Legislature Not Backing Down Over Vets' Director
By John Emerson
MONTICELLO June 20, 2000 -- Six months into the new legislative term, veterans are still battling with Chairman Rusty Pomeroy and members of the county legislature over the appointment of Eric Nystrom as the new head of the Veterans Service Agency.
At Thursdays monthly legislative meeting, about two dozen veterans and their supporters blasted the legislature after presenting a petition demanding former Veterans Service Agency Director Al Etkin be reinstated. The petition contained about 500 signatures.
Although legislators listened to speeches and accepted the petition, members of the veterans group were clearly insulted when no action was taken. Near the end of the meeting, they began shouting threats that the legislators insult would be remembered at the next election. As the shouts and threats continued, Sullivan County Sheriffs deputies assigned to building security at the government center came in to disperse the crowd and help the enraged audience cool off.
Nystrom was appointed to the post at Januarys reorganization meeting. Under state law, the appointment is left to the legislatures chairman but must be approved by the legislature. Although the legislature may disapprove the chairmans appointment, they are not empowered to nominate a substitute candidate for the post.
Etkin and veterans groups have battled with the legislature over his replacement since Nystroms appointment to the post. The petition the veterans presented said that Nystrom is not qualified for the position and that Etkin was not reappointed because of politics.
The needs of the veterans should dictate the appointment of the director of this agency, and politics should not play any role in this appointment, at all, whatsoever, the heading stated.
According to County Attorney Ira Cohen, the federal courts have already ruled that the job is subject to political appointment and that the director of the agency serves at the pleasure of the legislatures chairman.
Its a political appointment, Cohen said. When you take a politically appointed job, you should be aware that you can be replaced. Its a fact of political life that there are no guarantees. At this point, the veterans primary concern should be that [Nystrom] is doing a good job and that they give him an opportunity to learn the job the same way that Al Etkin needed time to learn the job.