by Anthony Pucci
Through a Freedom of Information request, I have obtained a record of all of the requests for reimbursement made by members of the Chemung County Legislature in 2019. These records provide some noteworthy insights.
In total, Chemung County taxpayers paid $9,016 for travel expenses (at the rate of 58 cents per mile) and meals … all of which were approved by Dave Manchester, Chairman of the Legislature.
While it is certainly reasonable for a legislator to ask for reimbursement for travel and meal expenses in order to attend an out-of-town conference, my review of the documents submitted show that some legislators claim mileage for simply driving to and from their home to the Hazlett Building in Elmira where their meetings are held.
I wonder how many of you reading this are reimbursed for simply driving to work? My guess is not many. Why are the legislators who make approximately $18,000 a year for working an average of 11 hours a week, and who receive health and other benefits that cost taxpayers even more than their salary, allowed to claim mileage and meal money? The answer is simple: they decided that it was allowed.
It must be noted that some legislators did not make a single request for such reimbursement; others, however, clearly milk the system for every penny that they can get.
Here is the breakdown of reimbursements by legislator:
District 1 Michael Pastrick: $3,873.57
District 2 Dave Manchester: $477.50
District 3 Tom Sweet: $1,689.44
District 4 Joe Brennan: $50.00
District 5 Mark Margeson: $232.00
District 6 Brian Hyland: $1,579.92
District 7 Christina Sonsire: $ 0
District 8 Peggy Woodard: $0
District 9 John Burin: $239.00
District 10 Marty Chalk: $239.00
District 11 Bob Briggs: $0
District 12 Bill McCarthy: $0
District 13 Scott Drake: $418.38
District 14 Michael Smith: $452.50
District 15 Rodney Strange: $0
These numbers speak for themselves. Mr. Pastrick (District 1) alone accounts for 43% of the entire expenditure for all of the legislators for the year. Mr. Sweet (District 3) is next. Those two legislators account for an astounding 61.7% of the total reimbursements paid for by the taxpayer. As if this was not appalling enough, a close examination of the records reveals that on at least one occasion, Pastrick and Sweet each claimed a mileage reimbursement of $145 for attending the same meeting on the same day. Seriously, did either one of them consider carpooling? Pastrick even had the audacity to claim mileage for driving one mile from his home to the Catlin Town Hall for a ribbon cutting ceremony and another mile for driving back home.
I commend the five legislators who refuse to take advantage of the system and the taxpayers. As for the others, look at the numbers and draw your own conclusions.
Anthony Pucci is a resident of the Town of Veteran.