Airmont Trustee Sued Over Alleged Campaign Debts

By Joel Grossbarth

When will the Village of Airmont ever avoid its share of controversy? According to a lawsuit filed in Rockland County Supreme Court, the answer is – not anytime soon. Current Village Trustee Migdalia Pesante is being sued by the former Treasurer of the Committee established to elect her to her current position.

In his lawsuit against the Trustee, Frank Tramontano claims he was the Treasurer of the Committee to Elect Bubel, Downey and Pesante. The Plaintiff claims Pesante was a member of the same committee. The purpose of the committee was to organize and support three candidates for various positions of the Village Board, Mayor and two Trustee positions. Mr. Tramontano’s lawsuit claims that, as a member of this committee, Trustee Pesante agreed that in return of the committee’s support, she would contribute one-third of the expenses incurred during the 2019 campaign.

Following the time to collect and file designating petitions for election, the committee filed a legal action to have the former Mayor and Trustees removed from the March, 2019 ballot over claims of forgery and other election law improprieties. Immediately before a hearing was to commence, former Mayor Phil Gigante agreed to remove himself, and two sitting Trustees, from the March, 2019 ballot, rather than proceed with the Court hearing. This cleared the way for Bubel, Downey and Pesante to win the election. They were sworn in to their respective position on April 1, 2019.

The lawsuit claims that the committee incurred over $20,000 in legal fees and other expenses and that Pesante breached her agreement to repay these expenses. Conspicuously absent from the lawsuit papers is any written agreement or any indication how and when Pesante allegedly agreed to the claims. The lawsuit is silent on whether Mayor Bubel or Trustee Downey, the other candidates, has paid their share of the fees.

Since taking office in April, Pesante has already caused controversy within the Village. Most followers believed that with the election of three new Board members, including a Mayor, the new candidates would have no difficulty passing new laws and resolutions to advance their political agenda. However, almost immediately, Pesante appeared to break ranks with Mayor Bubel and support the remaining Trustees from the prior administration. This has caused a situation that Airmont knows all too well, a Mayor and Deputy Mayor who now sit in the minority. Those who follow Airmont know that this causes stalled proposals, discord within the Board and community division. It is believed that the current lawsuit may have been filed in retaliation for Pesante’s decision to break ranks and an attempt to remove her from the Village Board.

Pesante has filed an Answer to the lawsuit denying Tramontano’s claims and has further asserted defenses which include a request that the matter be adjudicated in Airmont Village Court. Calls to both law firms for comments were unanswered.  The next Village Board meeting is scheduled for September 16, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit will affect an already tumultuous Village Board.