A resolution to appoint Dave Dybas to the vacant fourth ward alderman’s position was voted down 2-1 with one abstention at this evening’s common council meeting. The resolution was introduced by Alderman Jim Martuscello, a Democrat, who cast the only yes vote. Aldermen Bill Baaki and Paul Ochal, both Republicans, voted no, Alderman Art Iannuzzi, a Democrat, abstained.
Dybas was chosen by a 26-6 vote at a Montgomery County Democratic Committee meeting on Monday as the party’s recommendation to fill the vacant spot until the end of the year, and to run on the Democratic party line for the position in this November’s election. Dybas formerly held the council position from 2012 to 2013, and is also a former Montgomery County supervisor.
While New York State law specifies that the majority vote by a county committee decides who will appear on the party’s ballot line, the city’s charter gives the council the deciding vote on the interim appointment, as long as the replacement is affiliated with the same party as the last person who held the position.
The charter also specifies that the position must be filled within 30 days of the vacancy. Given Rodney Wojnar resigned on August 20, the council has little time left in order to comply with the charter.
At the beginning of the meeting, Baaki also voted no to a motion to add the resolution to the regular agenda, citing lack of notice given as to who the Democrat’s pick was.
After the meeting, Baaki said, “It’s an issue that’s of significant importance that we should have had notice ahead of time. To not have notice or time to think or discuss with, or get input from my constituents – I just couldn’t vote for it at this time.”
Ochal said he had only learned about the party pick this morning. He said, “I agree that there wasn’t any time to consider it very much. I was anticipating a different name coming up.”
Guy Cappuccio, who received six votes at the Democratic meeting on Monday, was the only other prospect besides Dybas to appear before the committee to speak and answer questions.
Iannuzzi said he abstained because of “the whole way it played out, it just didn’t work.”
Asked for clarification, he referred to the previous night’s committee meeting without further elaboration.
“I’m not saying no to it, but I’m not saying yes to it either. The electorate is undoubtedly going to elect who they feel is best suited for that ward. They didn’t need my yes vote,” he added.
While Martuscello voted yes, he was clear after the meeting that he did not favor Dybas, but acted out of loyalty to the recently appointed City of Amsterdam Democratic Committee Chair Chad Majewski, who previously served with Martuscello on the council.
“I only voted yes because I made my commitment to the city chairman,” said Martuscello.
Referring to the state of the city’s finances, and Dybas’ previous term on the council, Martuscello added, “Personally, I would have voted no also because he was part of the administration that put us in the hole that we are in.”
“At the meeting last night, he got up and made a big statement about how the city is in the hole. He never has any solutions. I’d be open to listen to any solutions to get us out,” he said. “When he was alderman, that’s the time – like I’m doing right now – to try to get us out of the hole. I don’t think you should say anything without having a solution.”
Reached for comment after the meeting, Majewski said that he was “disappointed” with the council vote. He said that historically, the council has respected the party recommendations for interim appointments and cited the fact that he voted with the council last year to approve Baaki, the Republican Party recommendation, to fill the vacancy in the first ward position, even though he knew little about him.
“Dave has been a lifelong Democrat. He’s served for our city and county committees for decades,” said Majewski.
He said the 26-6 vote by the committee on Monday “was a great representation of the committee, it was a great representation of the Democrats in the county and the city. And that’s why we chose to go with Mr. Dybas.”
Today marked the second time this year that the council has not voted for the Democratic party’s recommendation. After Majewski’s resignation in June, the council opted to appoint Art Iannuzzi over the party’s choice of Irene Collins to serve as third ward alderman. In a primary race on September 13, fourth ward Democrats voted for Collins over Iannuzzi to appear on the party line this November.
Citing the recent primary decision, Majewski questioned whether the council members were looking out for the best interests of city residents.
“Just like when we chose to go with [Collins], and they appointed someone else. And then the primary proved what the Democrats were looking for,” said Majewski.
“This is dirty politics,” said Majewski. Then referring to the 2015 election where 4 of the 5 council seats went to challengers, he added, “Last time that this was happening, the council was cleared out. If they don’t start cleaning up their act soon, I’m fearful that the council will be cleared out again.”
Majewski said that he may call an emergency Democratic committee meeting to discuss the issue, or possibly work with Martuscello to re-introduce the resolution to appoint Dybas at a future special meeting which would allow the other members more time to consider the issue.