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 justin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at CitizenMurphy.

 

(5) comments

tracker1
tracker1

I guess there is more than one way to win an election!

Farmer's Gal
Farmer's Gal

If the good ole boys can't get the votes they want, they will find some other way to force their agenda on the unwilling public. No kidding!

not an Auburn lover
not an Auburn lover

This is politics, always has been. I have seen Legislators come and go and known alot about what has gone on. I lost respect for most of them. The people have spoken and have finally voted for two men who are actually for doing the right thing and do their job. They are not in it for political gain. Now that a certain Legislator/Chaiarman was voted out they are trying to get rid of two that won't play their games. The people spoke when he was voted out and I guarantee if the vote were open to the County and not just his district he would see a higher vote difference. The poll that the Citizen is running is showing 74% as saying they should not be forced to quit their jobs and 25% say yes they should. The people have spoken again.

octoberic
octoberic

Westphal needs something better to do. What a joke. Force them to stop who they were because of what they are now? Stupid. Stop wasting time and dollars.... BAZINGA~!

Farmer's Gal
Farmer's Gal

Their employement, esp Joe Bennett's, was not a secret, and they are willing to abstain from CCC-related votes. The public has no problem with this. The only problem is for the good old boys with their agenda -- the good old boys don't like having opposition to the junk they had been able to easily shove down the public's throats.

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