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Minority Leader requests County Executive temporarily withdraw appointment of Social Services Commissioner until special counsel’s investigation is complete


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Minority Leader Joe Lorigo has delivered letters to both the County Executive and Chairman of the Legislature requesting Marie Cannon’s name be temporarily withdrawn from consideration for the position of Commissioner of Social Services until an investigation into the department concludes.

Last month, the Legislature unanimously agreed to hire special counsel to investigate the Department of Social Services following former commissioner Al Dirschberger’s indictment on rape charges. In a notice of claim, the victim alleges other employees in the department were aware of Dirschberger’s prior misconduct and failed to take action. Information on that can be found here. Ms. Cannon previously served as a top deputy in Social Services to former Commissioner Dirschberger.

“Last month, the Erie County Legislature unanimously voted to hire an independent investigator to review the Department of Social Services and circumstances surrounding the previous commissioner,” said Legislator Lorigo. “Earlier this week, I wrote to the county executive and asked him to temporarily withdraw his nomination of the new Commissioner, Marie Cannon.  He has refused.  While my request has nothing to do with Ms. Cannon’s qualifications or ability to lead, she was a First Deputy Commissioner under the previous commissioner, and will undoubtedly be included in the independent investigation.  I believe the independent investigation must conclude prior to the Legislature confirming any appointment.  As such, I renew my request that the county executive temporarily withdraw Ms. Cannon’s name for confirmation by the Legislature.”

Even if her name is temporarily withdrawn as a permanent appointment, she still would be able to serve as interim Commissioner, which she has been doing since December.

The importance of not rushing to appoint a new commissioner is because of the uniqueness of the Social Services Commissioner. Unlike most county commissioners who serve at will of the County Executive, the Social Services Commissioner is granted a five-year term upon approval of the Legislature. Executive Poloncarz acknowledged the difficulties in removing the Social Services Commissioner in late December saying “Due to the unique nature of the Social Services Commissioner being appointed to a specific term, and not serving at my pleasure, I could not terminate him at will.”

The County Executive’s letter is here as well as a letter sent to Chair Savage by Legislator Lorigo. 

Cannon’s appointment is scheduled for discussion at the Legislature’s Government Affairs Committee meeting tomorrow at 9:30 am. If her name is not withdrawn, the Legislature would be required by law to vote on her appointment at the April 26th session. According to the County Charter, the Legislature has 30-days from nomination of an appointee to vote on that appointment, otherwise the appointee is deemed to be confirmed.