Section: Capital Region,  Page: B1

Date: Saturday, July 7, 2012

ALBANY -- With County Executive Dan McCoy putting county workers on notice that layoffs may be on the horizon, some in the County Legislature are pushing an immediate hiring freeze that would cover all departments.

On Friday, Majority Leader Frank Commisso said the measure, co-sponsored by fellow Albany Democrat Raymond Joyce, is in response to the June layoff notices and a briefing McCoy gave lawmakers on the county's deteriorating finances.

"We're in a situation where the county executive says there's possible layoffs," Commisso said. "It seems like that's the direction they're looking at. And before we get to layoffs, we should look at a hiring freeze."

Commisso said he wants the legislature to vote on the freeze Monday night, but legislature Chairman Shawn Morse said in an email that the measure would be sent to committee first, a move that would delay it for at least a month.

The county has had at least one other hiring freeze in recent years as county finances followed the downward trajectory of the national recession-slowed economy, but that freeze included a loophole for so-called necessary hires

This ban would include no exceptions and apply to every county department, Commisso said.

The measure would not apply to the eight sheriff's deputies that Sheriff Craig Apple has said he desperately needs, Commisso said, because those deputies have already been assigned employee ID numbers. The jobs are in the 2012 county budget, but that doesn't necessarily mean there is the cash to pay them,

It would also not apply to a roughly $40,000-a-year analyst's job filled recently by the legislature's Democratic majority, a hiring Commisso oversaw but said was "several weeks in the making."

But McCoy questioned the timing.

"Why would he hire somebody and then all of a sudden put a freeze on?" McCoy said. "We're looking it at. I just thought it was funny that he did hire somebody on Thursday and made sure they had a county ID number, and then all of a sudden puts this out."

The freeze also comes on the heels of McCoy's brother, Brian, being hired to a newly created job in the sheriff's office -- an action McCoy said he had nothing to do with.

McCoy is also asking the legislature for permission Monday to create two investigators jobs in his office -- one of which he said could require a new hire.

His layoff warning last month came after lawmakers, led by Commisso and Morse, refused to take up his proposal to cap the amount of sales tax the county shares with its cities and towns -- a roadblock that frustrated McCoy's efforts to bolster county revenues.

McCoy has not yet said whether layoffs of county workers will happen or given any hint of how many jobs might be in jeopardy. - 518-454-5445 - @JCEvangelist_TU