BY MICHAEL RICONDA
NEW CITY – With the exile of Legislator Joseph Meyers from the Democratic Party caucus and his decision to form his own, the Rockland County Legislature looks to be a bit more divided in 2015.
Meyers, who was ousted from his caucus just before the new year for what fellow members claim was poor attendance and critical stances toward fellow Democrats, stated he plans to continue his work in the legislature as the founding member of a new caucus representing Preserve Ramapo, a group known for its opposition to political corruption and over-development in the Town of Ramapo.
As the leader and only member of the caucus, Meyers plans to attend legislative leadership meetings. Though Meyers indicated he still plans to run for office as a Democrat, he also had strong words for legislative leadership, accusing them of retaliating against him for his support of County Executive Ed Day.
“I am a lifelong registered Democrat and will remain so,” Meyers told the Rockland County Times shortly after learning of his removal. “This is just a very weak and pathetic attempt to punish a supporter of Ed Day. It’s irrelevant and has no meaning to me. It’s just sad. They are such a sad bunch of useless misfits.”
Meyers has frequently been at odds with his own party, most recently when he sided with Day on proposed budget cuts, which would have slashed jobs from the Sheriff’s Department and funding from nonprofit contract agencies. Much to the dismay of his party, Meyers had also supported Day in his run for county executive, supported his son Chris Day in his unsuccessful campaign against Democratic U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey and supported Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino in his race for governor.
In the process, Meyers became one of Day’s few allies on the legislature during the 2014 budget season, siding with Republican Legislator Chris Carey on efforts at an ultimately unsuccessful compromise budget. His decision to form a new caucus has already been met with approval from Day, who echoed Meyers’ opinion that the exclusion was political retribution.
“Legislator Joe Meyers’ request to be included as the leader of the Preserve Ramapo caucus in any legislative leadership meeting conducted by my administration will be honored, and happily so,” Day stated on social media. “Political reprisals may take precedence over doing the work of the people in some cases, and that is a very sad commentary.”
At the same time, the announcement was met with skepticism from Legislative Chairman Alden Wolfe, who argued a rule change would be required to create a new caucus.
“If you’re not in the majority [caucus] then you’re by definition a member of the minority,” Wolfe said. “You can’t be both at the same time.”
Wolfe also challenged suggestions that Meyers was booted from the caucus for political reasons. Instead, Wolfe said Meyers had violated caucus rules when he ignored meetings with fellow Democrats and caucused with Republicans instead.
Though Meyers now finds himself somewhat isolated from his peers, the exclusion is not likely to have an impact on Meyers’ own re-election. Much like Day, Meyers is a longtime supporter of the Preserve movement, which manifested itself first as Preserve Ramapo and then as Clarkstown Preservation and Preserve Rockland.
Preserve Ramapo often finds itself at odds with Ramapo’s Democratic Party, which draws much of its support from the religious bloc vote, which, in turn, Preserve Ramapo often pits itself against.
Day has shared some success with Meyers’ constituency. Preserve Rockland proved instrumental in pushing Day into a firm lead over Democratic opponent David Fried in the county executive race.
The election of majority and minority party leaders is expected at the legislature tonight at 7 p.m.