Judge Rules Against Mychajliw in “Dixon Raise” Lawsuit

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw tried to circumvent county law by giving political appointee and former legislature, Erie County Executive candidate Lynne Dixon.

Dixon lost her bid last fall for county executive. Afterward, the former Republican-endorsed county legislator accepted a county job in the office of Republican Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw.

Dixon began working as the new secretary for Republican Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw. Mychajliw hired Dixon as secretary to his office at the start of the year at a salary of $50,157.

But Mychajliw, tried to upgrade Dixon’s title to associate deputy comptroller for communications and community relations and in the process bumping her annual salary to more than $90,000. The legislature quickly blocked that move.  So Mychajliw tried to move Dixon into an existing budgeted position that raised her salary to $63,569.

Personnel Commissioner Timothy R. Hogues initially approved her level of pay. But now the Poloncarz administration contends Dixon doesn’t deserve her $63,569 salary. Not only did the county cut her pay, but Hogues demanded she refund the county more than $5,400 she received in “overpaid taxpayer funds” since January.

Mychajliw sued the Erie County Executive and earlier this week Judge Glownia ruled from the bench that the Erie County law is very clear, that  Comptroller Mychajliw tried to circumvent legislative approval and that no elected official can give a raise to any staff on his or her own.

THE COURT: I have the argument on this. I’ve spent a great deal of time prior to this point looking through everything that has been provided to me. I had some questions along the way for each of you, which I think you have fully answered to my satisfaction as to what my concerns were. 

It is — it’s my belief, okay, that this really hinges on the meaning of what a new position in its creation is without affecting anything that deals with the personnel policies of the office. The reason why someone would put in a position, a variable minimum attached to a position, why the legislature would authorize that seems quite simple and basic to me. But once the position is created and it exists there’s no reason why it can’t flow along with the other county policies as is. It’s not some unique position that forever holds that variable minimum or once it was started at the top range it would be there forever. 

I think it hinges on this and I don’t see — I would see that — I agree with the respondent that this would be expanding the powers of the elected officers way beyond what’s here.

I am going to deny the petition in its entirety. 

You can check out the hearing transcript in its entirety below:

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