Facing intense public outrage, Republican Monroe County legislators on Friday withdrew legislation they had introduced earlier in the week that would have curtailed the power of the incoming Democratic county executive, Adam Bello.
A memo sent to legislators late in the afternoon from the clerk of the legislature indicated that the bill was withdrawn "at the request of its sponsors." All 17 Republican legislators, who make up the majority in the legislature, had signed on as sponsors.
- PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
- Legislature President Joe Carbone, Republican from Irondequoit speaks to reporters on Thursday, November 14, 2019.
The legislation, known as the CABLE Act of 2019, which stood for "Checks and Balances for Legislative Equality," would have, among other things, given the legislature the power to approve the county executive's choices for the directors of every county department.
Department heads are appointed by the county executive, and the County Charter currently grants the legislature the authority to approve a handful of them.
But the legislation would have amended the charter to require the legislature to approve all of them, and would have expanded the list of positions that needed legislative approval to include deputy county executives, records management officers, and the county lawyer.
That provision prompted widespread public condemnation, and the legislation was decried by Democrats as a thinly-veiled "power grab" by Republicans desperate to retain control of the executive branch.
Robust discussions on social media channels suggested there would have been a huge public turnout in the legislative chamber on Dec. 10, when the legislature was set to meet to discuss and, presumably, pass the bill.
Outgoing County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo had said she supported it.
Bello released a statement following the withdrawal of the legislation, saying he was "pleased" with the development.
"I believe this is the right decision and reflects the will of the community. I look forward to working with my partners in government in the weeks ahead to build a better, more effective county government," the statement read.
The backpedaling came a day after the leaders of the Republican caucus, legislature President Joseph Carbone, of Irondequoit, and Majority Leader Brian Marianetti, of Greece, faced a grilling from reporters at a news conference that was streamed live online.
The conference was intended for them to defend the legislation. But their explanation that the bill was necessary only because a member of the opposing party was assuming the executive office left the them vulnerable to scrutiny over how effectively they had kept tabs on previous Republican administrations.
The pair also revealed that the first time the Republican legislators had seen the bill was at the headquarters of the Monroe County Republican Committee while in the company of the committee's chair, William Napier.
Republicans introduced the legislation at their regular monthly meeting one week after Election Day. The bill was submitted as "a matter of urgency," meaning it could bypass the committee process and be voted on at the following monthly meeting in December.
In a letter to the legislature's clerk explaining the reasons for the withdrawal, Carbone left open the possibility of introducing the bill, or a version of the bill, in the future.
"After feedback from the community and a discussion with County Executive-elect Adam Bello, we have determined the best course of action is to wait until the new year so we may better work together on any amendments to the charter or the administrative code," Carbone's letter read.
"The CABLE Act was intended to increase transparency and accountability in county government, but unfortunately it has resulted in a distraction from many other important issues. Therefore, we find it is better to address these amendments in 2020 and we welcome a healthy and open discussion on these and other important items next year."
David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.