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Local Democratic infighting flares anew in legislature

Local Politics

Wrangling over a Board of Election position has widened longstanding divisions in the local Democratic party

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The appointment of a Board of Elections commissioner continues to pit Democrat against Democrat in Monroe County.

Tuesday, a vote was scheduled that might have put the issue to bed – a vote to appoint Jackie Ortiz to the position following her win at the party committee level – but Democratic leadership pulled the vote citing a court order.

Other Democrats like Rachel Barnhart and John Baynes blasted the move.

In a statement that group said:

“We are deeply disappointed that 15 of our Republican colleagues and five of our Democratic colleagues in the County Legislature blocked the appointment of the Democratic Commissioner for the Board of Elections.  Jackie Ortiz was overwhelmingly selected in a duly authorized vote of the members of the Monroe County Democratic Committee, and certification of that was submitted by the Party Chair to the President of the Legislature, as required by law. 
Even more egregious, this group used a procedural tactic – based on a court order that does not exist – to prevent any comment or debate on the item.”

The court order in question was signed by Judge John Ark several month ago and is part of an ongoing dispute over who will become the Democrats’ next Board of Elections Commissioner.

Months ago, many Democrats, including Mayor Lovely Warren, backed LaShana Boose, who was deputy commissioner and is currently acting commissioner, but an argument arose over who should vote on the permanent replacement: the Monroe County Democratic Committee (MCDC) or the Democratic caucus in the Monroe County Legislature.

Judge Ark ruled MCDC could vote on the appointment first.

Flagler-Mitchell is arguing that because that order removed the sole appointment power from the legislature it’s necessary for Ark to establish the legislature’s right to vote on the matter in a subsequent ruling.

Attorney Josh Ehrlich who represents Flagler-Mitchell and other legislators in this matter adds the case is still opening saying, “Judge Ark’s order has held sub judice the issues of his power to rule anything at all.”

But those who pushed for Ark’s initial decision (the petitioners) say Democratic leadership was wrong to use the court order to justify the delay.

“There is nothing in Judge Ark’s order that should prevent or delay this vote. In fact, exactly the opposite. Judge Ark was looking forward to hearing this was done,” said petitioner and former Monroe County Democratic Chair Dave Garretson.

Kendra Evans, whose name appeared in court documents, called the move Tuesday night “despicable.”

“Filling the commissioner vacancy is a straightforward process set forth in NYS election law, yet due to the irresponsible, self-serving behavior of a rogue faction of Democrats, we are facing the most important election of our lifetime with the Board of Elections in chaos,” Evans, a member of the MCDC executive committee, said.

News 8 is told Judge Ark has a scheduled hearing on the matter later this week.

Should Ark state the legislature can vote on the matter, Flagler-Mitchell said a vote on Ortiz will likely take place.

Ortiz also weighed in Tuesday evening saying in part, “This delay tactic and undermining effort continues to push out the time frame for the people’s work to get done.” 

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