A special meeting was called for the Westchester Board of Legislators last night, January 24. The only item on the agenda was a resolution for the Board of Legislators to hire an outside attorney (meaning spend more taxpayer dollars) to bring a lawsuit against the County Executive regarding the dispute over the passage of an act last month to set the county property tax levy and the veto of this act by County Executive Astorino. After the meeting was called to order, there was limited debate on the proposal: Legislators John Nonna and Peter Harckham for Democrats and me for Republicans. All three of us requested that the vote on the resolution not take place. At the end of the brief debate, this proposal was tabled indefinitely.
It is my understanding that the Democratic Caucus was split on this proposal, and the Republican Caucus was fully opposed to it, and therefore, it is doubtful whether the resolution would have passed.
I hope you will agree that my view on the proposed litigation makes the most sense. First, this political dispute between the two branches of government should be settled by compromise not litigation. It is my view that both sides have legitimate points on this matter, and it is unclear which way a judge would rule or if a judge would even be willing to get in the middle of this political dispute. It is common for judges to deny ruling on political questions. Second, the lawsuit is premature. Under the County Charter, if the Board of Legislators disagrees with a veto by the County Executive, it should vote to override that veto, and we have not yet taken such an override vote. This would give a judge another reason to dismiss the lawsuit because it fails the ripeness doctrine, since the Board of Legislators did not exhaust its remedies prior to litigation. This lawsuit is also premature (and fails ripeness doctrine) because the action being contested in the lawsuit, which is the Astorino Administration sending out tax warrants to the local governments based on its view of this dispute, has not occurred yet.
As Minority Leader, I have stated to both the Astorino Administration and Democratic leadership of the Board of Legislators that we should continue to discuss this dispute and craft a compromise. Litigation is not in the best interests of the taxpayers. We have many other important issues to focus on right now.
It appears that if a compromise is not worked over the next week, then a vote to override the veto will be scheduled for Monday, January 31. I will keep pushing both sides to compromise.