Democrats clash over leadership in Monroe County Legislature

Local Politics

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Several local Democrats said Tuesday that Vince Felder (D-22) was removed as the Minority Leader in the Monroe County Legislature.

They say legislator Yversha Roman (D-26) replaced Felder as the new Minority Leader of the Democratic Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature.

Despite their stance, Felder says their meeting to remove him was “invalid.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Felder released the following statement in regards to the matter:

There is a rogue group of legislators attempting to usurp the authority of the Minority Leader. After yesterday’s unsuccessful attempt to remove me from leadership, they are now attempting to circumvent me and hold a vote for the purpose of appointing a Democratic Elections Commissioner. Once again, they have excluded from their deliberations the four African American and one Asian members of the caucus. It should be clear to everyone why we saw this morning’s press conference. I am doing my best to try and hold this caucus and the Monroe County Democratic Party together, but these rogue individuals appear to be hell-bent on doing everything they can to destroy it.

Any meeting of the Democratic Caucus must be called by the Leader, or any actions taken are invalid. As such, any appointment made at a meeting not called by the Leader is invalid.

Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart (D-21) responded to Felder’s statement on Twitter Wednesday afternoon:

Monroe County Democrats have been divided in recent months over the process of naming a new Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner.

Before then, the Democrats were divided as far back as February over the process of selecting a Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner.

MORE | Monroe County Democrats at odds over new Board of Elections commissioner selection process

Felder was first elected to the Monroe County Legislature in 2015.

Joseph Carbone, President of the Monroe County Legislature, said in a meeting Tuesday evening that there is no secret that there is a disagreement on who the minority leader is, and said he is not picking sides. He then adjourned Tuesday’s legislature meeting.

Roman claimed in the meeting that she’s entitled via the caucus vote.

Felder said Tuesday night there was no vote saying he ended the meeting before one could be taken and the letter submitted by the nine Democrats who wanted to change leadership does not constitute a legitimate vote.

MORE | Democrats in Monroe County Legislature form new caucus following clash over leadership

Democratic County Legislators released a statement Tuesday evening following the meeting that reads:

“Nine of the 14 members of the Democratic caucus chose Yversha Roman to be Minority Leader. We signed a communication to the President of the Legislature indicating the leadership change.

President Joseph Carbone refuses to recognize our legitimate and lawful choice. At tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting, President Carbone said he did not want to get in the middle of a dispute over leadership and abruptly adjourned the meeting before we were able to consider a single item.

Shutting down our government and abandoning the people’s work because you don’t like the rightful decision of the minority caucus is outrageous and undemocratic. As a result of tonight’s action, we did not vote on an independent redistricting commission, thousands of dollars in grants for legal and health services, an extension of sales tax relied upon by schools and local governments, and a committee to oversee the renaming of our airport in honor of Frederick Douglass.

This is the second time this summer President Carbone has refused to honor precedent and the prerogative of the Democratic Party. The first time was the tabling of the appointment of Jackie Ortiz to Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner. Monroe County Democratic Committee members overwhelmingly elected Ortiz to the post. We will be appointing Ortiz on Thursday morning, in a process outlined by state law and affirmed by Hon. John Ark.

Our caucus is ready to lead and do the people’s business immediately.”

A statement from a spokesperson at the Legislature President’s Office said:

“Adam Bello needs to get his own house in order. As County Executive, he has led Democrats in the Legislature down the destructive road they are on today. Residents can clearly see through his divisive and hyper-partisan tactics. And again we see Bello spewing lies – all legislation remains on schedule.”

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello responded in a statement Tuesday evening:

“Tonight, Monroe County Legislature President Dr. Joe Carbone failed our community once again by grinding legislation to a halt and choosing politics ahead of the needs of our community. Dr. Carbone’s politics of obstruction and chaos continue to prevent action on important matters that could have a lasting impact on countless residents across our community. This is the exact type of governing that Monroe County voters rejected during last year’s election.

At a time when many local governments and community partners are facing a deficit, the County Legislature failed to consider legislation that would provide $124 million to the county, city, towns, villages and school districts, to create a Department of Diversity Equity & Inclusion, enact independent redistricting, help fight our opioid crisis and provide benefits to low income women and children. All of this just two weeks after failing to confirm the appointment of a Board of Elections Commissioner. 

Enough is enough.  Our community is facing too many challenges and demands a county legislature that acts on behalf of the people, and not politics as usual.”

For more information on the Monroe County Legislature, visit this website.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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