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Monroe County Legislature Fails to Vote on Ortiz Appointment

Patti Singer

The Monroe County Board of Elections remains without a permanent Democratic commissioner after the Monroe County Legislature did not vote Aug. 11 on the proposed appointment of Jackie Ortiz.

When the scheduled item came up for consideration, Democrat Ernest Flagler-Mitchell objected, citing an ongoing court case.

“Currently there is a court order that precludes this body from making an appointment to this position and this case is still pending,” Flagler-Mitchell said “Therefore, I ask that this item be removed from consideration and not voted on at this time until the court case is closed.”

In a roll call vote, five Democrats and the 15-member Republican majority voted to call off the vote on the appointment. The tally was 20-9.

“This evening, we chose to respect members of the Democratic Caucus and support their objection to consideration of the appointment of Jackie Ortiz to the position of Democratic Elections Commissioner,” Republican Majority Leader Steve Brew said in a news release after the meeting. “It is not the responsibility of the Republican Legislative Caucus to determine who will be confirmed as the Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner, nor should we be put in the middle of this ongoing discussion. The process in choosing a candidate for this position has been riddled with internal conflict from the Democratic party, as such we believe that it is best to allow appropriate time for a consensus to be reached within their party.”

It’s not clear what happens next. The case is scheduled to be back before State Supreme Court Justice John Ark on Aug. 14.

The Board of Elections has a commissioner and a deputy on the Republican and Democratic sides. Lisa Nicolay is the Republican commissioner and there is a deputy. The Democrats have been without a commissioner since Colleen Anderson left in March. LaShana Boose has been acting commissioner, and there was no deputy.

The Board of Elections was criticized by some voters for problems in the June primary, and one group filed a lawsuit. Others said that there a few elections that go off without a hitch.

The process to name a permanent Democratic commissioner has been contentious for months. In May, members of the executive committee of the Monroe County Democratic Committee and BOE candidate Saul Maneiro filed a suit against the Democratic members of the legislature and the head of the MCDC, its council and the committee itself.

The sides debated over the process for having an election to fill the vacancy.

In July, Ark allowed the MCDC to have a drive-through election, mindful of the need for physical distancing during COVID-19 pandemic. Ortiz prevailed over two other candidates. Boose did not seek the permanent position.

“I think he will be surprised to hear we have not made an appointment,” said Democrat Rachel Barnhart said of the judge.

Barnhart voted to bring the Ortiz appointment to the floor,saying that the result of the MCDC election needed to be honored.

Ortiz issued a statement:

“It is unfortunate that the voices of committee members and their decision is not being honored. 86% of Democratic Committee members supported my candidacy and (the Aug. 11) decision signals a devaluing of such vote. This delay tactic and undermining effort continues to push out the time frame for the people’s work to get done. I am fully prepared to work hard and do what is necessary to ensure we are equipped for November. Voters deserve a smooth process absent the bumps in the road experienced during the primary and for the sake of the voters it is time to move ahead.”