County Legislator Richard Gerentine [R-Marlborough], and Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said holding a special election for Ulster County Executive is a waste of money – by up to $350,000 after the dust settles.
The special election was called upon the resignation of County Executive Mike Hein, who stepped down to take a job in the Cuomo administration. The measure for a special election passed by a vote of 14-6, with the vote set for April 30th.
Gerentine said the Charter that was approved about 8 years ago is “a little vague” on who has the authority to set up the election.
“We were under the impression that it was the Governor’s authority to call the election if he wanted to; then his office said it wasn’t their purview and the Board of Elections said it was not their authority, so it came back to the [Ulster County] Legislative body and they said we better call an election based on what the Charter says.”
Gerentine said the Charter only states there should be an election.
“It does not say who should call the election; it just said if somebody resigns within 180 days of November, they shall have an election,” he said.
Gerentine said probably nothing would happen if there was no special election. But if someone were to file an Article 78 suit, the matter would go before a judge who would have to make a decision. He could uphold the scheduling of a special election. Gerentine voted against a special election because of the cost.
“I think it’s outrageous to have an election April 30th and then you’re going to have another election November 5th for the same position; whoever wins April 30th and will probably get ready for November to run again,” he said. “So someone is going to be in there for 7 months.”
Gerentine pointed out that the county could actually save up to $350,000 by not holding the election when factoring in the salary saved of the Chief of Staff who was moved up to the acting County Executive.
Gerentine said the Legislature actually saved county taxpayers $300,000 in the budget last year, pointing out that by approving this April election, “all that money we saved went out the window.” He said it was “totally ludicrous” to approve a special election from a fiscal standpoint.
“It is not prudent to spend that kind of money for someone to be there for a seven month period of time,” he said.
Hein’s chief of staff, Adele Reiter, has been serving as acting county executive since Hein left, and will remain in the post until the result of the special election is certified.
To date, Pat Ryan, of Gardiner, was nominated by the Ulster County Democratic Party to run for County Executive in April. Republicans, on Monday, nominated Jack Hayes, Ulster County Conservative Chairman, to run in the April 30 election.
Republicans first failed to field a candidate at their party convention on Feb. 23, and then they canceled a second convention, scheduled for March 8. The Hayes nomination came just before the 5 p.m. deadline on Monday. He will also appear on the Conservative Party line.
Hayes was town of Gardiner supervisor in 2002 and 2003 and an Ulster County legislator in 2010 and 2011. He lost his 2011 re-election bid to Tracey Bartels, a nonenrolled voter who ran on the Democratic line and now is chairwoman of the county Legislature.
In 2016, Hayes was unsuccessful in his bid to unseat state Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Plattekill.
Ryan, a Kingston native has never before held an elective office. He was nominated at the Feb. 20 Democratic Party convention. He is a West Point graduate who served two tours in Iraq before returning home to start a technology business.
The winner of the April election will serve until the end of the year. The winner of the November election will serve a four-year term starting Jan. 1, 2020.