SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — An Onondaga County Comptroller’s audit has ignited a firestorm over public officials engaging in non-county activities during normal business hours.
The Comptroller himself is now facing scrutiny.
It started Monday morning when the Comptroller Matt Beadnell accused County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny of driving for Uber and Lyft during normal elections office business hours.
Beadnell says the investigation started months ago from a tip.
“So long as I am the County Comptroller, I promise to be a guardian and watchdog of the taxpayers’ wallet to ensure fiscal integrity and accountability throughout the County,” he said in a Monday press conference on his findings.
At that same briefing, the Republican Comptroller, running for reelection this November, denied the Czarny investigation had anything to do with politics.
One day later, State Assemblywoman and County Democratic Party Chair Pam Hunter called out Beadnell.
In a letter to the Comptroller, she says, “I did not hear in your remarks the question of whether Democratic Commissioner Czarny met his 35 hour per week required work time.”
Beginning the audit in March, Comptroller Beadnell subpoenaed Czarny’s records from Uber and Lyft, which produced hundreds of pages of logs.
From there, Beadnell compared the logs to what he expects to be Czarny’s county work hours. The Board of Elections office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Beadnell found 54 hours worth of instances in which Czary drove for Uber or Lyft on county time, at the same time being paid $5,300 for his county work.
In an interview with NewsChannel 9, Czarny says he has nothing to hide.
Czarny says he frequently clocks 40 or 50 hour work weeks, more than the required 35 hours per five days, including nights and weekends.
Czarny also says he never accepted an Uber or Lyft ride request while in his office at the Board of Elections.
Hunter also wrote in her letter to Beadnell, “You also stated you “briefed Tom Dadey, the Onondaga County Republican Party Chairman, on the matter and understand that your allegations could be regarded as politically motivated because Czarny is a Democrat.” It’s unclear where in your non-partisan professional role it would necessitate contacting a political party official, yet similarly, I did not receive the same courtesy call as Chair of the Onondaga County Democratic Party.”
She also wrote about receiving her own tip, “I received a phone call tip yesterday that several Onondaga County employees have spent enormous hours (far more than 94 over 18 months as you communicated Commissioner Czarny spent), not utilizing accruals, which you stated were necessary, at the Bellevue Country Club during work hours.”
Beadnell confirmed to Syracuse.com Wednesday he was golfing Tuesday afternoon, during normal business hours.
He explained Monday in a hypothetical at his press conference the difference between himself and Czarny. “My position as an official in elected office is a flat salary position, therefore, I’m not required to punch a clock,” Beadnell says.
The audit has been handed over to the Onondaga County Executive’s Office, the Onondaga County Legislature, the State Attorney General and the Onondaga County District Attorney.
District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick tells NewsChannel 9 that his office has opened a criminal investigation into the accusations. Possible charges include grand larceny and official misconduct, but the investigation is in its early stages.