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Onondaga County elections official accused of driving for Uber, Lyft during work hours

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Ellen Abbott
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WRVO News
Onondaga County Comptroller Matthew Beadnell

The Onondaga County Comptroller, a Republican who is running for election this year, is accusing the county’s Democratic Elections Commissioner of driving for Uber or Lyft when he should have been in the office.

At a news conference Monday, Matthew Beadnell said a tip from a citizen this spring sparked his look into Democrat Dustin Czarny’s driving schedule. His conclusion after scouring through several dozen documents from the ride-hailing companies was that Czarny fleeced taxpayers to the tune of $5,300 over an 18-month period by driving during Board of Election office hours.

"And this is when he should have been working for us as a taxpayer, he’s out working for himself and earning an extra income source during the time we’re paying his salary," Beadnell said.

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Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
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WRVO News
Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny

Czarny said the nature of his job means he often works evenings and weekends, and that extra time can be reflected in how much time he’s actually in the office, or whether he considers himself "on the clock." As an appointed employee, Czarny is not required to punch a timeclock to keep track of his work hours. 

"I know I spend way more than 35 hours a week on this job," said Czarny. "I imagine I spend more than 45-50 hours a week on this job. It’s a mission in my life, and I think anyone who looks at this objectively knows that."

Czarny said he often works odd hours because of the nature of the job.

"This flexibility is something that's been in the job for the seven years I've been here, and for my predecessors as well," he said.

Beadnell said despite the fact that he is a Republican and Czarny is a Democrat, this isn't about politics.

"This involves a county employee who’s being paid by the county taxpayer, local dollars, earning outside income during that time," he said. "Had this been Michelle Sardo, the Republican commissioner, we would have done the exact same thing."

Beadnell would not say who gave him the tip that Czarny was driving for Uber and Lyft during office hours. But Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey has been critical of Czarny's second job on Twitter.

Beadnell has turned his findings over to the District Attorney’s office, which said the case is under criminal investigation. DA Bill Fitzpatrick said he would not comment further until the investigation is complete. 

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.