By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO June 11, 2002 It appears that Sullivan County Legislady (Democrat-District 7) Leni Binder will be the next chair of the Sullivan County Legislature. The chairmanship has been vacant since former District 3 Legislator Raymond "Rusty" Pomeroy II resigned on May 31. Binder is expected to be named chair at a special Legislative meeting on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.
When Pomeroy resigned, all four of the charter legislators Binder, Chris Cunningham, Bob Kunis, and Rodney Gaebel expressed interest in the vacant chairmanship. Gaebel, the minority leader, was not expected to be named chair because it was doubtful the Democratic majority would allow a Republican chair.
Vice-Chair Kunis withdrew his name for Chair on June 1 when he realized he would not be able to garner enough support. That left Cunningham and Binder to vie for the position. In a press release on June 6, it was announced that Binder had the five necessary votes and would be appointed the next Legislative Chair at a special meeting on Thursday.
"We couldn't stay a rudderless ship," commented Binder. "I want to see the county go forward in a strong and dignified manner that is best for the people. Gaming is the focus, but there is also the Bethel performing arts center, the Emerald Corporate Park, the Route 17B corridor, and the regular business of government.
"I want to speak with the other legislators and see where the needs are," Binder continued. "I plan to meet with the legislators and all the town supervisors. I have no set agenda. I have an open-door policy, and I am willing to listen. I am a full-time person."
Local Democrats were surprised and angered by the announcement. Several members of the Democratic Party accused Binder of making a "back door deal" with the Republicans to get the chairmanship (Binder denied the accusation and refused to respond to the Democrats claims).
"I will make it my mission to unelect Leni if she goes that way," remarked New York State Assemblyman Jake Gunther. "She is ego-driven. I am astounded that she would go that way."
"I was hoping the five of us [the Democratic legislators] would work it out among ourselves," stated Cunningham. "It is a democracy, so we will move forward with Leni at the helm. We will move the county forward. We are going in the right direction."
"I didn't have the support," Kunis said. "It had to be a Democrat, and Leni was the best choice. Leni has a lot to learn, but she is capable of pulling everything together. She will do a fine job. Eventually, she will be the chair we all get behind and give the necessary support to succeed."
The Republicans and Binder claim no deal was made. Democrats, however, suspect the deal would involve Republican Party Chair Greg Goldstein being appointed to the vacant District 3 seat. Binder did not go to the Democratic Convention on Thursday because she had a class (Binder is pursuing her Master's Degree in Public Administration through Marist).
When the Republicans heard Gunther's comments and other remarks made by the Democrats through various sources, party leaders called Binder to invite her to attend the Republican Convention. Binder accepted the invitation and arrived after all the speeches were made and several delegates had already left.
Upon hearing Gunther's comments, Gunthers Republican challenger, William Brenner, released a response.
"Jake is engaging in irresponsible bullying. He is being just like his boss, Sheldon Silver, as he tries to de-elect Ben Gilman," stated Brenner.
"We need to move the county forward," commented Gaebel. "I was a candidate but did not have the votes. There seemed to be some urgency to come up with a chair. Leni is deeply involved and supports all the projects we are working on. She puts in a lot of time. She is the logical choice."
All involved caution that nothing is official until the votes are taken. Democrats feel Binder may not get the chair after all. Those questions should be answered on Thursday.