A state supreme court has ruled in favor of a group of Westchester County legislators who argued that County Executive Rob Astorino bypassed a law regarding the Board of Acquisition and Contract.
In a 14-page ruling, dated Feb. 25, acting justice Barry E. Warhit ruled that the commissioner of the county's Department of Public Works and Transportation, Jay Pisco, stop sitting as a member on it.
The legislators voted in December 2011 be replace the public works head with the budget director, a measure that Astorino vetoed but the legislature overrode. The commissioner continued to sit on the board, and legislators filed suit against Astorino in March 2012.
"The County Executive is required to implement legislative policy declarations which are not effectively vetoed or judicially invalidated," Warhit wrote.
The trio of legislators who filed the lawsuit were part of its Democratic leadership: Board of Legislators Chairman Kenneth Jenkins, Vice Chairman Lyndon Williams and Majority Leader Peter Harckham.
“My Board colleagues and I undertook this legal action reluctantly, after many attempts to settle our differences with the Astorino Administration,” Jenkins said in a press release. “But the Administration’s refusal to follow the law is not something that could be taken lightly. It was not just a matter of ‘running to court’ for a superfluous reason. Our oaths of office demand that we respect, follow and stand up for the law and the rules of governance as determined in the County Charter. Ignoring this law posed a grave threat to Westchester and put all of our contracts at risk.”
A spokeswoman for Astorino, reached for comment on Friday by Patch, wrote that an appeal of the decision is planned. Later on Friday afternoon, the office issued a rebuttal statement, announcing that there will be an appeal.
Astorino challenged the validity of the legislators' law, arguing that it may be subject to a public referendum, and that the legislators did not follow publication requirements of the legislation. His office maintains that a public vote is needed.
"We strongly disagree with Judge Warhit that the Board of Legislators can take away the rights of the people and change the fundamental structure of county government without a referendum," wrote Communications Director Ned McCormack. "The law and court record are clear that any change in the powers of the County Executive require a referendum of the people."
McCormack claimed victory on other parts of the decision, noting that Warhit did not invalidate Pisco's decisions while on the board, or his appointment to his current commissioner post.
Along with Jay Pisco, the other members of the Board of Acquisition and Contract are Jenkins and Astorino.
A copy of Warhit's decision, provided by the BOL, is attached to this story as a PDF file.