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Freeze for all 

News Hits was hanging out someplace we shouldn’t have been (sorry, but we’d get our ass kicked if we told you where) when we overheard an unsuspecting gent utter this juicy bit of gossip: Wayne County’s predicted deficit so far this year is $20.6 million.

County spokesperson June West confirmed this, ahem, tip. She also said that last week’s hiring freeze and other adjustments by County Executive Ed McNamara will put the county on track by year’s end.

But County Commission Chairman Ricardo Solomon says the Big Mac may have gone too far when he decreed that elected county officials seeking to hire staff or buy equipment had to obtain approval from a special committee created by McNamara.

“Does he have the right to put a freeze on elected positions?” asks Solomon.

Since taking office more than 14 years ago, McNamara has imposed a freeze and created a committee to approve purchases only a few times, according to county Management and Budget Director Tom Naughton. He says the projected deficit is due in part to a loss in state revenue sharing and the Sept. 11 attacks; the county’s general fund is about $500 million.

Without the freeze there would be layoffs and cuts in services, says Naughton.

Besides, he says, state law allows the county exec to “take whatever reasonable actions necessary to have a balanced budget, including a freeze.”

Ann Mullen is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail

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