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County Legislature Moves Toward Censuring A Legislator Over A Remark

Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner

Dutchess County legislators intend to put forth a resolution to censure one of their own. If passed, the legislature chairman says it would be the first censure in county legislature history. The legislator targeted says his words have been misconstrued. 

Democratic Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner, during a Democratic Caucus meeting June 5, stated he said the following about Dutchess County Department of Public Works Commissioner Robert Balkind.

“I said, ‘wow, you know, just following orders like the Germans 70 years ago.’ That’s what I said. I didn’t say anything… I had no idea that he was Jewish but, frankly, Allison, everybody needs to be held accountable,” Tyner says. “You know what ‘never again’ means? Never again, that’s the Holocaust. Never again, never again do we otherize people. Never again do we throw the most vulnerable among us under the bus.”

Tyner refers to the termination of Poughkeepsie’s bus service July 1 and Dutchess County’s plans to expand its service into the city, a move that has been controversial in recent months. Republican Dale Borchert is chairman of the Dutchess County Legislature.

“He compared his work to Nazi Germany when the individual he was talking to is a descendant of Holocaust survivors,” Borchert says.

Again, Tyner.

“My wife is Jewish, My brother is Jewish. His wife is Jewish. Their whole family is Jewish,” Tyner says. “Most of my family is Jewish.”

Legislature Majority Leader Jim Miccio offered a resolution for unanimous consent at Monday night’s monthly meeting to censure Tyner for his remarks. Tyner objected. Borchert says the resolution to censure Tyner will appear on the July agenda for full consideration. 

“We have called upon him to either apologize or resign,” Borchert says. “He has done neither of those things. And he continues to double down and make the statement that he has done nothing wrong and the things that he said should not be considered as offensive and continues to move on.”

Tyner believes his remark has been blown out of proportion.

“The face of the matter is is that there have been some real lies put out there saying that I targeted the public works commissioner, that supposedly I knew he was Jewish. That was a lie. That I called public officials, elected officials fascist, that’s a lie. It’s just like over and over and over again, and the real victims in this, frankly, the thousands of people in the north side of Poughkeepsie who are seeing their bus service decimated.”

Micki Strawinski is Democratic minority leader of the county legislature.

“If Joel does not apologize for the remarks he made in our caucus to Commissioner Balkind, I think he’s left us no choice but to take this action,” Strawinski says.

Borchert says any apology from Tyner now would be too late.

He has made too many statements that have said he feels no need to, and he has said the things he has said, and I think he needs to be held accountable for those statements,” says Borchert. “The apology is just what he should do now out of respect to the individual who he hurt, but, it is not, I don’t think that’s going to have bearing on the actions that we’re going to take.”

Strawinski says Tyner’s comment was out of line and if he apologizes, she would back off her support of a censure.

“If Legislator Tyner apologizes, publicly and sincerely, about that one comment he made, then I would certainly push to have the censure resolution pulled,” says Strawinski.

Tyner says an apology should come from the Dutchess officials who saw the bus service issue through.

“I’ve already said many times over the last week that perhaps I could have used different wording,” says Tyner.

Elisa Sumner is chair of the Dutchess County Democratic Committee. She says she sees both sides of the issue.

“There have been many who on the legislative floor itself said insulting things to other legislators and never been called out on it,” Sumner says. “So if they’re going to start censuring legislators for saying inappropriate things to other legislators, there’s a long list.”

The next meeting of the Dutchess County legislature is scheduled for July 10. 

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