Sheriff Allard Sues The County And Two County Heads
Steuben County Sheriff Jim Allard has sued the Steuben County, the Steuben County Legislature, County Chair Scott Van Etten and County Manager Jack Wheeler.
See full statement from the sheriff below:
On Monday, September 25, a divided Steuben County Legislature passed two unprecedented resolutions, with virtually no public input or debate, that stripped me of the legal defense and indemnification against lawsuits that the County Legislature unanimously gave me just six years ago; and imposed an unlawful requirement on me to purchase millions of dollars in liability insurance. One of these resolutions would prevent me from carrying out the duties of my office until I have personally purchased those millions of dollars in insurance; the other takes away the protection that the County gives to other officers and staff against being sued for performing their duties.
The Legislature offered me no reasons for this action. I won't speculate about their motives, except to say that this comes after years of moves by a handful of members of County government to undermine confidence in my administration. What I can say is that these resolutions don't serve any public safety interest, or any law enforcement interest, or any taxpayer interest. The resolutions place unlawful restrictions on an independent, elected office punishing my administration for trying to carry out the duties and obligations we have under the law. More than that, they poison the good working relationship that this office has always had with its county-level partners. Even setting aside the law - leaving aside the legal arguments about these resolutions - they just defy common sense in good government, which is why a statewide association of Sheriffs is poised to come out in opposition to them as well. I did not ever expect I would have to file a legal action against the County whose citizens I serve, and County officers that I have worked so well with over the years. It's not something that I ever would have wanted to do. I'll go farther, and say it makes me sad to do so. But I have to safeguard my office's ability to perform its law enforcement responsibilities to the citizens of this county, and with them in mind I have filed a petition in Steuben County Supreme Court to enjoin these Resolutions. Further details about the background to these resolutions, and my application to stop them, can be found in the petition and papers filed in Steuben County Supreme Court under Index Number E2023-0946CV.
You'll see in that Petition, that these resolutions came soon after certain individuals in the County tried to end my ability to direct investigations within my own independent office; tried to
end the Sheriff's ability to identify and deal with complaints and possible misconduct in my own ranks. I'll leave you to review the details in the Petition, but I think it's enough to say that my office repeatedly tried to have an open discussion with these individuals again and again to resolve any differences on this issue - what the county claims, without any explanation, is a conflict between policies. And again and again, those efforts were rejected in favor of rushing as quickly as possible to punish my office through these two resolutions.
I'm still open to having that discussion, but in the meantime, I have an obligation to the residents of this County to continue to provide reliable and efficient law enforcement, and my office cannot do that with this threat of suspended leadership, liability, and unlawful financial demands hanging over it. I am optimistic that common sense will prevail here and that these resolutions will be set aside so that I and my office can focus on our law enforcement mission.
Reply From Steuben Co Legislative Chair Scott Van Etten:
"Today, Sheriff Allard released a public statement, which requires a response for the benefit of Steuben County taxpayers. In New York State, Counties provide liability insurance coverage to a Sheriff through the specific passage of a local law. The Steuben County Legislature passed such a local law in 2017. Recently and unfortunately, both actions and inaction of the Sheriff has necessitated this to be reevaluated. Ultimately, after careful review, the Legislature voted to rescind this defense and liability coverage last week.
"The County must ensure that the laws of New York State that protect our employees from harassment and discrimination are enforced across all departments, including the Sheriff’s Office. To ignore or do otherwise would be a disservice to our staff and open the County taxpayers to tremendous liability.
"Any subsequent lawsuit would be a cost paid by our residents.
Since at least the end of June, the Sheriff has been aware of the serious concerns of the County, and instead of taking steps to find compliance with State law, the County has been met with half-truths, deflection, and legal threats. To claim no explanation has been given is patently false and is a public statement the Sheriff can now not take back."
The case will be heard in Steuben County Supreme Court by Judge Jason Cook.
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