September 5, 2007

Hypocrisy 2.0

We have previously referenced the fact that the Niagara County Legislature Minority Caucus had reached the bowels of hypocrisy in their lawsuit from 2004 against the Majority Caucus for inviting Democrats to caucus with the Republicans. The Minority Caucus also sued the County of Niagara.

As you may recall, the Majority Caucus consists of eight Republican, five Democrats and one Conservative. The Minority Caucus sought to prevent the Democrats from meeting with the Republicans. So much for promoting the spirit of cooperation.

What we found so hypocritical about the lawsuit was the fact that while admonishing the Majority Caucus for allowing Dems into their caucus, the Democrats themselves were out there recruiting Republicans to run with the Democrats support, and ultimately if victorious, to caucus with the Dems.

In 2004, the Dems backed Republican Keith McNall to run against incumbent Republican Glenn Aronow. While the strategy nearly paid off for the Dems, Aronow claimed victory. Aronow eventually resigned and recommended McNall to fill his seat, which he did, but that's an issue for another time.

Upon the State Supreme Court ruling that the multi-party caucus was in fact legal, in addition to the fact that the Dems were themselves using the Republican strategy of recruiting candidates from other parties, many figured that the Dems would drop the issue. They were wrong.

The Minority Caucus went on to appeal the decision of the Supreme Court to the Appellate Division. While appealing, the Dems have gone on to endorse at least five Republicans, including Charles Dahlquist, Merrill Bender, Wright Ellis, Randy Wayner and John Sweeney for various offices this year.

So if Bender and Dahlquist win, are you going to stick by the ethical standard that you yourself have set? Will they, as Republicans, be allowed in the Minority Caucus, or was this lawsuit more about politics than policy?

Worse yet, the Dems are represented by Attorney, former Democratic Chairman, and former county Human Resources Director Charles Naughton. Yes, the same political hack who was fired from the county in 2004 is back to seek vengeance.

Even more disconcerting are the potential rules of ethics violations. As an attorney, would it not be an ethical violation to sue someone for a certain action, then turn around and commit the exact same action yourself?

Lastly, the fact that the taxpayers of Niagara County have paid for these lawsuits is downright offensive. We challenge the Minority Caucus, Dennis Virtuoso, Harry Apolito, Kyle Andrews, Sean O'Connor and Renae Kimble, to not only stop this political charade, but to reimburse the people of this county the thousands of taxpayer dollars spent over this highly political spectacle.

13 comments:

turk 182 said...

David,

You seem to be on a little partisan rant this morning. I understand how you could charge hyprocrisy, but you've got to expect some of that in the world of politics.

Don't you think the Republicans would be doing the same thing if the roles were reversed?

Quite frankly, I think this who caucuses with who stuff is a bunch of nonsense.

This should be about voting for what's right for your constituents.

Sail Away said...

It may appear that way, but the only reason that those specific individuals were named is that their specific names are on the front cover of the lawsuit that I have in my possession. Their names follow the word "PLAINTIFFS".

Anonymous said...

Mr. Klein,

Your take on the majority caucus issue is obviously partisan, and that's OK, but you have many of your facts wrong or you are simply parroting the Republican talking points on the issue.

Please allow me to set the record straight. Which I will do in a series of posts in the interest of keeping the points intact

Mr. Klein said, regarding the law suit,

"The Minority Caucus sought to prevent the Democrats from meeting with the Republicans."

I reply,

No, the lawsuit, if successful, would not have prevented any combination of legislators from meeting together to form a “majority caucus.”

The lawsuit was based on the New York Open Meetings Law. It sought to prevent a quorum of legislators, when not members of the same political party, from meeting in secret under the “political caucus” exception to the Open Meeting Law.

As you may know, the Open Meetings Law requires any meeting of a quorum of legislators conducting public business be held in public with proper notice. During a public meeting, the decision-makers are allowed to meet behind closed doors in “executive session” for certain reasons.

There is also a “political caucus exception” which allows a quorum of legislators “who are members or adherents of the same political party” to meet in secret, without notice to the public.

The law suit simply sought to deny the Majority Caucus access to this political caucus exception.

However, Judge Amy Jo Fricano’s ruling from the bench effectively confirmed that the Democrats and Conservative who meet in secret with the Republicans are “adherents” of the Republican party.

Accordingly, the Majority Caucus is permitted to continue to meet in secret, where public issues are hashed out and discussed, decisions made and discipline imposed.

All to the detriment of the public’s right to know.


Chuck Naughton

Anonymous said...

Mr. Klein said, as a part of his charge of Democratic hypocrisy ,

"In 2004, the Dems backed Republican Keith McNall to run against incumbent Republican Glenn Aronow."


I reply,

While it is true that the Democrats backed Mr. McNall, it is also true that Mr. McNall gave his word to me and the Democratic Committee that he would change his party affiliation to Democrat before the November election.

Why he failed to do so, I would urge you to ask him directly.

So at least for the 2004 election cycle, your charge of hypocrisy is unfounded.

Chuck Naughton

Anonymous said...

Again, in support of the hypocrisy charge, Klein asserts,

"While appealing, the Dems have gone on to endorse at least five Republicans,"

While a Notice of Appeal was in fact filed, by operation of law, the appeal expired nine months afterward because it was never perused.

So your timeline is incorrect regarding the current crop of legislative candidates. The lawsuit is long dead.

Why was the suit allowed to wither and die?

There were allot of reasons, including the fact that the sitting Minority Caucus legislators were never comfortable suing the County as well as the caucus.

However, County Attorney Claude Joerg brought the County into the controversy by taking the position as the County's chief legal officer that there was no violation of the Open Meetings Law.

Although a technicality, the County had to be joined in the suit as a “necessary party,” otherwise the law suit was prone to dismissal before the real issues were examined by the court.

As far as any expense to taxpayers, that was a choice that the Republican controlled County administration made to pay an outside attorney to defend the suit.

As Mr. Joerg was capable of rendering an opinion that the secret meetings of the Majority Caucus did not violate the law, it would seem that he would also be fully capable of defending that position in a court of law.

And as far as I know, the Republican Party has never offered to reimburse the County for the legal services it enjoyed at taxpayers expense.

Chuck Naughton

Anonymous said...

Mr. Klein worries,

"Even more disconcerting are the potential rules of ethics violations. As an attorney, would it not be an ethical violation to sue someone for a certain action, then turn around and commit the exact same action yourself?"

I reply,

Well, except that the law suit did not seek to abolish the Majority Caucus, but to prevent it from conducting public business in secret.

Nor did the law suit seek to prevent cross-party endorsements.

To try and prevent any group of individuals from banding together in a coalition dedicated to a public purpose is unconstitutional in my view.

Maintaining a legal position in a court of law does not necessarily give rise to an ethical obligation outside the courtroom. Especially when all the activities are otherwise legal.

The court in Niagara County has ruled that its OK for a quorum of Republican, Conservative and Democratic legislators to meet and conduct public business in secret.

While I agree that there are legitimate questions regarding hypocrisy in the political realm raised by the prospect of the Democrats attempting to gain control of the legislature in the same manner as the Republicans have, as a legal matter there is no violation of attorney ethics rules.

Chuck Naughton

Anonymous said...

Mr. Klein declares,

"Lastly, the fact that the taxpayers of Niagara County have paid for these lawsuits is downright offensive."

And i reply,

And I couldn’t agree more. Again, the decision to hire outside legal counsel was the County Attorney’s decision.

Why Mr. Joerg continues to routinely assign cases to outside counsel that in the past were done “in-house” is an issue that good government types might want to dig into deeper.

The “political caucus” defense and labor relations representation are two of the areas for which adequate answers have never been provided.

Chuck Naughton

Anonymous said...

Klein gets personal,

"Worse yet, the Dems are represented by Attorney, former Democratic Chairman, and former county Human Resources Director Charles Naughton. Yes, the same political hack who was fired from the county in 2004 is back to seek vengeance."

I say,

While in some contexts I might deserve the label “political hack,” during my time with the County this is furthest from the truth.

Once again, Mr. Klein, your second-hand facts are incorrect. I was not “fired” but I resigned in April 2004, after a March a caucus line vote against the recommendation of the County Manager and despite being rated the highest of 5 candidates who went through the search process for the job.

Although I was asked by several people (including some of the legislators who voted against my appointment) to remain during the almost 6 month process it took to conduct another candidate search, I resigned because my father was very ill. In fact he passed away just over a month after I left the County’s employ.

So in that respect, I am grateful to the Majority Caucus for playing politics with the position. I did get to spend some much cherished time with my dad before he passed.

But as HR Director, I can assure you that I was well qualified and I performed above and beyond the call of duty.

In addition to my duties as HR Director, I took on the position of Risk Manager when a vacancy unexpectedly occurred.

I often performed labor relations work traditionally assigned to the County Attorney's office. Work that is now routinely assigned to outside legal counsel at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars per year.

During my short time as HR Director, I successfully defended and settled many union grievances, prosecuted and served as hearing officer in employee discipline cases, represented the County before PERB and I implemented audit controls over cash receipts that were non-existent before my tenure.

I also persuaded the Legislature to allow me to purchase a paper shredder for the destruction of sensitive documents that were simply being discarded in the trash.

I bring this up because this move to protect the confidential nature of the office was vociferously opposed by Legislator Sklarski who said the few hundred dollar expenditure was somewhat of a "budget buster."

I still shake my head over that one.

As an expert in employee health care issues, I administered the county’s self-funded health insurance and workers compensation funds.

I am especially proud of the fact that I initiated a transition of the County’s self-funded medical plan to the Independent Health provider network. A move which has saved the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollar without having to negotiate a change in health care plans.

There is much more that I could list, but this will suffice for now.

Although my public record, or anyone's public record, is "fair game" for critique, I would hope that you would take the time to learn something about someone other than 2nd and 3rd hand "talking points" before casting stones.

What do they call it?

Politics of personal destruction?

I thought you wanted to be better than that.

Chuck Naughton

Sail Away said...

Mr. Naughton, Thank you for your insight. However, one single sentence undermines your entire argument. You stated, "While I agree that there are legitimate questions regarding hypocrisy in the political realm raised by the prospect of the Democrats attempting to gain control of the legislature in the same manner as the Republicans have."

That is exactly the point of the post.

As for the Reps being responsible for the costs related to the suit, I can see your point because the County Attorney made the decision to hire outside counsel.

My response to that is this: If this frivolous lawsuit had not been filed in the first place, there would not have been a need for any counsel at all.

Thanks for contributing. Even though we disagree on this issue, I do appreciate your input.

Scott Leffler said...

One point that Chuck makes here has always been a point of discontent for me and that's "County Attorney" Claude Jorge's penchant for hiring outside council. Claude only seems to be around when the GOP wants to be told that they're in the right. Other than that, he's no where to be found.

I would also add that it's hypocritical to argue that the Democrats can't follow the example of the Republicans. You play the rules set forth. Not the ones you wish were imposed ... or to be more Machiavellian, "You deal with the situation at hand, not the situation you wish were at hand."

Eliminating fusion voting would - for the most part - eliminate this whole problem. Register with a party. Run as that. Win or lose as that. Then vote your conscience.

My 2 cents. Free as always.

Fat Tony said...

Again, makes the point that this is a bunch of political nonsense being played out by both sides. There used to be a time when you'd have a good go at during the election and then put things aside to govern for 18 months and then go back at it again during the next campaign. That has all changed and not for the better.

I say throw anyone out of the Legislature who has been there for more than four terms and get some new blood.

Fat Tony said...

Claude Joerg will have to answer for the frivolous fraud lawsuit he brought against the county's own IDA appointments regarding AES. I can't wait to see how much his lawyer friends made off of this deal.

becky said...

my sources are telling me this lawsuit orchestrated by Legislator Burmaster and County Attorney Joerg cost the taxpayers almost $1,000,000. For what? just to funnel taxpayer dollars to Joerg's attorney friends