Warren County supervisors are clinging to Brian Reichenbach like lovesick octopuses. When one arm gets peeled off, they wrap another one around him.
First, in September, Reichenbach decided to step down as county attorney so he could keep his position as Lake George town justice. The state Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics said holding both jobs raised conflicts of interest, and Reichenbach chose the $32,696-a-year judgeship over the $118,320-a-year county job.
“I love being a town judge,” he explained.
But then supervisors showed they can feel love, too, by offering Reichenbach work as an independent contractor to keep him around. Then they decided that wasn’t enough and created a new job for him — special counsel to the Board of Supervisors.
The new part-time position pays $95 an hour and is meant only to last three months, but we wouldn’t be shocked if that term gets extended.
Supervisors filled the county attorney job with Reichenbach’s former assistant, Mary Kissane. Her old job hasn’t been filled, however, and neither has the open spot of the second assistant.
That means the county has gone from having three full-timers in its attorney’s office to having one. But it still has Reichenbach, who in his new position can be called on whenever supervisors need him.
And supervisors say they do need him.
“He has been a tremendous county attorney,” said Ron Conover, Bolton’s supervisor who is also head of the county board.
They’re even interviewing him for the job of county administrator, which is also opening up. It looks like supervisors are trying to find a way around the conflict of interest ruling so Reichenbach can still be their No. 1 guy on the law.
If he stays as special counsel, and Kissane stays as county attorney, perhaps very little, besides their titles, will change. Reichenbach will still be supervisors’ first choice on legal matters, and Kissane will handle whatever he cannot. If he gets hired as county administrator, a similar dynamic could apply.
Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer has pointed out the obvious — the board’s actions look like a way to circumvent the state ethics opinion.
Remember, a much more direct way exists to avoid any conflicts — Reichenbach could quit his job as Lake George justice. Since he chose not to do that, he will be under a disadvantage in any job at the county as a lawyer, because he’ll always have to be watching out for any conflicts with his job as a judge.
It’s odd that he’s sticking around and doing in a back-door way the job that he announced he was giving up. But he did make a choice. Rather than twisting county job definitions in knots to keep him, supervisors should disentangle themselves and move on.
Local editorials represent the opinion of the Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rob Forcey, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran and citizen representatives Dan Gealt, George Nelson and Patricia Crayford.