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Astorino, Lawmakers Dispute Legality of Commissioner's Appointment

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- A legal spat seized the county government Thursday when Chairman Kenneth Jenkins said the county executive's administration asked a public works and transportation commissioner appointee rejected by lawmakers to vote on a $13 million contract.

Legislator Kenneth Jenkins (D-Yonkers) said lawmakers, who have a Democratic majority, voted nine to eight not to send the nominee to the appointments committee on Feb. 13. The legislators' clerk sent a notice to the Republican administration informing them that the decision not to refer the item to committee signaled that "the Board of Legislators has rejected the appointment of Jay T. Pisco as Commissioner of the Department of Public Works and Transportation."

The Board of Acquisition and Contract , which includes County Executive Robert Astorino , Chairman Jenkins, and the public works and transportation commissioner, met Thursday with the deputy county executive filling in for Astorino and Pisco's commissioner status in question.

"I objected to the presence of the person that was presented as the dpw commissioner," said Legislator Kenneth Jenkins (D-Yonkers). "That particular appointment has ended....I also suggested respectfully to the chairman of the committee, which was the deputy county executive, that he have the deputy commissioner from dpw be there so that it would make the vote legal."

Both the deputy county executive and Jenkins voted for several items, however, Jenkins said he rejected a proposal to enter into a $13, 298,970 million contract with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to renovate the Yonkers Joint Wastewater Treatment Plant. The contract is now null, according to Jenkins, who said Pisco's vote should not be counted alongside the deputy county executive's.

"The only item that there would be this contention about would be this one this $13 million contract between the power authority, which never came before the legislators for consideration," said Jenkins, who explained that the last presentation lawmakers got about the project suggests that financing it through bonds may save more than $1 million. "There might be good reasons for funding it through NYPA, but the legislators need to make the decisions all of them are entitled to make and the public is certainly entitled to hear that information as it comes from a commissioner."

Astorino's administration says the county attorney vouched that their actions were legal. Ned McCormack, a press representative in Astorino's office, said legislators would have to refer the nomination at least to the appointments committee, and possibly back out to all legislators, to hold a vote that could reject Pisco.

"This was a procedural vote about whether they go into committee. For [the commissioner] not to be in the role, the board has to take formal action i.e. vote on their appointment not on whether or not to put them into a committee," said McCormack. "Otherwise we consider them to be in their jobs, dually sworn, fully-constituted, with all the authority vested in those roles."

Financing the treatment plant renovation through NYPA will give Westchester an interest rate of .87 percent instead of the 2.38 percent market rate, according to McCormack, who estimated financing through market-rate bonds would cost an additional $1.2 million.

County Attorney Robert Meehan did not return a call for comment.

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