KINGSTON, N.Y. — Legislator Hector Rodriguez has proposed changing the rules of the Ulster County Legislature to allow lawmakers to remove the body’s chairman.
Rodriguez, D-New Paltz, said the idea of amending the rules to allow for such action has been bandied about by lawmakers over the years.
He said the time to introduce the measure seemed ripe now because the Legislature’s Laws and Rules Committee is currently reviewing the rules under which the Legislature operates.
“We’ve talked about this for years. It’s an idea, I’m sure, that will be discussed,” said Rodriguez. “I’m sure Laws and Rules (Committee) will consider this as part of its overall package of rules.”
Right now, we have no mechanism for that,” he said.
The move comes amid growing dissatisfaction among some county lawmakers over actions by Legislature Chairwoman Terry Bernardo.
Bernardo, R-Accord, was elected to a one-year term as chairwoman of the Legislature in January, in a bipartisan 20-2 vote. Democratic Minority Leader David Donaldson and Legislator Peter Loughran, both city of Kingston Democrats, voted against Bernardo’s election. Rodriguez, D-New Paltz, was absent from the vote.
Since taking office, Bernardo has raised the ire of some fellow legislators, mainly over personnel changes within the legislative offices.
But Rodriguez said that controversy isn’t the impetus behind the resolution.
“Other people, that may be their motivation, but not from my perspective,” he said. “This has been something that’s been discussed internally for a number of years.”
Majority Leader Kenneth Ronk said that although he is “not inherently opposed” to providing a mechanism to remove the chairman, he is concerned that some may use it as an opportunity to attack Bernardo.
Ronk, R-Wallkill, said if the Legislature could legally provide a way to remove the Legislature chairman from office, he would want the rules written in such a way that the action could be taken only under extreme circumstances, which he said don’t currently exist within the Legislature, and only with a three-fourths majority vote of the Legislature.