AUBURN — In a 9-6 vote, Patrick Mahunik was named chairman of the Cayuga County Legislature Thursday night. Newly elected and re-elected legislators were also sworn in during the body's reorganization ceremony.
Though the Democrats hold a narrow weighted majority with eight members, the party became divided in the discussion for chairman nominations. The position was up for grabs between two Democrats — Mahunik, who was favored by Republicans, and Legislator Benjamin Vitale, who had the majority of the Democrats' support.
Legislator Joe Bennett nominated Mahunik. Legislator Aileen McNabb-Coleman then nominated Vitale. Since Bennett was the first to raise his hand, the body first voted on Mahunik.
There was a tense moment during the meeting when the weighted voting tally on the county's computer stopped working. After some adjustments, the nomination showed that it had passed. Mahunik replaces former Chairman Keith Batman, who decided not to run for a third year.
Legislators Vitale, McNabb-Coleman, Batman, Joe DeForest, Charlie Ripley and Elane Daly voted against Mahunik.
"2017 was a year filled with many successes and challenges," Mahunik said as he addressed the body for the first time. "I see no reason to spend time discussing those tonight because tonight is about the future. I look forward to 2018 where the blurred lines of leadership for department heads are made clear. You all report to the county administrator, not the chair of your committee, or the chair of the Legislature. I hope this empowers you to bring new and creative ideas about how to efficiently run your departments, and provide the best service to our residents."
Also in a 9-6 vote, Legislator Tim Lattimore, a Republican, became the Legislature's vice chairman. Daly was named Majority Leader and Legislator Michael Didio was named Minority Leader.
Three newly elected legislators were sworn into office by Judges Mark Fandrich, Thomas Leone and Michael McKeon. They include District 11 Legislator Daly, District 9 Legislator Ripley and District 4 Legislator Christopher Petrus. Petrus is taking on the remainder of former Legislator Mark Farrell's term after he resigned in 2016.
Several legislators were sworn in after being reelected including District 5 Legislator Paul Pinckney, District 7 Legislator Batman, District 3 Legislator Vitale, District 15 Legislator Ryan Foley, District 13 Legislator Lattimore and District 1 Legislator Tucker Whitman.
Cayuga County Attorney Fred Westphal was also reappointed to his position with a $115,875 salary. Cayuga County Legislature Clerk Sheila Smith was reappointed as well with a $61,000 salary. Cayuga County Treasurer Jim Orman was also sworn into office after being re-elected.