An incident several weeks ago involving two non-compliant persons infected by the coronavirus has resulted in the Genesee County attorney seeking a budget transfer of $2,838 to pay the fees charged by another lawyer called into the case.
County Attorney Kevin Earl on Wednesday presented a resolution to the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee to cover, per the decree, the “unexpected legal expenses due to violations of Health Department quarantine orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The resolution goes on to state that available funds from the county attorney’s personal services line would be moved to the COVID-19 expense line, with the full amount expected to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Earl said that the money is there due to the county’s furlough of his secretary.
In recounting the circumstances leading up to his request, Earl said two individuals broke their quarantine, which prompted the enlistment of County Judge Charles Zambito to get emergency orders that permitted police to arrest them and take them into custody.
“We arranged that we would take them to a facility that Monroe County had established if we had to do this,” he said. “We did get the orders, and the judge, basically, ordered (attorney) Fred Rarick to represent both of these individuals so that there would be no claims that we were taking them into custody or violating their rights without representation.”
Earl said he “clearly believes” that expenses will be reimbursable “because there was no other reason for this other than the COVID response.”
Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg asked if the two individuals would be taken to a hotel in Monroe County per a previous agreement between the Genesee & Orleans and Monroe county health departments to provide temporary living quarters for those who had no other housing.
Earl said that this was a different situation, one where a violation of the law came into play.
“We didn’t want to take them to our jail if they had been exposed or tested positive, so the Monroe County sheriff had opened up a facility -- he retrofitted an old jail,” he said. “Obviously, once we have them in custody, we have to take care of them. So, they had a facility where they could provide medical treatment if necessary.”
Clattenburg said that the two people “were going out into the community at the height of the community spread” and that county sheriff’s deputies and city police had to be called in.
“I just want people to realize that we did take the situation very seriously, and those people were a danger to others in the community and were being monitored for quarantine,” she said. “When we found not to be complying, we did take some action here and this is the result of the expense that we had.”
Legislator Gary Maha asked if the duo was taken into custody and transported to Monroe County.
“As we had hoped, the actual having of the order, personally serving upon them, and knowing that if we saw them one foot off the property, they would be immediately taken into custody was enough,” Earl responded. “So, fortunately we didn’t have to go to that step … and I think there’s also a deterrent effect … We did not have to have them arrested but we were ready if we did (with a warrant).”
The committee then approved the resolution, which will move to the full legislature for voting.
In another development, the committee supported a request by County Treasurer Scott German to help the Town of Stafford with its 2021 town/county tax collection.
German said Stafford Town Supervisor asked him if the county would once again collect taxes for the town this year, and German said yes, but the fee would be doubled to $5,000.
“He (Clement) and the (Stafford Town) board were fine with that,” German said.
The treasurer said the reasoning behind the fee increase is that the process took more time than expected and that it lines up with the price charged by Wyoming County for the same service.
“Wyoming County charges about $3.50 per parcel and that is what this will essentially do,” he said, noting that Stafford has about 1,400 taxable parcels. “This will put us on the same playing field as Wyoming County.”
Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein asked if there was a measurement that would justify the new fee.
German said that if another town was to ask the county for tax collection help, he would use the $3.50 per taxable parcel rate going forward.
Legislator Andrew Young, who called for the increase, said, “It’s really not something we want to get in the business of doing; it’s just a matter that one of our partners needs some assistance and we’re going to assist them.”
German agreed and said he will forward a contact signed by both entities to the legislature for consideration in the form of a resolution.