Cayuga County Attorney Fred Westphal asked a judge Thursday to prevent legislators Joseph Bennett and Paul Pinckney from serving on the Legislature unless they quit their jobs with Cayuga Community College.
It was the first official action in a dispute that's been brewing since Election Day. In his memorandum, Westphal argued that Bennett and Pinckney cannot work for the college when, as legislators, they have control over its budgetary and labor decisions.
Bennett, a Democrat, works full-time in the maintenance department for $49,080 a year and belongs to a union.
Pinckney, a Republican, is an assistant coach on the women's basketball team and earns an annual stipend of $2,500.
The issue of the work at the college first arose after Bennett's election victory in November. Both men held their CCC jobs before their election to the Legislature.
Acting on behalf of the county and the Legislature's Republican caucus, Westphal argued that, since the Legislature oversees the college and approves its budgets and labor contracts, the men's dual employment is "incompatible" and represents a prohibited conflict of interest under state law and the county code of ethics.
"Just as you cannot serve two masters, you may not be your own boss," Westphal wrote. "The board of trustees of the college cannot impartially supervise a legislator upon whom it depends ... for budget approval and contract approval."
The legal motion asks Seventh Judicial District Administrative Judge Thomas VanStrydonck to prevent Bennett and Pinckney from voting or joining executive sessions until the dispute is resolved or they resign from one of their positions.
Neither Westphal nor Bennett were available for comment Monday, and Bennett's lawyer, Joseph Camardo, declined comment until he'd read the motion.
Pinckney had not read the motion either, but repeated his earlier promise to resign from the coaching position when the season ends Feb. 15.
"I think my season will be done long before they get a decision back," he said. "I'm just going to finish out my commitment, and if any college issues come up (in the Legislature), I'll stay out of them. But I'm not going to resign just yet."
Pinckney said previously that he cleared his coaching job with Westphal when he first entered the Legislature in 2009. Bennett was also forthcoming about his day job during his campaign against Republican incumbent Peter Tortorici, and said he would abstain from college votes.
In the legal motion, Westphal argued that abstention from college votes is not an acceptable solution because it "would deprive (district voters) of a voice in a significant aspect of the Cayuga County legislative responsibility."
Neither the Legislature's Democratic caucus nor Conservative Hans Pecher endorsed the legal motion. Democratic leader Cynthia Aikman -- who abstains from all college votes because her husband teaches there -- declined to give a reason.
Pecher said that he wasn't there when Westphal went collecting signatures, but that he supported the motion.
The next step will be for Bennett and Pinckney to submit their arguments to VanStrydonck, who will then decide whether to issue an injunction against them legislating for the time being.
Staff writer Justin Murphy can be reached at 282-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at CitizenMurphy.