Mahoney vetoes outside counsel legislation

May 10, 2018

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney vetoed a law this week having to do with a law that outlines when legislators can turn to outside counsel for advice, instead of the county law department.

Mahoney said this move upends the way county government has done business for more than 50 years.

“This is very significant in the placement of a lot of power in county government in the hands of one individual,” said Mahoney.

That individual is the county legislature chairman, who would determine if there is a conflict of interest in the law department, prompting legislators to turn to outside counsel.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney
Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The current chairman, Ryan McMahon, says it makes sense that concerns funnel through the chairman’s office, and notes it’s an issue that’s been building among lawmakers, some of whom feel at times that they haven’t gotten the best representation from the county attorney’s office.

“When legislators feel they are not getting good legal advice or being served well by their attorney, as legislators that creates a toxic environment,” said McMahon.

McMahon said lawmakers voted unanimously for the change, so he’s confident they will override the veto.

Mahoney believes the opposite, and is asking lawmakers to rethink their original vote. She suggests some may have been swayed by the argument that the county attorney’s office does her bidding.

“The county attorney is not my attorney. The county attorney is prohibited from representing one individual. They represent the people and the county,” she said.

Mahoney says if her veto is overriden, then the county will have to begin the process  of putting together a referendum on the issue. McMahon says that isn’t necessary.

“I think this is much ado about nothing, and I’m a little bit surprised by the reaction with the executive branch, because I certainly don’t meddle in the executive’s relationship and her attorney,” he said.