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Conflict erupts between Steuben County sheriff, lawmakers: Sheriff’s legal protections rescinded by legislature

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

Steuben County Sheriff James L. Allard finds himself embroiled in a contentious battle with the Steuben County Legislature after it passed resolutions stripping him of legal defense and indemnification against lawsuits on September 25. Allard contends these resolutions are not only unprecedented but were also established with minimal public debate or input. The resolutions require Allard to purchase millions in liability insurance personally and remove the legal protections afforded to other officers and staff, leaving him vulnerable to lawsuits. Sheriff Allard has responded by filing Supreme Court papers against the county.

Sheriff Allard argues that these resolutions do not serve the public, law enforcement, or taxpayers and impose unlawful restrictions on an elected office. The Sheriff maintains that the resolutions hamper the office’s harmonious relationship with county-level partners and hinder his administration’s efforts to carry out its legal duties and obligations. Expressing sadness over the legal action against the county and its officers, Allard seeks to protect his office’s ability to perform law enforcement responsibilities, having filed a petition in the Steuben County Supreme Court to enjoin these resolutions.

The Legislature, led by Chairman Scott Van Etten, justified the removal of legal defenses, citing the need to uphold New York State laws that protect employees from harassment and discrimination. Van Etten indicated that the sheriff’s alleged actions and inactions made this reevaluation necessary. The Legislature stresses that any subsequent lawsuit arising from this situation would lead to significant financial burdens on the residents of the county. The debate over the resolutions has been ongoing since July, with the county hoping for a resolution without legal confrontations.

Despite the legal and public disputes, both parties express a willingness to resolve differences, emphasizing the importance of maintaining operational integrity and continuing to provide reliable law enforcement services to the residents of Steuben County. Sheriff Allard remains optimistic that these resolutions will eventually be set aside, allowing him and his office to refocus on their law enforcement mission.