Legislature appoints Schoenberger’s replacement on party-line vote

BY JOE KUHN

This week the Rockland County Legislature voted to confirm the appointment of their newest member, Itamar Yeger, the executive assistant district attorney and chief of appeals for the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office.

Yeger, a former New Hempstead trustee and Ramapo councilman, will be filling the seat vacated by legislator Ilan Schoenberger last month and will serve for the remaining two years of Schoenberger’s four-year term. Yeger will officially take office later this month after retiring from his work at the D.A.’s office.

The newest Rockland legislator was approved by a vote of 9-7, with several Republican legislators, including minority leader Lon Hofstein and Charles Falciglia contesting his appointment. Legislator Hofstein noted that his vote “was nothing personal” insisting that “the Democratic Committee of Rockland county selected a replacement without discussing it with the minority.” He asserted that county Republicans had not been consulted about the appointment and thus he would not vote in favor it. Legislator Falciglia simply stated that he “will not for a member of any political party.”

After the vote the floor was opened for public comment. Al Samuels, the head of the Rockland Business Association, was the first to speak. Samuels once again voiced concerns about the proposed “Rockland County Human Rights Law” introduced by legislator Alan Wolfe; criticizing the “ambiguous language” of the bill and arguing that several components included within it will put strain on small business. The RBA president believes that the counties small business, “67 percent of which have four or fewer employees,” will be overtaxed by new regulations the bill would add to the hiring process and called the proposed law “interference with commerce.”

One clause of the proposed law that Samuels objects to is barring employers from inquiring about an applicant’s salary history. He said this information is important for employers in their decision-making process. The political mood of the country appears to favor the opposite view, as laws barring the question have been sweeping the nation.

Several members of the Rockland Collation to end the new Jim Crow, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting racial equality, spoke in favor of the bill. Marc Pessin argued that the law would be of great benefit to former felons for whom “reentry (into society) is a nightmare.”

The “Rockland County Human Rights Law” would make it illegal to ask a perspective employee if they have a criminal record, at least during their initial interview. Cynthia Williams, also member of the collation, told the lawmakers that “70 million Americans have a criminal history” and that discrimination against former felons is essentially a double conviction.

Another coalition member argued that denying job opportunities to those “who have already paid their debt to society” prevents them from becoming the productive people that the community wants and needs them to be. “It sounds like a catch 22 to me,” said one member.” After public comment the Legislature moved to vote on the bill at a later date and time.

The meeting concluded after a vote on another referral the “Jerry Donnellan Theft of Valor Prevention Act,” which would penalize anyone that attempts to pass themselves off as a veteran or decorated veteran for financial gain. The law, which is named after the late Rockland County veteran and community leader, was passed unanimously.