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Legislature stays silent on Green keeping post

There are 16 prefiled resolutions for Wednesday’s Chautauqua County Legislature meeting. None of them deal with who will be the Democratic election commissioner for 2021.

Norm Green is both the Democratic election commissioner and the chairman of the county Democratic Committee. In 2020, Green announced he was going to retire at the end of the year. He personally backed Luz Torres, his current deputy election commissioner, to take his place. County Democrats elected Torres in October, but that same month, the county Legislature refused to vote on Torres’ appointment.

Because a vote was never held, her appointment nomination expired. To replace her, the county Democratic Executive Committee backed Green to return as the election commissioner. A certification of the appointment was sent to the full legislature and was received on Jan. 4.

However, no committee this month discussed Green’s nomination, and Wednesday’s legislature agenda only acknowledges receipt of the certification, but has no resolution to follow.

In a phone interview Monday, Green said he has not been told why the legislature won’t vote on his appointment or why they refused to vote for Torres. He also said the legislature can’t fire him.

“Election law says the party shall forward a name for recommendation to the legislature and the legislature is the only body that can appoint somebody,” he said, adding that the legislature is prohibited by law to select their own candidate.

Should the county Legislature fail to act on Green’s nomination as election commissioner by Feb. 4, the process will start over, with Green remaining in his current position until a new candidate by the committee is chosen.

Five of the 19 county legislators are Democrats — Robert Bankowski of Dunkirk; Christine Starks of Fredonia; Chuck Nazzaro of Jamestown; Robert Whitney of Jamestown; and Paul Whitford of Jamestown. None have said who they want as election commissioner, including Starks, who initially backed Torres in an Administrative Committee vote, but later withdrew her support.

In October, a number of registered Democrats appeared at the county Legislature meeting, saying they support Loren Kent. Kent, who is the party’s secretary, lost in a close vote to Torres by the full county Democratic Committee. After the October vote took place, Kent and others alleged that Green appointed various people in local committees around the county in order to ensure Torres would be selected and to keep Green in power as chairman.

Green has denied stacking appointments, and insisted the October vote was both legal and fair. He touted Torres as the best person to take the position, noting she would be the first Hispanic department head for the county and has served as his deputy for the past seven years.

Earlier this month, Green called it “insane that in 2020 the county Legislature has rejected a fully qualified and trained minority woman and instead is pushing for her to train the unqualified white male.”

The “white male” he was referring to was Kent. After Green’s statement was published, the OBSERVER reached out to Kent for a response, but he declined to be interviewed.

Legislature Chairman Pierre Chagnon, a Republican, said the legislature is not expected to vote on Green’s appointment Wednesday.

“The appointment of the Democratic election commissioner is typically brought to us as a resolution from a Democratic legislator or the Democratic caucus. To date they have brought no resolution to us,” he said.

A message for Nazzaro, the Democratic minority leader, was not returned this week.

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