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.

Committee assignments

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.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Peekskill resident is a former reporter for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, where he covered Sullivan County and later Newburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.

Join the Conversation

10 Comments

  1. Putnam County’s Republican legislators are trying to suppress the representation of Philipstown’s interests at the county government level.

    Nancy Montgomery has been denied — by her fellow legislators — a seat on any legislative committee other than those that they can’t exclude her from.

    This is unprecedented and undemocratic behavior. As a result of this outrageous action, it appears that Republican legislators attach little importance to input from our area of the county regarding such issues as county governance, audit and administration, economic development, energy, health, education and the environment.

    Nancy has been overwhelmingly elected and re-elected in Philipstown, and the portion of Putnam Valley in her district, by voters of all political affiliations because those voters know she is a genuine public servant who always does her homework on county issues. She asks insightful and responsible questions of her fellow legislators on behalf of her constituency and the county as a whole. She is willing to reach across the aisle and work with colleagues in the Legislature to get work done that is beneficial for our end of the county as well as the rest of Putnam.

    Rather than work with Nancy, Republican colleagues have regularly responded to her hard work and concerns for constituents by shouting her down, calling her names and physically intimidating her. Nancy doesn’t back down, which is very fortunate for her constituents.

    Legislator Montgomery will be present at these committee meetings, making her voice heard as she always has, and pulling back the curtain for more transparent government. District 1 representation in Putnam County government will be stronger than ever as we stand with Legislator Montgomery.

    It is time for all of us to push back. Let the Legislature know that they can’t get away with this by attending its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday (Feb. 6) in Carmel. You can also call or email Paul Jonke, the Legislature chair, at 845-808-1020 or [email protected], or write or call County Executive Kevin Byrne, 40 Gleneida Ave., Third Floor, Carmel, NY 10512 or 845-808-1001.

    Hogan is the chair of Philipstown Democrats.

  2. It is so obvious they want to shut out or minimize representation of Philipstown. Putnam County government needs representation from all corners of the county. To shut Nancy Montgomery out of these committees is a bad reflection on our county government and disrespectful to the Philipstown taxpayers and voters.

  3. Eight are so afraid of one. She must be smart. Otherwise, why would they cower at the idea of giving her fair representation — and therefore, give Philipstown fair representation?

    The Republicans are cowards, so they turn into bullies. Sound familiar? One need only look to their national idol(s). Forbidding speech is a breach of democracy, particularly as Nancy Montgomery was democratically elected to speak on behalf of these thousands of taxpayers. Taxation without representation. Sound familiar?

    Nancy Montgomery, a designated representative of this (very economically productive) district, legally merits a place on committees. The Democratic portion of this county is not zero, it is one-ninth, a little above 11 percent. She should have at least 11 percent of committee spots, period. Otherwise, Putnam continues as a banana republic. And the Republic of Putnam remains about as democratic as Myanmar.

  4. What a sad state for Philipstown. After watching the Putnam County Legislature for years on cable, I have seen our representative alienate every other member, either by accusation or by belittlement or just by being rude.

    She can’t accept people disagreeing with her without seeing a conspiracy! Nancy needs to accept that other people may see things differently than she does, and that is OK. Maybe she is the problem. Could it be she isn’t selling her points?

    People say it’s anti-democratic to keep her off the committees — that is just the latest accusation to be used to stop debate. It’s just silly. Maybe Nancy should build consensus for her ideas instead of accusing the members of wrongdoing. What she sows is what she receives.

    1. To clarify a few things:

      (1) No Putnam County meetings are on cable TV. Nancy has been proposing to make livestream meetings available to the public for years. In fact, she actually put together a budget to livestream the meetings and officially proposed it, only to be denied by the Republican majority. She supports an open and transparent government.
      (2) As the only Democrat on the Legislature, Nancy is no stranger to differences of opinions and the lack of deliberation, and she remains open to discussion despite it being met with great hostility. She is very collaborative.
      (3) If you look at her voting record, she has voted with her Republican colleagues more than 90 percent of the time.
      (4) It was Nancy, a Democrat, who fiercely defended the Sheriff’s Department when the Republicans were cutting its budget.

      In short, some people may not appreciate Nancy’s assertive style, but despite being outnumbered and dismissed with hostility, we remain grateful that she continues to fight for an open and transparent government. Everyone who knows Nancy knows that she would be open to talking. Why not give her a call?

  5. This is not a personality contest. Nancy Montgomery was elected by the voters and taxpayers in Philipstown and she must not be blocked from representing us.

  6. It sounds like taxation without representation for the citizens of Philipstown. It’s bad enough we don’t get any of our sales tax back [through sharing with towns and villages], like many counties do, but now they have taken away our voice, as well. [via Instagram]

  7. Please come to full Legislature meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6, in the Putnam County Courthouse at the junction of Route 52 and 301 in Carmel. It’s really important for Nancy’s constituents to speak up. And if you want to speak, send an email to [email protected]. Please show up!

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