Council moves to censure and remove Vescera from committee posts
August 20th 2012 · 3 Comments
Utica, NY – Councilman Frank Vescera, D-1, has certainly made a name for himself during his three terms on the city council. However, most of it has been at risk of alienating himself from his colleagues and the past two administrations. Although Vescera is in the majority party (Democrat), he has had a tough time passing legislation over the past five years. Often defiant of the council rules and policies of fellow council members, Vescera is now facing possible censure and removal from his committee posts.
Earlier this year, the council passed legislation that limited the placement of video cameras on the desks of council members and designated specific areas for media and other cameras. Vescera says this was targeted at him because he regularly brings his camcorder, on a mini tripod, and places it on the caucus table and his council desk. Other members of the council felt this was creating an annoyance and obstructing the tenure of their meetings. That’s when they passed the legislation strictly designating the areas in which cameras were to be placed.
Since that time, Vescera has defied the law and continues to bring his camera to committee, caucus and council meetings. Vescera believes the law is a violation of the Open Meetings Law and his right to record public meetings.
Now the issue has taken a more serious turn. Last week, the council proposed legislation that seeks to officially censure Vescera and remove him from his committee seats in response to his violating the council rules. Vescera believes the move to censure him is an illegal personal attack. “This is an illegal move that is targeted at me for my attempts to bring transparency to City Hall,” Vescera said.
“Will they censure and punish the councilwoman that flipped her middle finger during a meeting?”, Vescera asked, referring to the legislation’s sponsor, Samantha Colosimo-Testa, R-6.
Colosimo-Testa said the gesture was directed at the camera and not a specific councilperson. “I apologized to my colleagues for my behavior and we moved on. Mr. Vescera has been blatantly disregarding the rule that was passed four months ago,” she said. Colosimo-Testa also questioned why, if Vescera truly believes the law is illegal, why he wouldn’t challenge it in court instead of breaking it.
It’s unclear whether the council has ever censured a member or stripped them of committee assignments, but no one can remember a similar incident. Despite questions of whether the move to strip Vescera of his committee seats is legal, the City Charter does allow for it.
According to the City Code, the Council President and/or City Council, by a majority vote, can “add or subtract from the number of members of standing committees or adjust the number and title of standing committees.” (Code 1964, § 2-28.1)
Colosimo-Testa believes she has the votes to pass the legislation at the next council meeting. Vescera would not say whether he would file a legal challenge to the censure if it passes. “We’ll deal with it when the time comes,” Vescera said.
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