Some Westchester Dems Allege Astorino Is M.I.A.

May 5, 2014

BOL Majority Leader Catherine Borgia
Credit Westchester County Board of Legislators

Eight Democratic members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators allege Republican County Executive Rob Astorino is missing in action, and are calling for a special election. 

The Democratic caucus members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators have introduced a resolution declaring the office of county executive vacant. County Executive Rob Astorino launched his gubernatorial campaign March 5, four months after having been re-elected in a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1. And now Board of Legislators Majority Leader Catherine Borgia, an Ossining Democrat, says Astorino is not spending enough time managing the business of Westchester, and his out-of-county-travels began well before his official campaign launch for governor.

“Well, we’re pretty concerned that Westchester is really suffering a lack with the county executive jetting around all of New York State for his gubernatorial campaign,” says Borgia. “We know that the county executive is the key decision maker in the government and several things have gone by the wayside in the time that he’s been spending time outside of Westchester County. And our charter does specifically say that this is a full-time job and the person elected to this job should give his or her complete attention to this job. So the resolution is a way to clarify exactly what’s going on here in Westchester and look for a possible remedy.”

She says one possible remedy is holding a special election to fill what she says has become a vacant position. William O'Reilly is campaign spokesman for Astorino. In an e-mailed statement, he says, quote, "This is utterly ridiculous partisan nonsense. They need to get back to work." End quote.

Peekskill’s John Testa is minority leader of the Board of Legislators.

“Well, it’s a pure political… they call election time silly season and it’s starting early here,” Testa says. “And unfortunately members of the county board have decided to enter into the fray with a silly suggestion that the county executive is not involved. Of course he’s very involved. And this group of eight legislators who are putting this forward, which I doubt will even come to a vote since it’s not a majority of the board, they’re just trying to manipulate the press and have some kind of narrative that’s not true.”

BOL Minority Leader John Testa
Credit Westchester County Board of Legislators

The Republican Testa points out that six of the eight Democratic caucus members introducing this legislation did not show up at the county executive’s state-of-the-county address last week, abdicating their responsibilities as legislators, as the address is a Board of Legislators meeting. A spokesman for the Democratic caucus members says those who did not attend, including Borgia, had previous engagements.

It certainly is not the first time an elected official has campaigned for higher office. Again, here’s Borgia.

“What really prompted our introducing this resolution is the fact that the work is not being done,” says Borgia. “You’re correct that many people in office who are seeking a higher office do campaign at the same time that they’re fulfilling their duties as an officeholder, but when the duties are not being fulfilled, then it’s a different story.”

And here’s Testa.

“It’s hypocrisy and it’s just political maneuvering and throwing the favor to the governor and his staff just to get some negative press, which obviously is not going anywhere,” says Testa.

As for what Borgia says has fallen by the wayside:

“We’ve just been informed that a court case against us by the Environmental Protection Agency is moving ahead because of Westchester County’s failure to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act,” Borgia says.  “We’ve had a lot of issues with our Playland proposal. Our credit rating was downgraded.”

She refers to Rye Playland, the subject of controversy amid plans to re-invent the waterfront amusement park. In November, Moody’s Investment Services downgraded Westchester’s bond rating from Aaa to Aa1, which Astorino at the time noted was due to concern over the county government’s participation in the state’s pension amortization program and its effect on the county’s budget reserves. Astorino says he entered into the program rather than increase taxes or implement layoffs.

The Democratic caucus members’ resolution is on tonight’s Board of Legislators meeting agenda.