Chaos in Carmel

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Legislators shut down meeting after criticism from Montgomery

The Putnam County Legislature adjourned in chaos on Tuesday (June 1) after Legislator Nancy Montgomery accused her colleagues of partisanship and undermining democracy, and they blasted her for “grandstanding.” 

Montgomery, who represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, is the Legislature’s only Democrat; the other eight members are Republicans. 

The acrimony capped the Legislature’s formal monthly meeting, held by audio connection under ongoing pandemic restrictions. 

Though not the only source of friction, a resolution granting special subpoena powers to the Legislature’s three-man Rules Committee sparked the meltdown. 

The Rules Committee had passed the measure 11 days earlier and sent it to the full Legislature for action. It extends the Rules Committee’s authority to any matter under the Legislature’s jurisdiction — which means nearly anything in county government — and allows the committee, or any of its members, to launch investigations and issue subpoenas to county officials and others to obtain information.

The Legislature and its committees have those powers already under the county charter and state law, but Robert Firriolo, the Legislature’s counsel, said in May that the resolution would consolidate responsibility in the Rules Committee, which he called the “catch-all” panel for legislative business.

During the committee discussion on May 20, Montgomery had questioned the need to expand Rules Committee authority. She expressed doubts again on Tuesday.

“Why should the Rules Committee, or any member of the Rules Committee, have any more power?” she asked. “It appears that we’re providing the Rules Committee with subpoena power that could be used politically.” 

She also said subpoenas might be directed at citizens, leaving “their privacy completely unprotected.” She called the push “a waste of time” and repeated the assertion the change was politically motivated. 

“To say something is politically motivated is very insulting,” countered Legislator Carl Albano of Carmel, a Rules Committee member. Legislators “have to learn facts” and a subpoena “may be a necessary tool we use to get the facts.” Likewise, he asserted, it “is inaccurate” to say “we’re jeopardizing people’s rights.”

When Montgomery attempted to speak again, Legislator Neal Sullivan of Carmel-Mahopac, who chairs the committee, and others urged an immediate vote on the measure, which passed, 8 to 1, with Montgomery in dissent.

Before the subpoena vote, legislators clashed with Montgomery on the appointment of three members of the Board of Health. She sought to postpone action, saying she had only received the candidates’ resumes two hours earlier. She also contended that she had been cut off when attempting to ask questions at a May committee meeting, the usual forum for discussion of pending agenda items. 

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic” but are rushing through appointments to a board that sets policy on public health, she said. “We need to take a look at how we establish these boards.”

Her colleagues rebuffed her and approved the appointments.

The arguments resumed later, during the period reserved for remarks by legislators.

“Tonight Montgomery once again took over the Legislature with her out-of-order comments, snide remarks and unprofessional demeanor toward the Legislature,” Legislator Amy Sayegh of Mahopac complained. “The only political motivation I see during these meetings is the grandstanding and skewing of the narrative of issues by the minority [party] legislator. I take offense that we’re accused of organizing in a partisan manner for doing the business of Putnam County.” 

Referring to herself as “open” and “respectful,” Sayegh said that “time and time again my voice is overshadowed by the grandstanding of one legislator. This is not fair to the people of Putnam County, not fair to the other legislators, not fair to the process.”

Montgomery observed that “I made no comments about anyone personally. I made comments about procedure.”

An unidentified female voice tried to silence her. 

Other legislators joined in. Cries of “out of order” competed with “you’re out of line” and “you don’t have the floor,” aimed at Montgomery, and pleas to Legislator Toni Addonizio of Kent, who chairs the Legislature, to “end the meeting.” 

“Time and time again the Republican Legislature does not allow the Democratic minority leader to speak,” Montgomery persisted. “And there goes democracy down the drain in the Putnam County Legislature.” 

Sullivan shot back that “this has nothing to do with democracy. It has to do with common sense and respect for the body we’re part of.”

“That means allowing legislators to have the floor when they request it,” Montgomery told him.

“You don’t have to prolong the meeting,” an unidentified legislator loudly informed Addonizio.

The cacophony continued until Addonizio announced a vote to adjourn, which passed. 

The meeting shut down. 

The sound feed did not. 

Still on-air, legislators cited their frustrations over Montgomery. “How do we even get a censure?” a male legislator wondered. “We’ve got to do something to have these meetings in control.”

Montgomery overheard. “Allow me to speak,” she advised. 

10 thoughts on “Chaos in Carmel

  1. I think that when you are using the political system for your own personal agenda what you show the people of Philipstown and the county of Putnam is that you are once again self serving. Time to start working together for the best of our town and community. Let’s all start looking at what’s best for all.

    • The people of Philipstown know exactly whose agenda Nancy Montgomery is working for. It is not hers, it is ours. No public comment, friends and families placed in highly paid positions, questionable (at best) spending, refusal to share sales tax revenue with a village that is buried with tourists every weekend. Enough is enough. We need more people like Nancy on that board and we need Dini LoBue back — a true conservative Republican who was booted by Club Putnam because she actually cared about being fiscally conservative.

  2. Oh so typical…. The Dems are nothing but gas, no substance. They live on the largesse of the news media who are the willing participants in giving them the spotlight to pontificate their lies. The Soviet Union/Russia had Tass and Pravda, we have The New York Times and the Washington Post. Germany had Joseph Goebbels and we have the Biden Administration. Only in America!

  3. Thank you for your service and your voice, Nancy Montgomery. Asking her to let things slip and see “what’s best for all” is more gaslighting. Legislator Montgomery is laser-focused on what is best for the whole county.

  4. How ironic that the June 1 meeting of the Rules Committee of the Putnam County Legislature regarded expanding its powers but descended into the anarchy that occurs whenever a group will not follow the basic rules. It’s one more reason this committee should not have more power: It can’t even enforce elementary protocols for speaking time.

    How about this idea, since it seems to have never occurred to this group before: 1) Propose one of your typically corrupted and/or pointless pieces of legislation; 2) Allow Legislator Nancy Montgomery her full time to speak without interruption, to enter into the record a full account of how this proposal is not in the public’s best interest; 3) Proceed to pass your corrupted and/or pointless legislation by an 8-1 vote; 4) Move on to the next piece of business.

    Oh, and one more “rule” that should be enforced but likely won’t be: no more “audio-only” calls on these Zoom meetings. Turn on your cameras! What are you afraid of? What are you hiding?

    The Republicans’ insults and interruptions against Legislator Montgomery are an embarrassment to their constituencies. But no shame over here in Philipstown, justproudly and gratefully in support of Nancy Montgomery.

  5. Imagine this scenario: The Philipstown Town Board demands subpoena power to call people in against their will and question them on a range of subjects. How would that be received? There would be an outcry the likes of which has never been heard nor witnessed.

    How is it that the majority-Republican Putnam County Legislature is willing to stomp all over citizens’ rights to privacy, their rights against illegal search and seizure and the freedoms that Republicans so vocally support? When it comes to truth and substance, the only legislator standing up for our rights is a Democrat, Nancy Montgomery. I hope Nancy continues to hold her colleagues accountable.

    Shea is the Philipstown supervisor.

  6. Nancy Montgomery is the only honest and reasonable legislator in Carmel. She fights for democracy among a craven group of authoritarians. [via Facebook]

  7. Keep up your efforts, Nancy, and thank you for representing the dissenting voice in the county. [via Facebook]

  8. How unfortunate for the people of Philipstown and Putnam County that another legislative meeting erupted in chaos. By all accounts, the disruption has been consistent for the past two-and-a-half years. Legislator Nancy Montgomery continues her combative reign with little in the accomplishment column for the people she represents. In fact, we have lost a great deal because of her inability to gain consensus with her fellow legislators and the county executive.

    She cannot blame party politics for everything. Sam Oliverio was a lone Democrat, very professional and successful. I had the pleasure of working with him in a bipartisan way. After my six years of bringing successful initiatives like the senior center, Tobacco 21 and a collection of strong environmental resolutions forward, I am concerned for the people of Philipstown. We will never be truly productive if we don’t work together.

    At the last legislative meeting regarding subpoena power, Montgomery missed the point. She does not realize it has nothing to do with citizen privacy. It has everything to do with allowing the Legislature to get the information needed to make an educated decision. I recommend she brush up on Robert’s Rules of Order if she is ever to be a successful legislator. This is not about red or blue but understanding what the role of a legislator is; if we keep this up, we will never get anything done.

    Scuccimara, who lost her seat on the county Legislature to Montgomery in 2018, will again be her Republican opponent on the November ballot.