Dems Hold Off Legal Action, Analyze County Budget Vote

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Westchester County Legislator Virginia Perez (D-Yonkers) was one of two Democrats to join seven Republicans on Friday in support of a budget that keeps the tax levy flat. Those nine legislators passed the budget after eight Democrats walked out. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Democrats will not yet pursue legal action against their colleagues on the Westchester County Board of Legislators who say they passed the 2013 budget Friday using a quorum of seven Republicans and two Democrats, Chairman Kenneth Jenkins (D-Yonkers), said Monday.

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Jenkins did not rule out taking legal action, but said the Democrats’ staff is analyzing the meeting for procedural flaws, and the Democrats will proceed once that is completed.

“There is certainly an opportunity to avoid all of that,” Jenkins said of any legal action. “And I think all of us together on both sides of the aisle, and the county executive, are working, or would like not to have any of that action. We have four lawsuits now, so no need to have a fifth.”

Republican Minority Leader James Maisano (R-New Rochelle) said there is no more work to do since the seven Republicans and two Democrats passed a budget and County Executive Rob Astorino signed it Friday.

“It’s law,” he said.

Maisano said Jenkins didn’t take a vote to adjourn the meeting Friday despite his objections.

“There’s no question that meeting was still going, and I was standing up putting this all on the record as they were walking out,” Maisano said of the eight Democrats who walked out.

Jenkins said Monday that no Board of Legislators' meeting has been adjourned with a vote in his five years on the board. Rather, a legislator makes a motion to adjourn and, without any objections, the chairman adjourns on that motion.

“I was standing up objecting,” Maisano said. “Yes, if nobody said anything, maybe they get away with that.”

After Jenkins adjourned the meeting, the seven Republicans said there was a quorum because Democratic Legislators Virginia Perez and Michael Kaplowitz remained in the room. Both threw support behind the minority report, the Republicans' version of the 2013 budget, which keeps the tax levy flat and restores 28 of the 126 jobs cut in Astorino's proposed budget.

“This is a good, responsible  budget,” Astorino said. “While it has been modified from what I originally proposed, it meets all my objectives. There is no increase in the tax levy and there is no use of reserves that could jeopardize the county’s AAA credit ratings.”

The Democrats contend that it was not an official vote.

When asked what employees whose jobs are on the cut list in the budget signed Friday by Astorino should expect, Jenkins said, “What was moved forward and signed by the county executive is what they should be expecting. And anything different than that will only be a hope, and I would not be betting the house that way.”

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Comments (3)

VictoriaSA:

Somehow the signing does seem illegitimate as it was done out of legal context. However, since many board members have agreed to the county budget, then they should all deem it as legal and stop wasting lawyers' resources having a 5th lawsuit.

srothkin:

Although the way the vote was done seems underhanded (and possibly in violation of the rules of order), and I disagree with a lot of what Astorino does, the fact remains that a majority of the entire board voted for it -- that means that if Jenkins had allowed the budget to come to a vote while all the members were there, it would have passed.

So I think the board should just accept it and move on. Lets not waste more taxpayer money on litigating this.

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