You couldn’t keep it on the straight and narrow just once, could you Monroe County Republicans?
Unlike many, I had no objection to the county administration hiring Republican super-attorney Dennis Vacco to go over the Limited Development Corporations that are now the subject of charges from the Attorney General’s office. It seems perfectly sensible to me: Someone important alleges improprieties;hire your own guy to look into them as well.
Not only do I have no problem with that, I wish they’d done it 10 years ago when the allegations of improprieties began surfacing. If they’d gotten an outside legal review then, we might not be in the trouble we’re in now.
But that’s not how they handle things, and now there are charges and handcuffs and trials. Fun for journalists, but nobody else.
The point being: I didn’t have a problem with Vacco — until members of the County Legislature’s Democratic Caucus were told that they couldn’t get information about Vacco’s work for the county because of “attorney client privilege.”
That’s fascinating — because, of course, Democrats elected to the County Legislature are the county. They are the client. To the extent Vacco is being paid by public dollars, those dollars come from taxes, and those taxes are paid by citizens in Brighton every bit as much as Greece, and Rochester every bit as much as Perinton.
To say members of the legislature can’t have access to the work of a county employee is tantamount to disenfranchisement of the citizens they represent.
And while the Attorney General is watching, too. Got to give County Republicans credit for gumption. But that’s how they do things.
Tell you want, let’s make this simple: If Maggie Brooks wants to cite attorney client privilege, then she can pay for the attorney.
That’s what “Attorney Client Privilege” means, right? If the county is the client, and our tax dollars paying for the attorney, then members of the legislature (the county’s governing body) can see the work product our tax dollars are paying for. If, on the other hand, Maggie Brooks wants to cite “attorney client privilege” with the legislature, then she has to be the one paying the $170,000 bill (and counting).
There’s really no two ways about this.
I’m comfortable either way. I have no problem with the county bringing in an attorney to look at our LDCs, and have his advice and work-product be made available to the members of county government, or for Maggie Brooks to hire her own lawyer to investigate the LDCs and pay his $170,000 fee. It’s all good to me.
You just can’t mix and match. Democracy doesn’t work that way. The fact that County Republicans don’t seem to know that may be why we’re in this mess at all.
If I were Democrats in the legislature, I’d do everything possible to block all payment to Vacco until the matter of exactly whose attorney he is can be settled. If it can save the taxpayers $170,000, so much the better.
Benjamin Wachs writes for Messenger Post Media, and archives his work at Email him at