Disputes arise over county-issued phones

May 6, 2014

When Republicans were the minority party in the Erie County Legislature, their top staffer had a county-issued cell phone. That issue is at the center of a growing controversy inside county government.

Controversy followed an audit conducted by the office of Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw.
Credit WBFO File Photo

There's name-calling underway on whether or not then-Chair Betty Jean Grant was told about the phone.

Bryan Fiume is now chief of staff to Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw. He was chief of staff to Republican county legislators for almost four-years. A Mychajliw audit of the hundreds of county cell phones and other mobile devices found he was the only legislator or staffer with a county-paid phone.

Grant says she wasn't told about the phone when chair and the person signing off on Legislature budget spending.
"It has the cell phone listed that a legislative staff which as I was chair of the Legislature during this period and I was I should have known or approved a legislative staff person given access or having access to a county-issued phone. I don't understand the process and that's why I'm asking for more information."

Under scrutiny is Betty Jean Grant's time as Chair of the Erie County Legislature.
Credit WBFO File Photo

The comptroller says Fiume no longer has a county phone and nobody on his staff has a county phone. An April audit of cell phones across county government led its list of who had the phones with Fiume although he no longer had the county smart phone by this time.

Mychajliw says Grant should have known because it was on the monthly bills submitted to the Legislature by the Information and Support Services Department.
"It's obvious Legislator Grant is not familiar with county purchasing. I'm happy to help her learn. And, had she knew how county purchases were made, she would have embarrasingly put herself out there with statements that are false," Mychajliw said.

"I mean, first and foremost, I understand why Legislator Grant is so sensitive about this. I would be embarrassed if she was identified wasting tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars through the review of Legislature spending."

There doesn't appear to be any indication in the mobile device audit why Fiume had the county phone and the audit doesn't say when it was turned in.