served as Attorney to the Legislature and Special Districts, a part time position created in 2001 by former Chemung County Chairman Tom Santulli.

Moss says that there is no provision in the Chemung County Charter that affords the legislature separate legal counsel, saying it is the responsibility of the County Attorney to represent all officers and employees as indicated in the County Charter. He specifically cited Section 1602 which states:

Section 1602. Powers and Duties. The County Attorney shall:

  1. (a)  be the sole legal advisor of the County;
  2. (b)  advise all County officers and employees in all County legal matters of a civil nature;
  3. (c)  prosecute or defend all actions or proceedings of a nature brought on or against the County;
  4. (d)  prepare resolutions, ordinances, legalizing acts and local laws, together with notices and other items in connection therewith, to be presented for action by the County Legislature;
  5. (e)  perform such other and related duties as may be prescribed by law, the County Executive or the County Legislature.

In his statement, Moss voiced concerns that county taxpayers have paid $696,397 for legal work conducted by Barclay Damon LLP, a law firm of which Mr. Maggs is a partner. Moss also says that Maggs, while serving as County Attorney, entered into an agreement with the Chemung County Development Corporation ( CCDC ) to provide legal services at a rate of $1,500 a month. At the same time, Moss says, Maggs in his capacity as County Attorney foreclosed on properties, reviewed paperwork and provided legal advice to County officers and then directed county resources involving homes that had been forclosed on by the county and turned over to the CCDC. Moss says while this occurred Maggs was paid by both the County and the CCDC, which he says is a “clear conflict of interest” as outlined by the County Charter Section 2909:

Section 2909. Officers and Employees Engaging in Other Transactions. No officer or employee of the County or member of the County Legislature shall have any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in any business or transaction or professional activity or incur any obligation of any nature, which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest.

Moss says legal counsel to the CCDC could have been provided by the city or county attorney for free, and he’ll be taking a closer look at invoices for past services provided as well.

In response, County Legislature Chairman David Manchester has called a special meeting to be held this evening at 7:00 pm. Manchester says Maggs was appointed by a measure supported by all fifteen legislators and the legislature has the power to appoint its own attorney based on the county charter.

Moss disagrees, saying the charter authorizes the County Executive to supervise and direct the internal organization of each department or administrative unit, as well as giving him the authority to appoint department heads.

“I have a duty and obligation as County Executive to ensure that we are providing the most cost effective quality services to the taxpayers of Chemung County as well as supporting the title and purpose of the established Chemung County Charter”, Moss said.

 

3 Comments

  1. While the announcement seems rather abrupt, the County Executive’s concerns certainly need to be considered.

    However, the surprise announcement that he’s fired as of tomorrow resulted in a reactionary emergency meeting, with litigation to follow.

    I feel like there must be a process in place that would have allowed for a measured decision that followed some dialogue/discussion.

  2. Yeah, when you look at it from the standpoint that nearly $700,000 was spent by the county ( paid for courtesy the taxpayers )to the firm the attorney worked for, it’s pretty obvious there’s a conflict of interest there. Especially if that money could have been saved by the county attorney doing the work.

    But I also wonder why this is coming up now, not when he was initially put forth for a vote. Unless the county exec just didn’t have the time or resources to review this before then.

  3. I am confused as i pulled this from a Legislator’s page…” I set forth above, the 1987 law established that the County Attorney – in this case Bryan Maggs – has no say over who the outside law firm is. The County Executive makes that decision, and the contract for services is reviewed by the Legislative Attorney.” But if Mr. Maggs was appointed by the Legislature, he in fact is NOT the County Attorney as that position is appointed by the Executive. Sorry but in this case i do not yet see support for the stance of the Legislature though i will say Mr. Moss could have been a bit more diplomatic in going about it

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