Freshman Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan recently vetoed a resolution that would prohibit county officials from serving on local positions at the same time.
“Legislation that focuses on political vendettas against a specific individual rather than good public policy undercuts the public’s faith in government,” Ryan wrote in a press release on Nov. 26. “Protecting and ensuring the public trust is my most solemn responsibility, and one that I take very seriously.”
The only county official who this resolution would have impacted was Assistant Deputy Executive Dan Torres. According to the Town of New Paltz website, Torres also serves as the Town Deputy Supervisor.
The resolution was originally drafted by Legislator Ken Ronk of Shawangunk and Joe Maloney of Saugerties. On Nov. 19, the resolution passed by a margin of one vote at a special meeting with the legislature. The language of the law states that the “Ulster County Legislature believes that prohibiting appointees of county elected officials from holding any such elective public offices would directly protect Ulster County residents by ensuring Ulster County departments and agencies operate to advance the best interests of Ulster County to the exclusion of the interests of other local governmental entities.”
Maloney was not pleased with Ryan’s decision.
“How is anyone to feel that their town is going to get a fair share [of county funds] when the deputy supervisor of New Paltz is in the inner circle of Ulster County Government?” Maloney said.
While opponents claim that the intentions of the resolution are rooted in a political vendetta, Maloney says he worked on it prior to Torres’ appointment. Since the beginning of Maloney’s career as a legislator, he has introduced multiple resolutions to increase transparency and check executive power in Ulster County. He is primarily concerned with appointees who have either made donations to executives or were involved with their campaign: a tactic coined as “pay for play politics.”
Despite these claims, many legislators and local political thinkers still felt that the law was unnecessary. Dr. Gerald Benjamin, director of the SUNY New Paltz Benjamin Center and acclaimed political scholar, shared his opposition to the resolution in a recent interview on Radio Kingston on Nov. 15.
“Government service attracts people who are interested in government; diminishing the pool of potential elected officials by excluding these people from office at a time when there is increasing skepticism about such service seems unwise,” Benjamin said.
Torres was unable to be reached for comment in time for publication.
According to an article published on Hudson Valley One, Ronk said that he fully intends on trying to overturn the veto in the legislature. In order for that to happen, the resolution must be brought up again and receive a two-thirds majority vote to pass. While Maloney said he would fight for this as well, he is not confident that the overturn will prevail.