The Putnam Examiner

Appointment of Dem Commish Stirs Trouble in Legislature

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While the Putnam County Legislature appointed a new Democratic Commissioner for the county’s Board of Election last Wednesday, it certainly didn’t come without bickering and heated debate.

Cathy Croft was appointed to fill the role of former board commissioner Bob Bennett effective Jan. 1, but it wasn’t as soon as the sole Democrat on the board wanted and before a compromise was struck, it seemed unlikely she would get approved at all.

District 2 Legislator and Democrat Sam Oliverio requested the rest of the board appoint Croft to the position immediately, but many of the eight other legislators, all Republicans, questioned if proper protocol was being followed.

Oliverio said during the meeting all the town Democratic committees voted to select Croft as the new commissioner.

Legislature Chairman Rich Othmer said voting Croft in would be a “courtesy to give to our Democratic brothers and sisters.”

“I see no reason why we shouldn’t do it,” Othmer said.

But many of Othmer’s Republican colleagues did see reason to hold up the appointment, which led to spirited arguing between Oliverio and other Republicans, a familiar sight at this point.

District 9 Legislator Anthony DiCarlo said during the meeting that allowing Croft to start serving right away was contrary to the process that was set up. He said Croft should come before the personnel committee and would then be appointed to start at the beginning of the New Year.

Other legislators voiced similar sentiment to DiCarlo.

“Process is important,” District 4 Legislator Ginny Nacerino said. “We place a value on process and I think, Democrat or Republican, we can respect that we are not circumventing the process.”

District 5 Legislator Carl Albano said he would be willing to appoint Croft on Jan. 1, but didn’t see the urgency in having her enter her position a couple weeks earlier. District 8 Legislator Dini LoBue noted there were other instances where the legislature avoided proper process and eventually took grief for it.

“This is on the heels on a lot of mismanagement that happened this year,” she said.

District 6 Legislator Roger Gross also noted the county would be paying two commissioners because Bennett is currently on paid vacation time as he enters retirement.

Oliverio countered that currently the Democratic Party within the county had no representation on the Board of Elections and the New York State charter strongly urges both political parties have a commissioner. He also pointed out the entire Democratic committee met the night before and made the decision to pick Croft after a lengthy, well-discussed process.

“This is such an important decision with such gravity we need to move to do this as quickly as possible,” Oliverio said. “This has nothing to do with politics. This has to do with good government.”

At one point, Oliverio started to raise his voice, stating “Is this political, ladies and gentleman? Come on, let’s stop this.”

Besides Othmer, District 1 Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra also supported Oliverio’s plea to appoint Croft as soon as possible.

Eventually, the legislature voted to appoint Croft, but she would have to wait until the beginning of the New Year to officially start her term. The only dissenting vote was DiCarlo.

One speaker during public comment, Lynne Eckardt, who is on the Southeast town board and a Democrat, said she felt a “little discriminated against.”

“We worked really hard to have a commissioner ready, willing and able to serve tonight,” she said. “I do understand the procedure in one way but I believe this is an exception.”

Croft said she was “very disappointed” she couldn’t start immediately because Bennett’s last day was on Nov. 23 and that meant there wasn’t an Democratic commissioner for more than a month. She added she was ready to go into work as commissioner the morning after the meeting.

Croft has been on the Democrat Committee in Southeast since 2006, serving as its chairwoman the past three years and became the county chair last May.

“I enjoy being involved in politics,” she said.

The term is for one year to finish out Bennett’s term. Croft said she isn’t sure at this point if she would seek a full term of her own once the first term is over.






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