Delayed Peekskill Judge Choice Likely to be Johnson

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The new Peekskill Common Council will get to appoint a city court judge on January 1, but it appears likely the Democratic majority will get its way in naming Reginald Johnson to the 10-year post.

On December 23, Putnam County Supreme Court Justice James Rooney ruled the judge appointment, filled for the last 26 years by Republican William Maher, should not take place until newly Mayor Frank Catalina and his two running mates, Joe Torres and Vincent Vesce, are sworn in on New Year’s Day.

However, with four Democrats remaining on the board, a resolution appointing Johnson is on Wednesday’s reorganization agenda and is expected to pass, despite Catalina’s request that he and the two new board members at least be given an opportunity to interview Johnson.

“If there are a lot of 4-3 votes against me, I can only look in the camera and say this is what you gave me,” Catalina remarked. “I’m trying not to get bogged down in the small stuff. There are many things I want to do to help the people of Peekskill.”

Several speakers expressed their support for Johnson during the Council’s December 23 meeting, maintaining the current assistant county attorney had the skillset and temperament to effectively serve as a judge.

“He’s a hard working family man who genuinely cares about the City of Peekskill,” said Michelle Cunningham. “He’s fair, he’s honest and he has no hidden agenda.”

“I think he will be a fine judge. He’s the right choice,” said Sam Maduegbuna, a civil rights lawyer and a member of Faith Bible Church, where Johnson also attends.

Councilman Darren Rigger said he has no reservations supporting Johnson for the position.

“We certainly can say the person we put up is extremely qualified,” Rigger said. “As for Judge Maher, anyone who gives their entire life to public service deserves a lot of credit and should be honored.”

Meanwhile, a battle is also brewing over who the deputy mayor will be under Catalina. Catalina was hoping to make that choice, but said he has been informed the deputy mayor is a council selection.

Drew Claxton is the current deputy mayor and is the longest sitting council member. Under the city’s Order of Precedence, Rigger said traditionally the most experienced council member is given the deputy mayor nod.

However, Catalina published a letter last week calling on the newest Democratic council member, Vivian McKenzie, to be deputy mayor, citing her being a small business owner in Peekskill.

A few days later, McKenzie published a response, saying while flattered Catalina would consider her as deputy mayor, she felt others on the council were more qualified for the non-paid appointment.

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