The splintered Democratic Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature appointed City Councilmember Jackie Ortiz to serve as Democratic elections commissioner, effective immediately.
A group of nine Democrats, led by Legislator Yversha Roman, convened at 8 a.m. Thursday to make the appointment. The meeting was swift with no debate, other than a brief remark from Legislator John Baynes following the vote.
“The motion is adopted and we congratulate Jackie Ortiz as she is Board of Elections Commissioner for Monroe County effective immediately,” Baynes said.
The vote was the latest development in a protracted intra-party skirmish over the elections commissioner post. Deputy Elections Commissioner LaShana Boose has served in an acting capacity since March when the previous Democratic commissioner, Colleen Anderson, resigned for a job in the administration of County Executive Adam Bello.
Party leaders were unable to come up with a plan to replace her and the matter ultimate wound up in court, where state Supreme Court Justice John Ark ordered the Monroe County Democratic Committee to hold an election among its members. Ortiz resoundingly won that election.
The Monroe County Democratic Committee recommended Ortiz for the post on July 27, but Minority Leader Vince Felder and four other Democratic legislators teamed up with the entire Republican caucus to delay her confirmation.
Ark had told the full Legislature that it had 30 days from the date Ortiz was recommended by the MCDC to confirm her or else that choice would fall solely to the Democratic caucus.
Earlier this week, during a caucus meeting, Legislator Baynes asked Felder if he intended to push for a vote on Ortiz before that 30 days was up. When Felder said he wouldn’t, Baynes motioned for a leadership vote. Felder ended the call by nine of the legislators voted to install Yversha Roman as minority leader.
Roman called this morning’s meeting to vote on Ortiz’s confirmation.The other eight members to participate were Rachel Barnhart, Josh Bauroth, John Baynes, Linda Hasman, Howard Maffucci, Joe Morelle Jr., Justin Wilcox, and Michael Yudelson. All nine of the Democrats voted for Ortiz.
Absent from the meeting were Felder and the newly formed Black and Asian Democratic Cacus, whose members include Assistant Minority Leader Ernest Flagler-Mitchell and legislators Sabrina LaMar, Calvin Lee, and Frank Keophetlasy.
Where this winding saga goes next is unclear. Felder insists that he’s still minority leader and that the leadership vote was illegitimate.
“Any meeting of the Democratic Caucus must be called by the Leader, or any actions taken are invalid,” Felder argued in a statement yesterday. “As such, any appointment made at a meeting not called by the Leader is invalid.”
Other current and former legislators argue that the caucus can meet at any time, that the leader doesn’t have to call such a meeting, and that the leader can be replaced at will by a majority vote of the caucus.
The two sides are expected to appear in front of Ark on Friday for a previously scheduled check-in conference. At least some of the recent events are likely to come up, and Ark had previously encouraged Democratic leadership to confirm Ortiz for elections commissioner.
Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.