Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi defended her recent use of the town’s emergency CodeRED notification system, stressing “it was the right thing to do” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Puglisi, who is retiring at the end of 2021 after a 30-year run as the town’s chief executive, received criticism from Cortlandt Republican Committee Chairman Daniel Pagano that her September 24 message to residents was a “misuse and abuse” of CodeRED, which, according to the town’s website, is only intended to be activated for “emergency notifications.”
“This system is not for the self-promotion of politicians but for emergency weather communications,” charged Pagano, an attorney, who claimed Puglisi’s actions were a violation of the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
However, Puglisi, who utilized the system 16 other times since the pandemic first flared up in March 2020, said her reaching out to residents had nothing to do with politics but was a way to keep constituents who may not have access to social media up to date on important updates and issues.
“I felt a responsibility to leave messages, updates, bring the community together and comfort them. People were frightened, they were scared. This was a one-of-a-kind emergency,” Puglisi explained. “I never used it before the COVID pandemic. I was using the system because it’s a health crisis. I thought it was important for residents to hear my voice.”
Since its inception, the approximately $9,000 annual cost to a private company called Emergency Communications Network, Inc. of Ormond Beach, Florida to provide CodeRED was paid for by Entergy, former owner of the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan. On September 21, the Town Board voted to approve a contract with Voyent-Alert to continue CodeRED at a cost of $8,000 per year.
During her September 24 message, Puglisi emphasized she was “very careful” not to mention the names of any candidates running for office on November 2.
“I am retiring. I’m not on the ballot,” Puglisi said, noting about 16,000 households signed up to receive CodeRED. “It was my typical message. People had not heard from me in a while. This COVID crisis is still going on. It’s still here. It’s still with us.”
Besides Pagano’s public bashing, Puglisi said she had not received any complaints about CodeRED. She mentioned one resident asked her a question about the system in an email and then thanked her after she responded.