BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Erie County Legislature session lasted much longer than it usually does Thursday, as the debate over child protective services surfaced once again.
The back-and-forth, mostly across the political aisle, lasted for more than 45 minutes — as legislators debated whether Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz should be at the table for the discussion over CPS.
The embattled child services agency has been in the news the past few years because of issues with client and child neglect, oversight and leadership and manpower.
Today, GOP legislators called for Poloncarz, who is a Democrat, to join them for the discussion, rather than send a representative.
“If Mark Poloncarz wants to go out there and say everything is getting better, then great, talk to us about it,” said Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo. “We want to hear from the county executive. The buck stops at the top.”
Meanwhile, Democrats said the resolution was merely political grandstanding.
“Let’s not pull this trickery. Let’s not bring the cameras down here, in an election year and grandstand on issues that are important to the people,” said Legislator Peter Savage III, a democrat. “We want to fix the problems in CPS, then let’s fix the problems in CPS. We all are accountable for that.”
Regardless of what fueled Thursday’s debate, the resolution passed seven to four, again, mostly along party lines.
Poloncarz said Thursday’s action by the GOP was a political stunt, and that none of those who voted for the legislation have spoken to him about CPS.
“In fact, the majority caucus is regularly invited to attend a bi-monthly lunch between their membership and myself to discuss any topic, and lunches were scheduled for January, March, and May of this year; however, they cancelled these meetings,” Poloncarz wrote. “Two weeks ago the majority caucus did attend our regularly scheduled luncheon, but to my recollection no member of the caucus present indicated any concerns or questioned me about current caseloads in CPS.”
Additionally, while I have spoken to a number of legislators during recent weeks on a myriad of topics, most notably road conditions, none have expressed any concern about CPS during these conversations. This is nothing more than the Legislature playing politics during an election year. Regardless of this political stunt, my administration remains dedicated to ensuring that Child Protective Services is doing all it can to protect children.”g