MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County Legislature Wednesday night voted down a resolution that would have allowed the County District Attorney’s office to hire a limited number of assistant district attorneys who live outside of the county. The vote was down party lines.
The request to hire up to four ADAs who don’t live in Chautauqua County was made by District Attorney Patrick Swanson (D), who reported earlier this month there has been difficulty in recruiting qualified individuals to fill vacancies in the office and he would like the opportunity to draw from as large a pool of potential applicants as possible, even if it meant turning to those living in adjacent counties.
Prior to acting on the resolution, Jamestown attorney Kristin Lee Yaw spoke to the legislature during the first privilege of the floor and refuted some of the statements Swanson had made during the legislature’s public safety committee meeting earlier this month. During the meeting Swanson said he’s reached out to local attorney groups in the county and learned there wasn’t a large pool of candidates to draw from to fill openings in his office. Lee Yaw said the numbers of potential candidates Swanson reported was significantly lower than the number that is actually available. She also said that the Jamestown Bar Association hasn’t received notice or learned about openings in the DA’s office during the past two years.
Later in the meeting legislator Chuck Nazzaro (D-Jamestown) made a motion to table the resolution so more information could be collected before the legislature acted on it, but it was denied down party lines by a vote of 12 to 5.
Legislator Terry Niebel (R-Dunkirk) spoke before the vote, saying Swanson is not using the resources made available by the county to solicit candidates for his office, the DA’s office website has no page for job postings, and Swanson isn’t reaching out to law schools across the state. As a result he and his Republican colleagues voted 12 to 5 against the resolution and it was defeated.
Even if the resolution was approved, it would still need final approval from the New York State Senate and Assembly before going into effect. State law requires all county ADAs to reside in the county they are working for. If an ADA is to come from an adjoining county, the New York State Legislature must also grant permission to the requesting county, but the effort was not with out precedent. The State Legislature has previously authorized the counties of Westchester, Yates, Madison, Montgomery, Putnam, Fulton, Essex, Wyoming, Sullivan, and Oswego to hire ADAs who reside in adjoining counties.