Moments after being told on Monday by County Manager Jay Gsell that a pay raise for the district attorney is being mandated by the state and the County Legislature really had no say in the matter, members of the Public Service Committee decided to say nothing at all.
No member of the committee spoke up to make a motion to approve the mandated pay raises, so there was no second to a motion, and without a motion or second, there could be no discussion.
Afterward, Chairman Ray Cinanfrini, who was in the room, but is not a member of the commitee, was totally surprised that the committee acted as it did.
He said there was no prior discussion that gave him a clue there would simply be no action on the matter.
Not that he was disappointed.
"I'm not in favor of the way it was handled by the governor's office," Cianfrini said. "This is no reflection whatsoever on our district attorney and the services provided by his office. They do a great job. It's just that we had no control over the whole process."
A committee appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo recommended that salaries for district attorneys throughout the state be pegged to the salary structure of Supreme Court justices, which are pegged to the salary rates of federal judges.
Under the mandate, the district attorney pay would hit $193,000 annually in April 2018, or 95 percent of a Supreme Court justice's salary in that year.
Last year, Friedman, who hadn't received a pay raise in about eight years, was paid $152,500. The governor's plan would give Friedman an immediate boost to $183,350.
The lack of action by the Legislature really puts the ball in Friedman's court, Cianfrini said.
"Certainly, as the law stands right now, our district attorney is entitled to the money," Cianfrini said. "The fact that we did not take action on it today, I think, puts a lot of pressure on us on how we can justify the decision of the Public Service Committee."
County Attorney Charles Zambito agreed that it is probably up to Friedman to decide how to proceed.
Friedman declined to share specific thoughts on the pay issue.
"While I certainly have some very strong feelings about this issue, rather than making statements to the media at this time, I will begin by promptly addressing it with the County Legislature," Friedman said.
If push comes to shove, he and Gsell said, the Legislature could vote to make the district attorney's job part time. That would get the county out from under the state mandate.
Up until the early 1990s, the job, along with all the assistant jobs, were part-time. Just prior to Friedman's election to DA, the legislature voted to make the job full-time, so Friedman is the only full-time DA in the county's history.