News & Politics

Comptroller of Erie County, N.Y., Blocks Health Department from Collecting COVID Fines

AP Photo/Marina Villeneuve

Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr., the comptroller for Erie County, New York, has taken a stand for liberty and small businesses098and has used his legal authority to prevent the Erie County Health Department from collecting, cashing, or depositing fines issued for violating COVID-19 restrictions.

Fines for COVID-19 violations in Erie County will now be sent directly to the comptroller’s office instead of the Health Department.

“I am exerting the accounting authority given to my Office by the Erie County Charter. Changing accounting policies fall under my authority as Erie County Comptroller. This change in policy does not require approval by the County Executive or Legislature,” Mychajliw said in a statement. “It is granted to the Office of Erie County Comptroller regardless of who is elected to the position. I am Erie County’s Chief Fiscal and Accounting Officer, not the Health Department.”

“[Erie County Department of Health Commissioner] Dr. Gale Burstein, under my authority under the Erie County Charter, is ordered to have all entities facing COVID related fines to have those financial penalties sent directly to the Office of Erie County Comptroller. The Health Department is no longer allowed to collect, cash or deposit COVID related fines,” Mychajliw continued. “If she does not comply, I will freeze and close the Health Department’s banking accounts immediately.”

To help struggling businesses, Mychajliw has established a new flexible payment plan, using the following tiers:

  • $1,000 or less: 20-year payment plan
  • $1,001 to $5,000: 30-year payment plan
  • $5,001 to $10,000: 40-year payment plan
  • $10,001 to $15,000: 50-year payment plan
  • $15,001 and above: 100-year payment plan

“I changed policies to help businesses crippled by the closure of the economy. I am happy to help again. We must do everything we can to save businesses,” Mychajliw said.

Robby Dinero, the owner of Athletes Unleashed in Orchard Park, which is in Erie County, was fined $15,000 after forcing health department officials out of his business in a video that went viral.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz disputed Mychajliw’s claim that he has the authority to change the way the county collects COVID fines. “The Erie County Charter does not give the Comptroller the powers he is claiming to have,” Poloncarz claimed in a statement. “While the Charter does provide the Comptroller ‘have custody of all accounts,’ the role of Comptroller is a non-policy making position that is strictly ministerial in nature.”

Mychajliw’s actions are clearly ministerial in nature, as he has not altered any policy regarding the issuing of fines or challenged the legality of those fines.

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Matt Margolis is the author of the new book Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trumpand the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis

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