Nixes County Public Relations Post For Now | News, Sports, Jobs

MAYVILLE — A new position that was created this summer to work in county government has been cut, although it may be reinstated differently in the future.

In July, the Chautauqua County Legislature set the salary for the public relations officer, a new position. The individual would be paid between $53,674 and $82,248. He went by a 14-3 margin, with only Republican support. Democratic lawmakers Bob Bankoski of Dunkirk, Susan Parker of Fredonia and Billy Torres of Jamestown voted against. Democratic lawmaker Paul Whitford of Jamestown was absent.

In August, the local law was repealed by the Legislature at the request of County Executive PJ Wendel, a Republican.

Before the vote, Wendel discussed his reasoning. He noted that the local law was passed before notorious author Salman Rushdie was stabbed on August 12 at the Chautauqua Institution.

“The County Executive’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office have received calls from all over the world – CNN, places as far apart as Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand,” he said. “We have become aware of the critical nature of public information. This is not the public relations aspect that we are looking for. So, after further consideration, it is best to ensure that we have a position that is properly suited and correctly described in the job description, which matches what we are looking for.

Wendel said that person would distribute information, use the county’s social media pages and coordinate information between multiple departments. “As you know, amid the lawsuits and cases that are still coming out, this information is essential to be released in a timely manner and in a way that does not impede or compromise ongoing investigations, or in the case of the bombing which took place in the Institution, jeopardize an international investigation”, he said.

After Wendel’s intervention, the legislator unanimously decided to repeal the local law.

After the meeting, Wendel was asked if the plan was to bring the position back in the future. “We are looking into it. We are in the process of reassessing it. There’s a good chance we will.” he said.

Wendel said he had job descriptions from other counties he wanted to review before submitting a proposal to the legislature.

The three Democratic lawmakers who voted against the resolution in July said at the time that their problem was funding the post. After the August meeting, Wendel said their objections were not the reasons he asked for the position to be removed; it was more about what the job description was listed. He wants to focus more on the dissemination of information than on public relations. “It was easier for us to undo it and start over,” he said.

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