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The Independence Party Caucus that Never Was...

February 15, 2006

Crotonblog: Letters to the Editor, Croton-on-Hudson, New York 10520
Does the following raise any questions in your mind about the “Independence” of the Gonzalez/Steinberg team from Maria Cudequest?

Do you feel manipulated? As candidates attempting to compete fairly in this process by attending a caucus of over 60 people and submitting a petition of 139 resident signatures, we certainly do.

Ann Gallelli & Charlie Kane, Candidates for Trustee

On February 27, 2006 1:49 PM, Reality Check said:

Time for another Reality Check.

Ross W. is correct. Croton’s shadow mayor does indeed make an occasional cameo appearance at a Village Board meeting, albeit fewer since her criminal past was revealed some months ago. However, I invite everyone to comapre the tone, length, tenor and content of any statment made by Ms. Cudequest since the last mayoral election with any one of her vile rants when Mr. Elliott was mayor. The comparison will, I am sure, be quite illuminating.

I stand by my comments however. A Vote for Mr. Steinberg or Mr. Gonzalez is a vote for the ever increasing power of Maria Cudequest. That is why, in my view, it is time for a new majority on the Village Board, so the over reaching and secrecy of the Schmidt/Cudequest/Steinberg administration will be more balanced.

And that is why, SilverOne1997, this discussion is important and the blog is important as a forum to have it. This is not merely a question of a so-called private citizen who is disliked. It is a question of a would be king maker and power broker operating in the shadows created by the current administration. It is a question of people being aware of what is really happening in Village government - especially out of the public eye - and being in a position to cast an informed vote.

And that, my friends, is a Reality Check.

On February 25, 2006 4:04 PM, SilverOne1997 said:

i don’t understand what this entire indpendent’s thing and maria cudequest have to do with the village election.

maybe it’s just me, but wouldn’t our time be better spent questioning the candidates on some issues instead of bashing local residents? i don’t know anything about cudequest except that she hates metro enviro like groups and that the local democrats (who i used to vote for relgiously) and many people on this blog hate her.

i don’t think anyone cares about this woman except you people and her. come on! let’s move on and start talking about some real concerns. no one is paying attention to this crap and it just ruins the process.

On February 25, 2006 3:02 PM, TeaDrinker said:

The most recent “Reality Check” said, “But, have you noticed that Ms. Cudequest is nowhere to be seen at Village Board meetings these days? The rancor has ended, the birds are singing again and all is well in Mariaville.”

However, at the February 6, 2006 Village Board meeting—after the public hearing on eminent domain proceeding for the property where the former Metro Enviro was located—Ms. Maria Cudequest did appear to address the board.

Option: Download and watch this video clip of “Maria Cudequest addressing the Village Board on February 6, 2006” in Quicktime format (1:26 mins. | 2.2 mb).

Video transcript:

Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “Is there anyone out wishing to address the board?”

Maria Cudequest: “And hopefully go home right away. Maria Cudequest, 84 Grand Street. I’ll be very brief. I have a copy of an article here from an Ohio newspaper concerning the Sunny Farms landfill, Mr. Gruson etc. It is being provided to you so that you can get a flavor of what is happening in other locations where this gentleman and related entities operates. That’s all I’m going to say about it. I’ll provide you with a copy right now and say goodnight.”

Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “Thank you.”

Village Attorney Marianne Stecich: “Um, I read that article and I just wanna let people know I’m gonna advise send a copy to the Solid Waste Commission because when the village appeared before the Solid Waste Commission with the complaints about Sunny Farms, we were told, Oh, there’s no problem with them. This article talks about how they were closed down, I think it was twice in January. Um, and so anyway. I just, I’m sure they’re gonna change their mind but I just think they oughta know that we weren’t making it up out of whole cloth.”

Maria Cudequest: “Well. I thought you should be aware that I took the liberty of sending a copy to the Solid Waste Commission, the members of the commission itself as well as some of our legislators who have expressed an interest in this matter.”

Village Attorney Marianne Stecich: “I’ll send it anyway on village letterhead. (laughter)”

Maria Cudequest: “Send it anyway. Yes. Please do. I’m sure you’ll have much more credibility than me.”

On February 25, 2006 10:59 AM, Reality Check said:

Time for another Reality Check.

I have watched with some bemusement the unmasking of the unholy alliance between the Steinberg/Gonzalez candidacy and its sponsor, Maria Cudequest. Let there be no mistake about it folks, a vote for Mr. Steinberg or Mr. Gonzalez is a vote for Maria Cudequest and her increasing hold over our Village. Let me tell you what I mean.

Our not-so-new Mayor Schmidt, and Mr. Brennan were elected (following which incumbent Trustee Steinberg was appointed by Mr. Schmidt) as a direct result of years of relentless agitation by Ms. Cudequest and her handful of so called concerned citizens – those I call the handmaidens of the apocalypse. The endless venomous attacks against former Mayor Elliott and Trustee Grant were, in my view, a major reason for the conquest of the Village by the Schmidt/Steinberg/Brennan administration. But, have you noticed that Ms. Cudequest is nowhere to be seen at Village Board meetings these days? The rancor has ended, the birds are singing again and all is well in Mariaville.

But clearly, her behind the scenes machinations to consolidate power over those she worked ceaselessly to elect have continued. Witness the farce of the Independence party convention, here in our fair Village.

Mr. Steinberg proudly announced his nomination, and that of Mr. Gonzalez, for the Independence line as if it actually represented something other than a victory of form over substance. Mr. Steinberg proudly announced his nomination, and that of Mr. Gonzalez, for the Independence line as if it represented the choice of the active membership of a political party. As if real people, with the best interest of the Village at heart, had come together and chosen a candidate to represent their collective views.

Obviously it was nothing of the sort. Indeed, it represented the ultimate elevation of form over substance, of technical legality over participatory democracy, and – until unmasked – the triumph of the secret influence of Maria Cudequest over the political life of this Village. Plainly stated, this nomination resulted from no more than Maria Cudequest and her boyfriend/roommate sitting around a table at the Diner and going through the motions.

And yes, I have read the arrogant dissertation of Mr. DiFrancesco, the disingenuous chair of the local Republican party. In effect he defends this charade by hiding behind the technical legality of the proceeding, while thumbing his nose at the small town nature of our Village, the way neighbors behave in the public square and the way voters should be dealt with by those who would represent them. By the way, should he be offended by my words, Mr. DiFrancesco need only ask and I will obligingly chronicle his arrogance and disingenuousness in a separate piece.

Engaging in the sort of subterfuge attempted here is nothing Mr. Steinberg or Mr. Gonzalez should be proud of. But eerily they are.

Perhaps they are blinded by the blandishments of their architect of past victory and their patron for the future. Perhaps it is simply emblematic of the way we are now being governed in all matters: through secret meetings, closed door discussions, and private rather than public decision making. Who knows?

But there is one thing I know without a doubt. A vote for the Steinberg/Gonzalez ticket is a vote for Maria Cudequest.

And that, my friends, is a Reality Check.

On February 25, 2006 10:09 AM, Gut-C said:

I was a registered Independent until Lenora Fulani, one of the parties leaders, scared me away with her racist comments. Seems like I got out just in the nick of time. Shameful and questionable tactics like these from Steinberg and Cudequest/Rooney are sure to scare even more members away!

On February 24, 2006 12:38 PM, weewill said:

Commenting on the pretend Independence Party caucus, Jim Steinberg is quoted in today’s Journal News posing the question: “Have I manipulated the process?” While he disingenuously concludes that he has not, the facts are inescapable that the opposite is true.

It now seems clear that only two qualified Croton voters - Maria Cudequest and her housemate/significant other William Rooney - sat around a table at the Croton Colonial Diner and went through the technical motions of anointing the GOP Steinberg/Gonzalez ticket with the Independence Party nomination. This apparently legal charade was clearly orchestrated by Mr. Steinberg with the assistance of Ms. Cudequest and Mr. Rooney. That in itself demonstrates just how tied together and influenced Mr. Steinberg is by these two “concerned citizens”. Hardly evidence of his “independence”.

While seemingly a clever maneuver, deliberately and quietly engineered to obtain a second line, the caucus was a sham. While they claim they hoped for a large turnout at their “convention”, just how many seats were there at their table in the back of the Diner anyway? It was unprecedented, secretive and manipulative and doesn’t deserve more than 2 votes on that line – those of Maria Cudequest and Bill Rooney.

Georgianna Grant, Ex-Trustee

On February 24, 2006 10:16 AM, TeaDrinker said:

Croton resident and Journal News writer Robert Marchant weighs in on Trustee-candidate James Steinberg’s quest to capture the Independence Party nomination in a piece called “Croton Independence Party’s ‘caucus’ criticized” that appears in print today, February 24, 2006.

On February 19, 2006 10:45 PM, Paul Rolnick said:

I also think Rob missed the important points on this.

To me there are a couple of things made very clear from the facts as presented by Charlie, Ann and Rob:

• Maria Cudequest is closely allied and very actively involved with the Republican Party in this year’s village election campaign. That’s a notable change according to previous statements she’s made in which she has adamantly denied any direct association with Republican Party campaigns and/or elected officials. I’m not a fan of Ms. Cudequest, but no doubt she has her supporters. In any event voters can and should measure the worth of the Steinberg/Gonzalez ticket in part based on the candidates’ decision to ally so closely with Ms. Cudequest.

• The Republican candidates issued a letter proudly announcing their endorsement by the Independence Party without revealing any of the important details. The reader was left to naturally assume that some significant body of people had actually conferred that endorsement. What the reader didn’t know was that the nominating caucus consisted of just two people - Ms. Cudequest and William Rooney. The effect of that, in my opinion, is extremely deceptive. Was it intended to be so misleading? Voters should consider that question too when they go to the polls.

Paul Rolnick Chairman Croton Democratic Committee

On February 16, 2006 1:26 PM, weewill said:

Rob. Rob. Rob,

You must be more careful in reading and responding.

  1. I commented on the “unusual caucus” to keep the record straight. “After some discussion” and review of the candidates backgrounds” in a telephone call between Mr. Steinberg and an unknown member of the Independence Party of Westchester, an endorsement resulted?

  2. This might have been more understandable had the “person” considered the qualifications of all the candidates. Mr. Steinberg must be very persuasive!

  3. Would you be good enough to tell me where the 6 places that the notice of this upcoming caucus was placed in accordance to section 15-108 you so confidently quote. I haven’t been able to find any postings anywhere.

  4. Or, perhaps I missed a notice published in a local newspaper. If so, I’m confident the charge for the posting will appear on the required financial filings of the Independence Party. By the way, who was nominated and appointed “temporary treasurer?”

  5. “This first time endorsement” by the Westchester County Independence Party” shouldn’t confuse anyone. It has nothing to do with the independence of the candidates. It has everything to do with manipulation of the political process. It may have been “clever” but it was no more than a furtive attempt to manipulate fair play. Nor does it say a heck of a lot for the judgement of the Independance Party “person” who allowed this to take place.

  6. Also, if you can Rob, would are you able to tell me who James P. O’Toole is and where he lives?

In summary Rob, it’s my belief that you’ve been “suckered”. The democratic process is good and valid when played by the rules as well as the intent of the rules. One can always find loopholes and your mentors in the Republican party seem to have found a big one. It a real injustice and shame that you’re being taught the machinations of soiled politics. Maria Cudequest and Bill Rooney know all the tricks, and it appears that Jim Steinberg knows them as well…

— Georgianna Grant, Ex-Trustee

On February 16, 2006 9:04 AM, Stu said:

This response from Rob DiFrancesco is certainly interesting and provides lots of information on election law but it seems to miss the point.

I reread the letter by Gallelli and Kane and nowhere does it allege the Independence Party caucus was illegal. Their point was that about the spirit of the local election process which should be inclusive. Seemingly, a line on the election ballot has been allocated to Steinberg and Gonzalez based on two people meeting at a caucus and, furthermore, what a twosome - Maria Cudequest and William Rooney!

PS Mr. Di could probably open a law practice right now based on his ability to right legal briefs. Perhaps he had some help in writing it from the lawyer in the pair he supports?

On February 16, 2006 12:11 AM, Rob DiFrancesco said:

Mrs. Grant,

You could not be more right. There are specific rules and regulations governing a Party nominating caucus for village elections. I would hope that Mr. Kane and Mrs. Gallelli and the other bloggers would avail themselves of the law before rattling off baseless and, frankly, libelous statements about the integrity of Trustee James M. Steinberg and the Westchester County Independence Party.

The Westchester County Independence Party was contacted by Mr. Steinberg on behalf of himself, Jose Gonzalez and Village Justice Guy M. Adami in early January for the purpose of receiving a nomination. After some discussion and a review of the candidate’s backgrounds, the Party decided to endorse James M. Steinberg and Jose Gonzalez to run for the public office of Village Trustee and Guy M. Adami to seek re-election for the public office of Village Justice.

The Party decided to hold a nominating caucus in the village at 7:00 p.m., January 30, 2006 at the Croton Colonial Restaurant & Diner. Mr. Steinberg, being an endorsed candidate, took the action on behalf of the Independence Party to notify the local clerk and other proper officials of the caucus. Further, in accordance with section 15-108 of the New York State election law, notice of the caucus was posted in six (6) public locations in the village of Croton-on-Hudson more than ten (10) days prior to the caucus.

The election law mandates that the caucus notice be either published in a local paper or posted in six (6) public locations within in the village.

As a Party Chairman I know the election law fairly well and have ascertained, based on the brief comments supplied by Mrs. Gallelli and Mr. Kane, and based on the record of that evening, which is on file with the village clerk, that the Westchester County Independence Party legally held a caucus of duly enrolled Independence Party Members on January 30, 2006.

Those members of the Independence Party in Croton-on-Hudson with listed telephone numbers were contacted for the purpose of further notification of the caucus. This notification was not required under any provision in the law but was felt necessary in order to make all Independence Party members aware that a caucus was going to take place at the aforementioned date, time and location. A representative of the Westchester County Independence Party convened the meeting, not Ms. Cudequest or Mr. Rooney. Further, the fact that Mr. Rooney and Ms. Cudequest were the only Party members who were interested enough to attend this caucus does not make the caucus in any way, shape, or form unlawful. To say otherwise is to be in complete ignorance of the New York State election law.

I hope that former Democratic Chairwoman Laura Seitz and newly selected Chairman Paul Rolnick will share their knowledge of the election law with Mrs. Gallelli, Mr. Kane and other members of their Party who are confused as to what has happened here.

For the record, this is the first time, to the best of my knowledge, that the Westchester County Independence Party has nominated candidates for public office in the village of Croton-on-Hudson. That alone should say something about the independent quality of Trustee James M. Steinberg, Mr. Jose Gonzalez and Village Justice Guy M. Adami.

I commend the Croton Democrats for selecting to have their candidates run on a second ballot line as well. Unlike the Independence Party, which received well over the 50,000 required votes in the 2002 Gubernatorial election to be a Party line in New York State, the Croton Taxpayer’s ballot line, similar to the Open Government ballot line which Republicans have ran on in the past, is an independent ballot line, not a Party. Independent ballot lines require signatures for their creation. The Independence Party is an actual, organized Party with officers and by-laws and therefore they have the same right as the Republican and Democratic Party’s to hold a nominating caucus without circulating petitions.

I trust that the signatures collected for Croton Taxpayer’s line were collected in full knowledge of the law and that all residents who signed the petition swore and affirmed that they were eligible voters in the village of Croton-on-Hudson. For that reason, I will not be challenging the legality of these petitions, although it remains the right of any Croton citizen, who is registered to vote, to do so if they wish. The documents are available with the village clerk.

I suggest we move forward, focusing on the real issues facing this village and not dwell on the procedural aspects of a Party caucus that was clearly in accordance with the law.

  • Rob

Rob DiFrancesco Chairman Croton GOP

On February 15, 2006 6:47 PM, SSmith said:

one thing i forever do not understand is why the republican officials in town can not seem to unhitch their wagons from this dangerous woman.





when will these guys wake up to fact that she is THE dividing force in this village? it is hideous.

another question i pose to MR. STEINBERG is this: how come in his letter mailed out last week announcing his and Mr. Gonzalez’ nominations was the return address on the envelope Mr. Steinberg’s own home yet the postage was paid for by a bulk account in White Plains????????????????? is there some campaign finance violation here as well?

if not, it sure seems fishy to say the least.

March is coming fellow Crotonites, vote with your heads PLEASE. We are too small a village to let this damaging conduct continue.

On February 15, 2006 3:37 PM, weewill said:

Not much leaves me speechless but this comes close. I’ve been involved in Croton politics for close to 50 years and this beats all!

Maria Cudequest and Bill Rooney have accused, insulted and fingerpointed for years about “under the radar” meetings, secret deals, devious behaviour and government closed to the people.

And yes, there are election laws governing caucuses, nominations, acceptances and declinations.

You will be hearing more, not only from me who has tremendous respect for fair and ethical political processes, but from others as well, outraged by this stealth of a second line on the ballot. It was conceived and manipulated by two single individuals - perhaps legally, perhaps not. We shall see.

On February 15, 2006 3:12 PM, Mrs. Smith said:

Aren’t there some kind of election laws against this kind of fraudulent behavior? Isn’t there some kind of village election law - this just seems too incredible to be true.


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