Special to WPCNR A crash Common Council meeting held in Executive Session Thursday night, resulted in the Common Council holding off appointing a sixth interim councilperson to fill the seat currently being contested in Appellate Court. The Council will conduct Monday evening’s meeting with five councilpersons and the Mayor with one seat vacant.
A 9-page Confidential Brief by city Corporation Counsel Edward Dunphy, drawing on 5 cases from 1837,1926,1951, 1964 and 1972, cites city inability to determine which council seat is vacant, (former Councilperson Pauline Oliva’s seat or Larry Delgado’s seat) as the crucial factor in preventing Larry Delgado from continuing on the Common Council.
This ambiguity of whose seat it is, prevents the Public Officer’s Law from kicking in, allowing Mr. Delgado to holdover, in Mr. Dunphy’s analysis of these five decisions.
According to the key conclusion of the “Dunphy Doctrine,” The fact that Mrs. Oliva (Pauline) did not seek re-election is not controlling. The controlling principle is that there is more than one incumbent and as a result, a vacancy is not capable of being identified and there cannot be a (Delgado/Oliva) holdover. This result might have been different if one of the incumbents had resigned. This last consideration is not before us and is of no consequence.”
The Public Officers Law holds that in a vacancy occurring through a normal expiration of term, with successor not chosen an incumbent holds over. (See previous WPCNR article on the holdover issue.)
Confidential Brief Delivered Thursday Morning to the Seating Five
The confidential brief analyzed the issue of a Delgado “holdover,” or a council interim appointment, was hand-delivered to all five seating councilpersons Thursday morning: Benjamin Boykin, Jr., Robert Greer, William King, Rita Malmud, and Thomas Roach. All but Robert Greer agreed to an Executive Session Thursday evening to discuss the issues with Mr. Dunphy. Mr. Greer, according to our correspondent, had a prior commitment he could not break.
Our correspondent advises us that the meeting apparently was held off until 8 PM, because city law requires that there be six hour notice before any meeting of the Common Council is held.
Dunphy brings Council Up to Date on Election Case
The meeting began in the Mayor’s council room, with Edward Dunphy taking center stage. Dunphy reported that as of 8 PM no decision had been reached in Appellate Court regarding the Adam Bradley-filed appeal of Judge Francis Nicolai, Jr.’s call for a continuation of the election. Dunphy, our reporter says, revealed that in the early years of his career, he was a law clerk in the Appellate Division.
Dunphy said, the Appellate Division usually moves very quickly in an election matter. He expressed surprise that the court will have had the Delgado/Hockley matter before it for three weeks as of Friday morning.
Dunphy is reported saying that no matter what the Appellate Court decides, it was likely that the losing interest would appeal to the Court of Appeals in Albany. Then the Council moved to Executive Session to discuss Mr. Dunphy’s brief.
After executive session briefing, Council releases “Dunphy Doctrine” to Public. Basis for their decision.
According to our CNR reporter, “The vote that was taken, after the public was invited back into the room (Mayor’s Council Chamber), at the conclusion of the executive session, was for the Common Council to waive the attorney/client privilege and to now authorize the release to the public of the heretofore confidential memo prepared by Corporation Council Ed Dunphy and which was distributed solely to the Common Council.
Boykin says no action contemplated. Awaiting Appellate Court Decision.
Our correspondent reports that after the executive session ended, Councilman Benjamin Boykin told reporters that “Dunphy’s memo spoke to the inability of former Councilman Delgado to take the position that he is a ‘holdover’ councilman and further (Boykin stated) that the Council would not be moving in the direction of appointing an individual, themselves, to fill the empty seventh seat on the Council.”
Our reporter adds that “the White Plains Common Council will be further instructed and guided by the eventual decision which will be issued by the Second Department of the New York State Appellate Division.”
Short Council has to vote ordinances twice to put them into law.
WPCNR’s correspondent reports Dunphy strongly urged the council not to appoint an interim councilperson. Our man on the scene advised that the Council will have to hear ordinances twice before they can be voted into law, as a consequence of having a “short” council. A meeting as been scheduled for 8 AM Wednesday, he says to hear a second reading of an ordinance on the Monday Council agenda.
Mr. Dunphy’s conclusion to his brief confirms this:
…When is a vacancy created, is not a novel issue; nor is the invocation andinterpretation of the controlling provision of the Public Officers Law, a question of recent vintage. Importantly, you can see, the holdover provision is not nearly as clear cut as first envisioned. As we have seen, its operation is very fact specific and it can be concluded that where the vacancy is identifiable, an incumbent can holdover. But in the facts confronting the City of White Plains, the vacancy certainly is not identifiable. Consequently, there can not be holdover.
Mr. Dunphy further reasons against vacancy identification,
An attempt to argue that a vacancy is identifiable in White Plains because incumbent Rita Malmud was re-elected and candidate Thomas Roach was elected and both certified by the Board of Elections, can be made. Mathematically it could be seen that these two were successful, in that they have filled two of the three positions on the Common Council, therefore, the third position is open and identifiable.
This argument has surface appeal, but when that strata is pierced, that argument evaporates rapidly.
And makes his play–
The vacancy is unidentifiable because two incumbents remain, Mrs. Oliva and Mr. Delgado. The fact that Mrs. Oliva (Pauline) did not seek re-election is not controlling. The controlling principle is that there is more than one incumbent and as a result, a vacancy is not capable of being identified and there cannot be a (Delgado/Oliva) holdover. This result might have been different if one of the incumbents had resigned. This last consideration is not before us and is of no consequence.
A nod to the Appellate Court…
Additionally, we must also recognize that the Appellate Division instructed that Messrs. Delgado and Hockley are presently barred from taking any steps towards the filing of an oath of office. This directive must be tempered by the realization that a holdover is not required to execute and file an oath of office…
Mr. D. Concludes With a Strong Advisory Not to Appoint an Interim Replacement Councilperson
As a final matter, a controlling consideration is what does the City do without its full complement of legislative officials? This answer is proved by the Foley Court, wherein Special Term noted that this fact was of little consequence because the government does not fail to function with less than seven members. The work will proceed with six, until a successor is chosen and there will be no interruption in government.