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Legislature Democrats take issue with committee appointment ratio

By WKTV News

(WKTV) - With the new year comes a new and smaller Oneida County Legislature and some Democratic members say they are not being fairly represented when it comes to committees.

The committees are appointed by the chairman of the board of legislators, Republican Gerald Fiorini of Rome. And the Democrats in the legislature are not happy with the numbers Fiorini has come up with.

The Democrats, led by Minority Leader Frank Tallarino, also of Rome, had a press conference Thursday morning at the Oneida County Office Building in Utica.

After a loss of six legislative seats because of the reduction, the makeup of the legislature after November's election went from 16-13 in favor of the Republicans to 13-10 -- still in the favor of the Republicans.

Tallerino says the committees do not reflect the percentage of representation voted in by county residents. He says the committees have been chosen by a Republican and are made of more Republicans than they should be.

Committees -- such as the Ways and Means committee, which was an 11-member board -- is now a nine-member board. The numbers went from 7-4 to 6-3, basically losing one Democrat and one Republican. The makeup is now 66 percent to 33 percent, which is a lot higher than the 13-10 legislative makeup of about 55 percent to 45 percent. Democrats believe the nine-member committees should be 5-4.

"They elected, for instance, 10 Democrats and 13 Republicans," Tallarino said. "But the rules of the board say that in the makeup of a committee, the chairman does not have to reflect the makeup of what was mandated by the public in the last election.

"That could become a constitutional issue, then if it is, there's the opportunity to take it through the courts."

Fiorini says there was no ulterior motive to the committee appointments.

"It wasn't in my thought process whatsoever," he said. "I looked at the best people that are there and I had to take one off of each committee. That's what I did."

But Tallarino says the chairman didn't have to take just one off of each committee. He could have made it more balanced based on political party, instead of less.

Tallarino says he is asking the attorney general to take a look at the way committees are selected to see if the process is unconstitutional.

Unless the attorney general decides Oneida County law is unconstitutional in regards to allowing the chairman of the board to chose committees whatever way he or she feels fit, the committees will remain as they are.

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