Putnam sidelines Legislature’s sole Democrat
Nancy Montgomery is not only the lone Democratic member of the Putnam County Legislature, she is now also the only legislator without a committee appointment.
Although the Legislature’s eight Republicans appointed Montgomery, who represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, to several boards during an organizational meeting on Jan. 2, Chair Paul Jonke of Southeast kept her off the seven Legislature committees whose rosters are filled by appointments.
Nearly all resolutions that reach the Legislature must first be approved by at least one of the three-person standing committees. While each Republican legislator received assignments to two or three committees, Montgomery will sit in 2024 only on the Budget and Finance Committee, which includes every legislator.
Montgomery is not the first legislator to be shut out of committee assignments. In January 2017, Ginny Nacerino of Patterson, who chaired the Legislature, did not assign a fellow Republican, Dini LoBue of Mahopac, to any committees. LoBue, who lost her bid for reelection later that year, often sparred with her colleagues.
Montgomery, who is in her second, 3-year term, said on Wednesday (Jan. 24) that her exclusion “confirms that this Legislature continues to chip away at the very tenets of democracy.”
“Regardless, I will be present at these committee meetings as I always have, making my voice heard as I always have, and always pulling back the curtain for a more transparent government,” said Montgomery, who is urging supporters to speak up at the Legislature’s next meeting on Feb. 6.
In a letter to Montgomery dated Thursday (Jan. 25) that Jonke shared with The Current, he said he had not assigned her to any committees because of what he claimed was her “inability to work collaboratively, and to act professionally and collegially.”
He accused Montgomery of eight violations, including “flagrantly disregarding” the rules of order, “failing to confine your comments to the merits of the question”; “failing to maintain a courteous tone”; “injecting personal notes into debate, including personal attacks”; and “speaking more than once on a subject before every other legislator choosing to be heard on the subject has spoken without having received the permission of the chair to do so.”
Further, he said, Montgomery had disparaged past actions by the Legislature and engaged in unspecified activities that “disturbed meetings or that hampered the transaction of business.”
He also accused Montgomery of impugning the integrity of the Republican legislators by “accusing them of acting solely for political reasons, when it is glaringly obvious that so many of your actions are entirely political.”
Citing the fact that the eight Republican members meet in caucus outside of public meetings, he said Montgomery had been guilty of wrongly accusing the majority of “improper conduct even after you have been provided with conclusive authority that such discussions are entirely proper, ethical and protected by state law.”
Jonke concluded that Montgomery’s training and experience “were outweighed by your lack of professionalism” and that she was “unfit” for any standing committee.
Montgomery has battled for committee appointments since she began representing District 1 in 2019.
In February 2021, the chair, Toni Addonizio of Kent, removed her from the Personnel Committee, one of two she served on, along with Economic Development & Energy, in 2019 and 2020.
Successive chairs have ignored her requests to be appointed to the Health, Social, Educational and Environmental Committee and the Protective Services Committee. She argued she was well qualified for them based on her experience managing group homes for the developmentally disabled, volunteering for the Philipstown Ambulance Corps and dispatching 911 calls.
She was re-appointed to the Economic Development & Energy Committee in 2021 and 2022 and then removed and appointed to Physical Services in 2023. Her predecessor, Barbara Scuccimarra, a Republican, chaired the Health Committee and served on the Physical Services Committee in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and also served on the Rules Committee in 2016.
Montgomery renewed her request to be appointed to the Health and Protective Services committees on Wednesday in a letter to Jonke.
“You know the committees that I have requested and continue to ignore me,” she wrote. “This year you have chosen to diminish any hope for democracy and eliminate me from any appointed committee.”
Jonke did name her to be the Legislature’s representative to the state’s Forest Practice Board for Region 3, and to its Fish and Wildlife Management Board. She was also appointed to the county’s Capital Projects Committee because it is required to have a member from the minority political party.
During the organizational meeting, Montgomery nominated herself to replace Nacerino as Jonke’s nominee to represent the Legislature on the Putnam County Fire Advisory Board, with Legislator Erin Crowley as alternate.
Montgomery said that she was “not confident” that Nacerino had the emergency-management qualifications to represent the Legislature on the board, but no other legislator seconded her motion and Nacerino’s nomination was approved.
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