Although the Erie County Executive's office was open to the public on Sunday following Mark Poloncarz's oath of office, Tuesday was his first official day in his new job. Poloncarz marked the occasion by signing and issuing five executive orders.
The very first order he signed begins the process of finding legal assistance as Erie County prepares to negotiate a new Ralph Wilson Stadium lease with the Buffalo Bills. The current deal with the football team ends later this year.
"I'm concerned. That's why the first executive order I signed was in regards to hiring the outside counsel, because I want these lease negotiations to start as soon as possible," said Poloncarz. "I have to admit I was a little surprised that County Executive Collins just sort of sat there and did nothing. It should have been a priority of his administration. It is a priority of mine."
Another order signed calls for a review of how extensively the county uses outside legal counsel. While he expressed support for outside help in some cases, Poloncarz says a review of the Chris Collins administration found an extensive use of outsourced counsel.
He also signed an order calling for the formation of a task force to study the extent of Medicaid fraud and waste affecting the county's finances. He also signed an order calling for a review and update of the county's Equal Opportunity Employment manual to ensure it's consistent with current law. Poloncarz says surprisingly, it's a policy that hasn't been updated in three decades.
"This hasn't been adjusted since the pre-Gorski years. I'm shocked that the manual and the requirements that we then push down to the commissioners and all the employees hasn't been updated since 1981. There's been some serious and significant changes," Poloncarz told reporters in his office.
A fifth order he signed required all county employees, including department heads and the deputy county executive, use swipe cards when arriving at and leaving their workplaces to increase accountability.
When asked about the government he's inheriting, Poloncarz referred to a side desk which he said contains exit memos from commissioners and department heads from the previous administration. He told reporters that while they didn't speak of the impact of workforce cuts under Collins, department heads admitted after the election that , in their opinion, the cuts to their departments were too severe. The challenge facing the new administration, said Poloncarz, is trying to get county business done in the wake of those staffing cuts.