Coughlin, Foley Have Heated Talks Over Wanted Cuts

MAYVILLE – The Public Safety Committee would like to see a 10 percent budget reduction from the sheriff, district attorney, public defender and emergency services.

However, those entities say no way.

Sheriff Joe Gerace, District Attorney David Foley and Public Defender Nathaniel Barone met with the committee Wednesday to get a jump start on the budget. In May, the Public Safety Committee sent a letter to the three, as well as Julius Leone, county fire coordinator and director of EMS, who was unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting. The letter requested the four present a proposed budget for 2014 for each department, with a target of a 10 percent reduction from their 2013 adopted budget.

The letter also said if the men were unable to present a 10 percent reduction, the committee would expect a detailed explanation and then enter into a discussion of recommended cost-saving measures.

Foley presented first to the committee, offering a PowerPoint presentation of why his office would be unable to take a 10 percent reduction to its budget.

“I have been the district attorney since 2005,” Foley said. “In that time, we have attempted to make whatever cuts possible.”

According to Foley, the number of crimes his office has prosecuted is up 15 percent from 2005, while he has 22 percent fewer staff members than in 2008. Additionally, he said homicides his office has prosecuted have tripled since 2006.

Foley also made comparisons between Chautauqua County and other similarly-sized counties in New York, regarding the number of assistant district attorneys and cases.

Following his presentation, Bill Coughlin, D-Fredonia, began grilling Foley about the salaries of his assistant district attorneys, as well as whether an investigator could be shared with New York State Police or the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office. The grilling resulted in a slight altercation between the men, and Foley refused to answer Coughlin’s questions. Paul Wendel, R-Lakewood, called for the discussion to end, at which point Foley left the room.

Barone moved to present to the committee next, and was stopped by committee Chairman Bob Duff, R-Sheridan, who had apparently forgotten the men had been required to attend the meeting.

“You have no business whatsoever, as far as I’m concerned, to say that a 10 percent cut is something we need,” Duff said. “We in Chautauqua County need these people.”

Duff was reminded that the committee had invited Foley, Barone and Gerace, and Barone was allowed to continue. Barone echoed Foley, stating that his office could not afford a 10 percent cut.

“If you’re in the public defender’s office, you’re not there, generally speaking, for the money,” Barone said. “You’re there because you enjoy the work, and that’s what it’s all about. I’m not complaining about that. What I am complaining about is asking to try to reduce costs even more than where we are.”

Coughlin again began the discussion he started with Foley, regarding the investigator. He also questioned Barone about preliminary hearings and suggested ways to cut costs.

Gerace spoke next to the committee, also stating that the sheriff’s office would not be able to afford a 10 percent cut.

“A 10 percent cut would be about $2.1 million,” Gerace said. “To say the least, that would be devastating to the safety in Chautauqua County.”

Gerace recommended going over each line of his budget with legislators, so they would see where money is being spent and be able to make recommendations on where money could be cut.

Following the meeting, John Hemmer, R-Westfield, told The Post-Journal he would be willing to go over budgets line-by-line to truly learn how money is being spent and gain a better understanding of how departments spend.