By Matt Youngfrau
FALLSBURG July 26, 2002 Earlier this year, Sullivan County Legislady Leni Binder and fellow Democratic Legislator Bob Kunis voted with the three Republican legislators to restore Sullivan County District Attorney Stephen Lungen's salary to its previous level.
Since then, both Kunis and Binder have been ostracized by the countys Democratic Party.
Those problems increased for Binder when she was elected Chair of the Legislature in June. The Democratic Party hierarchy felt that she went behind their backs and made a deal with the Republicans for the post. Kunis, Binder, and the Republicans denied this.
More problems arose at the Town of Fallsburg Democratic Committee meeting on Monday, July 22. Binder, who is a member of the town committee, attended the meeting with Kunis, both of whom represent portions of Fallsburg in their districts.
At the meeting, fellow committee member and Sullivan County Democratic Party Chair Bob Krutman accused the two of not being faithful Democrats, stating that he felt they were not part of the party, and refusing to stay in the same room with them. He subsequently left.
"I found it embarrassing and insulting," Kunis remarked. "I could be a good Democrat the best in the county. All I have to do is appoint Bob, his family, or his friends to committees in the county. I won't do that. I will do what is in the best interest of the county.
"When you run for office, you run as either a Democrat or a Republican," Kunis continued. "When you get in the office, you represent all the people, not just one party. The hierarchy [of the Democratic Party] is dysfunctional. They just serve a few. They are not for the people, just an elite few."
"Bob made some comments of his opinions of some people there," Fallsburg Party Chair and Democratic Commissioner of the Board of Elections Tim Hill explained. "We had specific items to discuss, and things were accomplished. Once it was done, Bob said what he said and left. Kunis should not have even been there."
That drew a terse response from Kunis.
"That is a stupid statement," Kunis said. "I represent the district. I own property in Fallsburg. There were others there who do not live in the town."
"I am very rarely at a loss for words," Binder said in response to the incident. "It was totally inappropriate considering that he [Krutman] has made no attempt to speak to me since I was appointed chair. It makes you wonder if the party allows you to think for yourself. Apparently, it's Krutman's way or the highway."
When asked whether they were switching parties, Binder and Kunis simply stated they were considering it.
Krutman was contacted for comment. But he was called out of town for several days and did not have time to speak on the situation. However, Krutman did say he wished to make comments when he returns. When provided, those statements will be featured in a future edition of the Sullivan County Democrat.