Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Mayorial Comedy of Rochester

The Comedy which is the mayoral election keeps getting better every day and to make sure all can follow along at home it is important to understand the events which got us here. In June, Bob Duffy was chosen as the democratic candidate for Lt. Governor and was most likely going to win. At that point the city’s top lawyer was Tom Richards and the Deputy Mayor was Patty Malgieri. As November approached, the Cuomo-Duffy ticket became more certain of victory and the changes started to happen. 

Patty Malgieri resigned and after a delay, Tom Richards was named Deputy Mayor in November, only days before the Cuomo victory. The Charter of Rochester states that in the case that the mayor cannot fulfill his duties, the “deputy mayor shall act as the mayor”. Unfortunately no one in the administration, City Council, or Democratic Party understood that to “act as” is not the same as to “be,” despite the plentiful supply of lawyers. City Council was left with two choices: to fill the vacancy with an appointee who would serve until an election could be held in November of 2011, or to have a special election early in 2011.

Here is where the facts start to form the pattern of a plot. City Council held hearings and found that the public was strongly in favor of an appointment, but Tom Richards, the ex-top lawyer who misread the charter and apparently does not understand the Hatch Act, announced he would run for mayor but only in a special election. City Council went along with it under the guise that they needed continuity of all the good things going on in Rochester (yes, this really was their reason). 

In January, Duffy resigned and Tom Richards was sworn in as Mayor. Unfortunately that little phrase “shall act as” entered the picture and it started to become apparent that he was not going to be a legal candidate because of the Hatch Act. The problem is that the Deputy Mayor is an employee, not an elected official, and it is illegal for an employee to run for office if they handle federal money unless they resign. If he was Mayor he was fine, but if he was Deputy Mayor acting as Mayor then there was a problem. At first Richards claimed the charge was groundless - but then a week later he changed his tune. In a press conference he announced that this took him by surprise, and, though he does not think it applies to him, he would resign. 

So in order to preserve the continuity we have a third mayor in a month and all because the city’s top lawyer did not read or understand the charter. Who is to blame for all this? Tom Richards. The same man who wants to be our mayor to 'preserve continuity' - such as the fiasco we just went through.

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