Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature announced Friday that they will choose the next Democratic county elections commissioner, a stark departure from precedent spurred by infighting within the county Democratic Party.
The Monroe County Board of Elections, like other elections boards in New York, is overseen by a pair of co-commissioners, a Republican and a Democrat.
The position of Democratic commissioner has been vacant since March 5, when the former commissioner, Colleen Anderson, resigned to take a job in the administration of County Executive Adam Bello.
Her deputy, LaShana Boose, has been the acting commissioner ever since, as required by state law.
But Boose has not been confirmed by the Legislature, as is also required by law, in part because county Democratic Party leaders were unable to settle on a process for selecting the next commissioner.
“It is unfortunate that the Democratic legislators have been placed in this position because of the inability of the Monroe County Democratic Committee to select a candidate, but we will do our job and make sure we have a fully functioning Board of Elections to serve the voters in Monroe County,” Vince Felder, the legislature’s minority leader, said in a statement.
The statement invited anyone interested in the job, which pays a starting annual salary of $102,903 and can rise to $130,000 over time, to submit an application by 4 p.m. Monday, May 11.
The announcement comes a week after Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren called on the Legislature’s Democratic caucus to select a commissioner, contending that legislators had a duty to act.
State election law outlines a straightforward process for installing an election commissioner.
When a vacancy occurs, the leaders of the respective party -- in this case, the Monroe County Democratic Committee -- are to recommend a candidate for commissioner to the county Legislature within 45 days of the seat being open. Legislators are then to vote within 30 days to formally appoint the candidate.
When the county's Republican commissioner, Douglas French, stepped down in February, the party swiftly named a successor, Lisa Nicolay, and the Legislature confirmed the appointment.
But if the party does not recommend a candidate, or legislators do not act on the recommendation within 30 days, legislators from the party in question -- in this case, Democrats -- may appoint the commissioner.
The county Democratic Committee did not recommend Boose or any other candidate to the Legislature within 45 days of the vacancy, which expired last month.
Party officials previously explained that their plans for a party convention that would have allowed hundreds of party members to weigh in on the selection were derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.
But some leaders within the party have complained that the process was stalled by backroom haggling over whether to install Boose.
The announcement that Democratic legislators would choose the next commissioner prompted a swift rebuke from a few of them, who issued their own statement saying that their caucus did not agree to make a selection.
"We believe the members of the Monroe County Democratic Committee should choose the next commissioner, and the legislature should act only as a last resort," the statement read.
Boose, who has enjoyed public support from the mayor on two unsuccessful runs for City Council, was hired as the Democratic deputy commissioner of elections in August.
When it became clear that the commissioner job would open, Boose initially applied, but later withdrew her application. She has since said she would accept the job should she be appointed.
Interested applicants can send a resume to the staff director of the Legislature's Democratic caucus, Dennis O'Brien, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In his statement, Felder, the minority leader, said once candidates have been screened, the caucus will schedule interviews, and make an appointment.
David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.