“Taxpayers have already lost,” said Legislator Sheila Marcotte (R-Eastchester/New Rochelle), reacting to the need for both the Westchester County Executive and Board of Legislators to hire outside counsel because of a conflict of interest created by actions of Chairman Ken Jenkins and the Democratic County Legislators in siding with the CSEA union in its lawsuit against Westchester County.
“County Legislators have a fiduciary duty to the taxpayers of Westchester,” stated Minority Leader Jim Maisano (New Rochelle/Pelham), “and therefore, we have a duty to taxpayers to oppose this lawsuit. The Republican legislators have introduced a resolution for the February 14 legislative meeting, calling on the entire Board to join us in opposing the lawsuit and seeking to have it dismissed.”
In its ongoing effort to reduce the cost of county government, the Astorino administration terminated the county’s contract with the state to administer the Section 8 housing program. It cancelled the contract because the responsibility for running this federal housing program belonged to the state – not the county – and the county was losing upwards of $1 million a year when the full costs of administering the program were calculated. The contract ended on Dec. 31, resulting in the layoff of 38 county workers assigned to the program, and the state then sought proposals from non-profit agencies to run the program.
Remarkably, the Democratic legislators voted to restore the 38 positions in the 2011 county budget, even though the contract was ended and there was no work for these workers to perform. The County Executive vetoed this fiscally irresponsible action, but the Democratic legislators overrode the veto. The CSEA, the union representing the workers, filed a lawsuit against the county in January to have the jobs restored.
The opposing positions by the Board and County Executive forced the County Attorney to remove himself from the case on February 3rd. Under the Westchester County Charter, the County Attorney represents both the Board of Legislators and County Executive. The County Attorney then advised both sides to hire outside counsel, which will cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
“By taking a position against the county, the Democratic legislators are automatically sending a bill to taxpayers for legal fees, even if the county wins. This begs the question, who do we work for?” an exasperated John G. Testa (R-Peekskill/Cortlandt) stated.
Beyond the costly legal fees, the cost to taxpayers could be millions if the union wins. “The Democratic legislators knew full well that by overriding the veto they were inviting costly and unnecessary litigation that will waste taxpayer dollars,” said Minority Whip Gordon A. Burrows (R-Yonkers/Bronxville).