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Putnam Voters To Decide County Executive And Clerk Races

WAMC, Allison Dunne

A number of candidates took to the stage in Putnam County Wednesday in races ranging from county legislator to state Senate.

Putnam County voters have a few local races of note to decide November 4. There is a race for Putnam County Executive, pitting incumbent Republican MaryEllen Odell against longtime Democratic County Legislator Sam Oliverio. Odell says it’s possible voter turnout could be high given a number of contentious races, including for state Senate seats.

“You have the congressional race, which is very big in Putnam County, being a red county, and you also have the gubernatorial race,” says Odell. “Again, we’re a red county so everyone’s eyeing Hayworth and Astorino. I believe that there will be a large Republican turnout based on those two races.”

And that, she says, could help. She refers to the 18th Congressional District race between incumbent Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney and his Republican predecessor Nan Hayworth, as well as the gubernatorial race with Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and others. Still, Oliverio likes his chances.

“Yes, this is a red county. I’m a Democrat, but people know me as a fair, bipartisan individual,” says Oliverio. “I’m able to deal with eight other Republicans on a nine-member board as a sole Democrat very, very well.”

He has served as the lone Democrat for 18 years.

“To ensure that neutrality of my position, I pay for my own campaign.  And it’s cost me a lot of money. I do not accept any money from anybody. I’ve paid for all of this out of pocket,” says Oliverio.

“No small donations, $5 here, $10 there?” asks Dunne.

“None, nothing, nothing, nothing, will not take a cent,” says Oliverio. “ Have never and never would. And this is a really expensive race because it’s county-wide.”

Amid their discussion of various issues, from county spending and providing services in the western side of the county, Oliverio proposed reducing the county executive’s salary.

“It goes from $148,000 down to $102,000 and I base that upon three times what a legislator makes,” says Oliverio. “They make $34,000.”

Oliverio, an assistant principal at Putnam Valley High School says he leads by example, having requested his salary with the school remain the same. Odell has her doubts about that and says his salary reduction proposal is a political ploy.

“It’s a political sound bite, sounds good at the time,” says Odell. “First of all, I challenged my opponent on whether he ever went in and told the school board that he wanted to lower his salary and he did. But I quite honestly don’t, I think that was, I don’t believe that.”

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

There also is a race for county clerk. The spotlight on this race is a bit brighter than perhaps it would have been given the controversial gun control bill known as the SAFE Act, or Safe Ammunitions and Firearms Enforcement Act. County Clerk Dennis Sant, who is retiring, found himself in the headlines beginning in December 2012 after refusing to release to The Journal News the names and addresses of legal pistol permit holders. Republican First Deputy Putnam County Clerk Michael Bartolotti, of Southeast, has been with the clerk’s office since arriving as an intern more than 20 years ago. He stands by Sant when it comes to withholding the information.

“I will continue to fight and do whatever I can to make sure that the privacy and safety of the citizens in Putnam County are protected,” says Bartolotti. “When it comes to that as a public servant, enough is never enough.” 

His opponent, Democrat Lithgow Osborne, of Garrison, sees it differently.

“I believe in the law and I don’t think that I would ever break, knowingly, willingly break the law,” says Osborne. “We live in a free society. We have something called the Freedom of Information Act. That information was legally requested and should have been given right away.”

He says ignoring the law has cost taxpayers money better spent elsewhere.

The Journal News last year filed a lawsuit after Putnam County denied two Freedom of Information Law requests and a subsequent appeal. The candidate forum, held at the VFW Hall in Carmel, was sponsored by the Putnam County News & Recorder and the Putnam County Courier.

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