I have now served on the Westchester County Board of Legislators for 13 years. I served with both Democratic and Republican County Executives. One principle I have observed, along with the other County Legislators, is that the County Executive has a right to select the members of the administration. Even though these appointments must be approved by the Board of Legislators, I have voted to support the County Executive’s appointments (for Andy Spano and Rob Astorino), which would include several hundreds of votes over 13 years. I even approved people I thought had borderline qualifications because of the importance of this principle that the Executive Branch (President, Governor, County Executive, etc.) should pick its administration. We should only verify two things before voting to support such appointments: 1) do they have the necessary qualifications? and 2) is there anything in their background that could embarrass the county – like a criminal record?
Sadly, this past Monday, the Appointments Committee of the Board of Legislators decided to play partisan politics and totally violate this important principle. On a party-line vote, this committee voted 2 to 1 to reject two very qualified appointments by County Executive Rob Astorino – see today’s article in The Journal News: “http://www.lohud.com/article/20110113/NEWS02/101130390/Westchester-Democrats-reject-Astorino-pick-for-planning-chief”
Acting Planning Commissioner Ed Burroughs was rejected to be permanent commissioner. Mr. Burroughs has worked in the Planning Department for 16 years and has been a model public servant under both Republican and Democratic administrations. He has won awards for his service and could not be more qualified for the position of Planning Commissioner. They also rejected Mary Mahon for the position of Director of Real Estate. What are her qualifications? She held the difficult position of general counsel of the MTA – a position that deals with complex real estate issues every day. Frankly, both Mr. Burroughs and Ms. Mahon are over-qualified for these positions.
How could Democratic legislators Bill Burton and Judy Myers possibly vote no on these two highly qualified candidates? The only answer is partisan politics. My two colleagues have crossed an important line here and violated the long-time principle of approving the County Executive’s appointments. We can only hope that when the full Board of Legislators votes on these appointments, they will be approved by a bi-partisan group of responsible legislators that are more concerned with running the government properly and respecting principle – instead of playing partisan games.