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NYS Supreme Court rules to repeal controversial Steuben County Legislature resolution

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The repealed resolution would have required the Steuben County Sheriff to purchase private liability insurance

A second contested resolution is still a “under legal challenge”

By Andrew Harris

Two Steuben County resolutions passed in mid September, which was a big surprise to Sheriff James Allard. Surprise, might be the nicest word possible, as the county law would have removed his protections against personal liablity, and forced him to purchase his own insurance policies.

Allard immediately decried the move by the county legislators and vowed to mount a legal challenge. Read the Sheriff’s original statement on the legislative move and the Steuben County Chairman’s statement below.

That appears to have been successful in terms of Resolution 186-23. The NYS Supreme Court ruled that the county can not force Allard to purchase the private insurance. The other Resolution

On Monday, November 27, the Steuben County Legislature repealed Resolution Number 186-23, which would have imposed an unprecedented requirement on the County Sheriff to obtain liability insurance against lawsuits arising from the Sheriff’s Office’s performance of official duties. The repealed resolution would have required the Sheriff to immediately purchase millions of dollars of insurance at his own cost. If he did not, the County would not allow him to complete the duties of Sheriff and would withhold his pay. The Legislature compared the Sheriff to a contractor, not a duly- elected County official, and ignored the fact that the Sheriff is, and was, covered by the County blanket insurance policy.

The Sheriff welcomes the repeal of this Resolution, which was one of two Resolutions passed on September 25th affecting the Sheriff’s status and operations. (The other September 25 Resolution rescinded the County’s duty under the Public Officer Law and County Local Law to indemnify the Sheriff, for legal fees and liability incurred in the performance of his official duties.)

Resolution 186-23 was passed with virtually no notice to the Sheriff, or public debate; the Sheriff was given no notice of its intended repeal; and the Resolution—if it had been allowed to take effect—could effectively have left the County without a Sheriff. The legality of both September 25 Resolutions has been challenged by the Sheriff in New York State Supreme Court, and at the time of today’s repeal, both have been enjoined from taking effect by a Supreme Court Justice.

Even with today’s repeal, the remaining September 25th Resolution, stripping the Sheriff of indemnification under the Public Officer Law, remains under legal challenge. Underscoring the serious detrimental impact that losing indemnification could have on the Sheriff’s ability to carry out his public safety duties, the New York State Sheriff’s Association (NYSSA)—which represents Sheriffs across every county in New York State—has asked the Justice hearing the Sheriff’s challenge, for permission to file a “friend of the court” brief, arguing in support of the Sheriff’s position. NYSSA’s papers to the Court make it clear that the organization is concerned the Steuben County Legislature’s actions could ultimately have a drastic impact on law enforcement operations throughout the state. NYSSA’s request to the Court is available at the Steuben County Sheriff’s App and website under the NEWS and PRESS RELEASE tab:

https://www.sheriff.steubencountyny.gov/

In spite of the ongoing dispute over the Legislature’s September 25 Resolutions, Steuben County residents should know that the Sheriff’s Office remains committed above all else to its public safety mission, and the Sheriff, his deputies, and all civilian personnel continue to carry out the full range of the office’s responsibilities and services. For more information about the Sheriff’s Office, follow us on Facebook at Steuben County Sheriff’s Office or visit our website at https://www.sheriff.steubencountyny.gov/

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