Poloncarz says Comptroller can’t make change after Mychajliw says office will take over COVID fine collection

Erie County

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Erie County Comptroller’s office says it is making a change to the way COVID-related fines are collected.

Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw says that effective Thursday, all COVID-related fines will be handled by Comptroller’s office, instead of the County Department of Health.

The Comptroller’s office says this is being done to keep health officials from “collecting, cashing and depositing” the fines.

“I am exerting the accounting authority given to my Office by the Erie County Charter,” Mychajliw says. “Changing accounting policies fall under my authority as Erie County Comptroller. This change in policy does not require approval by the County Executive or Legislature. It is granted to the Office of Erie County Comptroller regardless of who is elected to the position. I am Erie County’s Chief Fiscal and Accounting Officer, not the Health Department.”

Mychajliw says that if the Department of Health does not comply with this new process, he will immediately freeze and close their bank accounts.

“I changed policies to help businesses crippled by the closure of the economy.  I am happy to help again. We must do everything we can to save businesses,” added Comptroller Mychajliw.

Struggling businesses that may have trouble making payments can follow a payment plan depending on how much they owe. Here are the plans:

  • $1,000 or less: 20-year payment plan
  • $1,001 to $5,000: 30-year payment plan
  • $5,001 to $10,000: 40-year payment plan
  • $10,001 to $15,000: 50-year payment plan
  • $15,001 and above: 100-year payment plan

“Erie County government is punitively punishing businesses and families due to inconsistent COVID-related fines. The golf course where Mark Poloncarz played with his friends without a mask did not face fines,” Mychajliw says. “The County Executive and his friends were photographed mask-less, with alcohol and communal food in front of them. Big box stores and supermarkets can have thousands of people shop there. It is mom and pop, small businesses that are being ruined by Erie County government.”

Poloncarz responded to this on Wednesday morning, calling the Comptroller’s actions illegal.

“The Erie County Charter does not give the Comptroller the powers he is claiming to have. While the Charter does provide the Comptroller ‘have custody of all accounts,’ the role of Comptroller is a non-policy making position that is strictly ministerial in nature. He is a pass-through for the county’s fiduciary activities and has no voice or role in determining where funds come from or why they come; all his office does is collect and deposit checks, pay the county’s bills, and reconcile the accounts. It is the executive and legislative branches that set policy for the county, not the Comptroller. In fact, the Charter requires the Comptroller to provide reports and other information ‘to the County Executive and Legislature as requested.’  He is required to report to the policymakers; he does not in fact set county policy.

Furthermore, the Comptroller’s threat to freeze Health Department accounts in a time of pandemic is incredibly reckless and potentially endangers the lives of county residents. His issuance of a press release stating his intentions to subvert the Charter does not, in reality, give him any power.  We are a society governed by laws. The issuance of any statement by the Comptroller contrary to the laws of Erie County does not in fact render those laws null and void. If the comptroller attempts to contravene the laws of the county and New York State, and act above and beyond the powers granted to him by the laws of the County, we will take any and all action to enforce the laws and policies of Erie County.

As the former Comptroller, I helped to write some of the very same provisions that delineate the role of that office. Now is not the time to continually entertain illegitimate power-grabbing fantasies, now is the time to work together as a community to protect public health.”

Mark Poloncarz

Evan Anstey is a digital content producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

Don't Miss