QUEENSBURY — Amid growing criticism, the Warren County Board of Supervisors opted Thursday to keep a man who is not an attorney in the position of second assistant county attorney.
Some county supervisors have questioned why the county Attorney’s Office hired a man to serve as an assistant county attorney when he does not have a law license and questioned the unusual hiring process used for the position.
The chairman of the Board of Supervisors Support Services Committee approved the hiring without discussion from the full Board of Supervisors, after the full board had rejected a bid for the man to serve as a paid intern.
One of the chief critics of the hiring, Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer, who is a lawyer, has said the county was breaking state law. The law requires that assistant county attorneys be able to step in for the county attorney if needed, and the second assistant cannot do so because he is not a lawyer, she said.
Braymer introduced a resolution Thursday before the Board of Supervisors Personnel Committee, seeking to have the second assistant county attorney, Ryan Dickey, moved to an intern position until he becomes a lawyer. No other county departments hire people for attorney positions who aren’t actually attorneys, she said.
“To me, this is a problem we need to fix,” Braymer said.
A discussion that included an executive session ensued, with the Personnel Committee voting 6-2, with one abstention, to leave the appointment unchanged. Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino voted with Braymer, while Glens Falls 1st Ward Supervisor Jack Diamond abstained and supervisors William Loeb, Matt Simpson, Matt Sokol, Edna Frasier, Kevin Geraghty and Peter McDevitt voted against her proposal.
Supervisors found out in recent days that Dickey passed the bar exam, but his admission to the state bar is pending a review that generally takes a few months, although county officials are hoping to have it expedited.
Dickey is being paid just under $61,000 annually, which is higher than three county assistant district attorneys and three assistant public defenders who are lawyers. That has caused some strife in those offices.
Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty, chairman of the Personnel Committee, said he did learn earlier Thursday that some lawyers who work for the county and are paid less than Dickey were upset about the situation.
He acknowledged it “probably should have been handled differently” when the hiring occurred earlier this year, but said in light of Dickey passing the bar exam and a belief he will be admitted to the state bar as early as next month, the board had no plans to change his employment status.
“We can’t go back now and cut his salary by $12,000,” he said.