County Legislature

Abrupt Cayuga County Legislature meeting changes cause confusion, anger

2013-01-09T03:05:00Z 2013-01-09T03:35:22Z Abrupt Cayuga County Legislature meeting changes cause confusion, angerSistina Giordano The Citizen Auburn Citizen
January 09, 2013 3:05 am  • 

AUBURN | An emergency meeting that was scheduled for Tuesday night and then canceled by Cayuga County legislators was back on at the last minute, leaving Legislator Joseph Bennett angry.

At approximately 5:45 p.m., just prior to the Legislature Public Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday night, Vice Chairman Joseph Runkle indicated that the meeting was back on and that the county informed the respective officials of the change.

The news came just hours after a public notice said the meeting was canceled due to a scheduling issue. A public notice indicating the meeting was back on was sent to media via email at 6:28 p.m. by Sheila Smith, clerk of the Legislature.

Legislators were planning to go into executive session to discuss pending and current litigation. Attorney Joseph Camardo said Monday that he was told by Cayuga County Attorney Fred Westphal that legislators would be discussing Bennett's case at the emergency meeting.

But on Tuesday, Camardo was unaware of the meeting cancellation or abrupt rescheduling.

Officials first said on Tuesday that the meeting was called off because of Westphal's absence. They later said they decided to proceed and have attorney Diane Donnelly sit in Westphal's absence. And while it appeared that legislators in the room knew of the meeting, Bennett had no idea it was rescheduled. He heard about it while committee members were in executive session regarding a committee issue.

Bennett was immediately angered by the news and abruptly knocked on the meeting room door. He stormed in, grabbed his coat and walked out, referencing the fact that he had no idea of the change.

Legislator George Fearon chased after Bennett but was met with Bennett's remarks that he wasn't going to comment and that officials could talk to his lawyer.

Bennett, a Democrat, was elected in 2011 to represent District 10 but Republican legislators took legal action challenging whether Bennett could serve while being employed by Cayuga Community College. Bennett has been barred from voting until litigation is resolved.

Camardo issued a proposal to legislators nearly three weeks ago in hopes of settling the issue and was expecting a response within the week. It was not clear if a decision was reached by officials on Tuesday night.

Staff writer Sistina Giordano can be reached at 282-2237 or Follow her on Twitter at CitizenGiordano.

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