By Michael Riconda
NEW CITY – In the latest conflict between the County Legislature and County Executive, County Executive Ed Day rejected proposed changes to the Rockland County Charter on the grounds that they do not go far enough.
A resolution amending various parts of the County Charter passed the Legislature on July 1, but did not meet with immediate approval from Day. Then, in a Wednesday press release, Day argued he had chosen to veto the charter due toa lack of priority items such as term limits, a two-hat rule preventing legislators from holding other county jobs and special elections for legislative vacancies.
“This is a bad bill for the people of Rockland County,” Day stated. “Substantive changes to the Charter were promised by the Legislature, but the final product remains weak on ethical standards and comprehensive oversight. ”
The version of the package approved by the Legislature included reforms such as new deadlines and powers to appoint temporary county officials by the county executive, streamlined budget and appointment processes and the creation of Deputy County Executive and Legislative Vice-Chairperson positions. However, the absence of reforms sought by Day has been a frequent flashpoint of controversy between the two branches.
Day’s camp also criticized the process of revising the charter. According to a memorandum from County Attorney Thomas Humbach, the version of the law presented to legislators substantially differed from the version they passed, specifically as it related to veto prohibitions.
“The record indicates that, on key points, the proposed local laws, which had been placed on the Legislators desks, substantially differ from the final, passed version of the local law,” Humbach stated. “The altered version of 5 B1, passed by the Legislature on July 1, 2014, retains the veto prohibition on County Executive appointments but drops the veto prohibition on temporary appointments. Proposed version of 5 B2 contains neither of these prohibitions.”
Humbach reasoned that Municipal Home rule Law 20(4) was not satisfied because the Legislature did not receive the “final” version designated 5 B1 at least seven days before the vote.
Still, Day emphasized his administration’s priorities more than deadlines on particular amendments to the resolution. Day expressed approval of much of the proposal’s language, but blamed legislative leadership for what he saw as a “significantly flawed” proposal.
“While the measure does include meaningful reform to the budget process and a provision for the appointment of a deputy county executive, the compelling issues facing government were fully ignored by the legislative leadership,” Day said.
The Legislative leadership does not appear willing to budge on their version of the reform package, either. In a press release issued shortly after the decision, Legislator Alden Wolfe announced he intends to pursue a veto override in an effort to get the reforms on the ballot for the November election.
“We developed the law in a collegial, bipartisan manner and received the overwhelming support of the Legislature,” Wolfe stated. “We worked closely with the County Executive and his staff, and their substantial input and thoughts were included in the final version. It’s a shame that he has chosen to deny the public the opportunity to have a say in the matter of fiscal reform in November by voter referendum. ”