Republicans are at issue with the White Plains Common Council’s decision to have an expeditious special election to seat a new mayor, saying it disenfranchises other parties and voters, especially those serving in the military.
The city’s also says the city’s acting mayor, Council President Thomas Roach, is in violation of the federal Hatch—Democrats say its desperate all smear tactics to cover up the party’s lack of a solid candidate.
“The White Plains Common Counsel has very effectively cut off the participation of the military and countless others in the upcoming election for their own partisan political purpose,” said White Plains Republican Committee Chairman Brian Maloney.
The wholly Democratic council approved the March 31 special election date, which would decide who would fill out the remainder of former Mayor Adam Bradley’s term, which lasts until 2013. Bradley, , was the first mayor in city history to resign. Democrats say the city needs a speedy special election to return White Plains to a state of normalcy after having a mayor who was convicted of domestic violence, and the subject of an in office. The latest date the special election could be held is April 18.
“The bottom line is the city’s been in limbo for almost a year, and I am working hard to try and change that direction and restore the positive feeling in the city,” said Roach. “Whether I’m mayor after the election or not is immaterial. We need to get back to normal in this city with an elected mayor, and move forward. That’s what I’m pushing for. No one is at advantage, everyone found out at the same time that Adam was stepping down.”
Currently, there are 11 military service people in White Plains who get absentee ballots sent to them—five are Democrats, 2 are Republicans, 3 are non-affiliated and 1 is registered with the Independence Party.
“The reality is that by the time they learn about the election, apply for a ballot, execute the ballot—the election will be over,” said Maloney.
Republican Commissioner of the Westchester County Board of Elections Doug Colety, however, says the problem isn’t getting ballots to people, but that people who are registered to get absentee ballots won’t be aware of the election, and therefore won’t request one. He said the early election even affects the ability of voters at home to become aware of the election and party candidates.
“There’s no real issue of conducting the election, just making the public aware of the election and candidates,” said Colety. “It [having a later election] would have allowed more time for the election to be publicized. Those citizens, in White Plains in the military, would have had more time to become aware of the election, so they could request absentee ballots. “
Democrats acknowledged the short time frame, but say that is the nature of a special election, and that current law states a special election must take place within 60 days of a vacancy. Roach said he has spoken with the board of elections to ensure whatever can be done to make military personnel aware of the election is done.
“You do a special election, when you have to do one,” said Reginald LaFayette, the Democratic commissioner of the Westchester County Board of Elections.
The additional 18 days wouldn’t be enough time to reach out to all local military service people overseas anyway, according to LaFayette.
“This all plays to public sympathy. We all love our military personnel and those who put their life on the line for us and would all like to see them participate,” said LaFayette. “We have no idea how many folks from Westchester from White Plains are registered to vote in the military, except those who notify us.”
The board of elections doesn’t keep a record of all military service personnel who are local residents. Different parties distribute election/candidate notification to individual homes of registered voters. The board of elections mails out notification of the primary and general elections twice a year, and publishes a notification of the election and a list of candidates in newspapers
Click here if you are a member of the military and would like to request an absentee ballot.
“I think they [Republicans] should stop trying to mislead the public. Everything he [Maloney] has come up with is not really factual,” said LaFayette.
The GOP chair has also alleged that Roach is violating the federal Hatch Act, since he is acting mayor, voted to set the special election date and plans to run in the race. The Hatch Act generally limits activities Federal employees partake in, however, there can be exceptions.
“Whether an individual is covered by the Hatch Act is a very fact specific determination,” said Erica Hamrick, the deputy chief for the Hatch Act Unit of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
Hamrick said that state or local government employees could be covered by the act if duties they perform that are connected to an activity financed by federal funds.
Maloney notified U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that he feels Roach is violating the Hatch act and that he boasted of his efforts to secure a $1.9 million federal grant to re-hire firefighters.
“In addition to the analysis that follows, it is my position that in his coterminous roles as Common Council President and Member of the Common Council, Mr. Roach is clearly violating the Hatch Act,” said Maloney, in his letter to Napolitano. “The Acting Mayor Roach directly is in control of Federal funds cannot be questioned. Further, Mr. Roach has been quiet vocal on his election campaign, in trumpeting the acceptance of such funds.” Calls to Napolitano’s office were not returned.
Maloney has warned Roach to step down. Roach, who is not getting paid in his role as acting mayor, said he will not and that the City’s legal counsel said the Hatch Act would not apply to this situation.
“We gave it to our law department and it [the Hatch Act] doesn’t apply to elected official,” said Roach.
LaFayette says the GOP is trying to stall since they can’t find a candidate.
“He wants to damage Roach’s reputation to make it seem like this is something that really isn’t,” said LaFayette. “Normally, people do something like that when they are desperate. There’s no merit to it.”
The Democratic nominating committee has interviewed Roach, Councilman Benjamin Boykin and County Legislator William Ryan, and recommended that the White Plains Democratic City Committee choose Roach as their candidate on March 10.
Maloney said the Republicans will choose a candidate by March 11, but did not name any contenders. News12 reported that Westchester County Association President William Mooney and former NFL star Bob Hyland as possible Republican candidates.
The White Plains CitizenNetReporter said former Councilman Glen Hockley would run on his independent line. So far, no one has submitted an independent petition to run as mayor. The last day to submit one, which requires 743 signatures, is March 11.