Legislators call for Doherty to step down as chair

Posted 5/5/21



MONTICELLO, NY — “This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans,” said legislator Joe Perrello. “We serve the people.”

Wanting to deliver the …

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Legislators call for Doherty to step down as chair


MONTICELLO, NY — “This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans,” said legislator Joe Perrello. “We serve the people.”

Wanting to deliver the message that they felt left out of Sullivan County governing, four Sullivan County Legislators took their message to the steps of the courthouse in an April 26 press conference. They appealed to the people of Sullivan County with a single message: The people need to stand up and call on their legislators to remove Rob Doherty as chair. The three Democrats—Nadia Rajsz, Luis Alvarez and minority leader Ira Steingart—were joined by the Republican Perrello, who has often opposed Doherty in public meetings. 

Each had a slightly different take on why Doherty’s tenure as chair was problematic. Ultimately they all agree: “The power of the people needs... to say that Rob Doherty needs to stop,” said Rajsz. 

The most recent incident, which led to the press conference, was a special meeting on April 23. Rajsz has said that the meeting was originally scheduled among legislators for Thursday, April 22, at 9:30 a.m. The meeting was eventually announced in press releases for April 23 at 4 p.m. Perrello, Steingart and Alvarez were unable to attend. (Alvarez was with his wife, who is in the hospital.) 

After unsuccessful attempts to videoconference, Rajsz joined the Zoom meeting via audio on her phone. She advocated that nothing needed to be done immediately. She asked that the meeting be postponed to a time when everyone could be there and be prepared. Because she could not appear on video, she was prevented from voting or invoking Rule 36 to lay over the business of the meeting. While the state has allowed phone and video voting via executive order, the county, since it is meeting in person, is reverting to its own rules that stipulate that one can only vote if connected via video. This ruling effectively prevented Rajsz from voting.

The chairman, according to the county’s rules, can call a special meeting with 48-hours’ notice.

For the four legislators, one issue is poor communication. “You can’t have information on the day of a meeting and expect us to make good decisions,” Steingart said. (The legislators have protested handout resolutions and last-minute changes to resolutions, since the proposed lease of the care center and certified home health agency last summer where legislators say they were unaware of what exactly they were voting for.) 

Although Doherty, as chair, has the right to call special meetings, Steingart said Doherty “doesn’t communicate. That’s not working together.” 

The chairman has said that information for meetings is sent out in plenty of time and that it is legislators’ responsibility to read the resolutions. 

Another concern: The four legislators, who are not part of the five-vote majority, argue that they are left out of the work of governing. 

“You should have zero votes going into a meeting,” said Perrello, who has served since 2016, “and come out with five.” His point may have been that meetings are a chance to work together, to compromise as needed and give everyone (and their constituents) a chance to weigh in. With a solid, supportive five votes that are gathered ahead of time, no compromise is necessary.

“I represent you,” said Luis Alvarez. “All I ask is that I be allowed to represent the people... Let me work. Let me do what I know how to do.” 

“We need to change the way we do business in the county,” Perrello said.

Nadia Rajsz, who has frequently sparred with the chairman, has a personal concern as well. “I have never been so disrespected... I am done with being disrespected by Rob Doherty.”

Last Monday, she listed her government experience, including serving as town supervisor and as a legislator since 2016. And “I know how to Zoom,” she said. What the inability to videoconference on April 23 meant was that “I was not afforded the opportunity to vote that day.” 

County director of communications Dan Hust did not know what the technological problem was. “County officials, including our Information Technology Services (ITS) personnel, do not know why legislator Nadia Rajsz was unable to connect by video to the April 23 special meeting of the legislature. The system was and continues to be set up to accommodate all legislators wishing to be seen as well as heard when they are unable to attend in person. ITS does not disallow access to any meeting invitees, and an effort to quash such participation would be visible to viewers in the room, along with being a highly unethical action.”

Despite the different takes, the four legislators agreed that something had to change, and they thought that change begins with Doherty stepping down as chair.

“Wake up,” said Alvarez. “Don’t let this happen anymore.” 

Perrello called on people to talk to their legislators. “Everyone needs to get out there and say, ‘We want public commitment for it to change.’”

“[Doherty’s] actions are a reflection on all of us,” Steingart said early in the press conference. He added later, “I hope the next time we have a meeting, we’ll be working together.”

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