The North Castle Republican Committee members who sought to have Chairwoman Rosemary Bellantoni removed from her post won’t take no for an answer.
Several days after Westchester Republican Chairman Doug Colety confirmed the county committee would take no action against Bellantoni, her detractors fired off a response Monday afternoon urging him to take a second look at the matter.
Their letter stated there is “more than sufficient grounds for removal of Ms. Bellantoni as a member of the Westchester Republican Committee” and to strip her of her role as a district leader.
On May 12, seven committee members, including Supervisor William Weaver and former town committee chairwoman Loronda Murphy, appealed in a letter to Colety to oust Bellantoni, outlining six charges against her. Since taking over last September they alleged that Bellantoni, who became chairwoman in the wake of revelations of Murphy’s arrest on mortgage fraud charges in Suffolk County, fraudulently used a non-existent proxy, improperly removed committee members, improperly noticed meetings and failed to approve minutes or have roll call votes.
Colety told The Examiner last Friday there was no mechanism for the county committee to remove a local party chairman, only district leaders. Therefore, no position would be taken regarding the ongoing controversy, he said.
“There’s no provision in the county committee’s bylaws to remove a sitting chairperson,” Colety said.
On Monday, the group, which also included Anita Cozza, Lee Wagner, Gail Norris, Jaime Romano and Doug Martino, appealed for a hearing to be able to prove that she violated state election law and the rules of both the county and North Castle GOP committees. Last week Murphy vowed that the county committee’s lack of action would not mean they were prepared to drop the issue.
She said the group discussed the situation with its attorney and crafted the letter to clearly reiterate that the committee should consider removing Bellantoni as a district leader, which would disqualify her from continuing to serve as chairwoman, Murphy said.
“Mr. Chairman, we, the undersigned members of the Town of North Castle Republican Committee, have worked tirelessly to comport ourselves in a manner that reflects well both on ourselves and our great Republican Party,” the group wrote in response to Colety. “We believe that you hold these same values and maintain the same integrity. In reliance on these virtues, we are confident that, upon review of the foregoing, you will insure that finality is given to this controversy and honor our demand that the appropriate hearing be held on these serious charges at the earliest possible date.”
Bellantoni said the county committee correctly decided against pursuing the matter. It comes at nearly the same time that the town committee is looking to complete its slate for the fall elections, although Bellantoni said the controversies have not delayed the announcement of its candidates.
She said she hoped to proceed with the task of finishing candidate interviews and naming a slate, perhaps as soon as this week.
“I do feel vindicated,” Bellantoni said. “I said last week that the charges were baseless and frivolous. I was very pleased.”
Two of her supporters, town council members Diane Roth and John Cronin, agreed that the county committee’s decision was the correct call. Cronin said it was “complete vindication” and the people who are responsible should examine whether they should continue in the committee.
“The whole thing is a sideshow and the people who signed this ridiculous letter should consider stepping down,” he said.
Roth said she felt that the county committee was not going to rule against Bellantoni, a longtime respected member of the town’s political scene.
“I feel because they weren’t going to side with Loronda they weren’t going to remove Rosemary,” she said. “They saw there was nothing and they don’t want to be a part of it.”
If the county GOP committee does not take action on the second request, the group could still choose to go to court.