Appellate court denies county’s request to stay Ogdensburg law
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
OGDENSBURG – An appellate court has denied St. Lawrence County’s request to stay an Ogdensburg local law, but granted the county’s motion for an expedited trial.
St. Lawrence County is appealing Judge Mary Farley’s dismissal of a lawsuit against the city of Ogdensburg which will be heard by the state Appellate Division Third Judicial Department in May.As part of the appeal the county and St. Lawrence County Treasurer Renee Cole sought to obtain a stay order on the local law, which would have stalled the law from taking effect until after the appeal was ruled on. While the stay order was denied, the appellate court did grant a request to expedite the trial.
That means the issue should be resolved in early spring.
The original lawsuit aimed to strike down a local law passed by city council that would shift liability of delinquent taxes to the county.
The issues between the county and the city stem from failed sales tax negotiations. After the county and city failed to reach a deal, the city decided to “pre-empt” and begin collecting its own sales tax. However, as part of that plan, the city is also seeking to push property tax jurisdiction over to the county.
The move could help the city recoup potential losses expected under the new sales tax arrangement.
The law aims to switch liability of unpaid property tax for the school district and city over to the county, a cost that averages in the ballpark of more than $1 million annually.
Farley ruled that the city’s local law did not impair any powers of the county, and that the county's claim that shifting administrative burdens and costs of enforcement of city taxes “impairs” county operation’s misses the point.
She said the law isn’t concerned with one local governmental body imposing additional costs or inconveniences, but only powers.
But the county believes the judge got it wrong and is hoping to convince the appellate court of the same.
That decision has drawn stark criticism from Ogdensburg City Manager Stephen Jellie, who has called the county’s lawsuit a waste of taxpayer dollars. He also accused the county of being vindictive in actions taken against the city.
“Now, Renee Cole, Stephen Button, Ruth Doyle and William Sheridan, who are all exclusively led by the hands of Republican Authoritarians Kevin Acres and Joe Lightfoot, will be the latest local group to shamelessly fail to accept the judgment of the local Supreme Court Judge and request North Country matters be solved by Albany-based, highly democratic controlled appeals courts. This same band of self-proclaimed home rule proponents and constant complainers of Albany running the North Country will now show their true colors and support for Albany Democrats running the entire state. Luckily, even the highly democratic Appellate Court could not support the baseless request for a STAY requested by the duo of Cole and Button and the City of Ogdensburg will be allowed to continue making decisions for itself without the interference of power abusing County officials that have sought to forestall the financial survival of the City.”
St. Lawrence County Attorney Stephen Button said the county was pleased with the court’s decision to grant the motion to expedite the case.