Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison and members of the Common Council exchanged public statements following the Dec. 29 filing of a separation of powers lawsuit against the mayor.

The Article 78 proceeding asks the state supreme court to resolve an ongoing disagreement between the mayor and the council. Under the new city charter, the council contends that the mayor has no authority to veto its decisions to hire consultants and advisors, assuming the hire fits within the existing budget lines.

In a statement released on Jan. 1, the mayor said that he has been and “remain[s] willing, at any time, to meet with the council and resolve these differences.” The mayor also repeated his objection to having his “guaranteed speaking spot” removed from the council meetings earlier this year, another separation of powers issue.

A Jan. 4 statement from the council asserted that the council “had made several attempts to reason with the mayor… to no avail and leaving them no other choice” but to take action.

The council authorized putting the question in front of a judge at their Nov. 16 meeting.

Councilmembers emphasized that their goal was simply to resolve the question and end the back-and-forth disagreements between themselves and the mayor.

“If this is going to solve that problem, and have that third-party opinion,” said Ward 5 Councilmember Yvonne Flowers at the Nov. 16 meeting. “To be able to say ‘Hey, this is how it is,’ going forward for this council – and for future councils – we know who has the power to do what.”

In a Jan. 2 online statement and an email to the Hudson Valley Observer, Ward 8 Councilmember Matt McNamara expressed his opposition to the “frivolous lawsuit” and stated that the Article 78 petition “was NOT authorized by a vote of the council.” However, a review of the meeting video shows McNamara and other councilmembers discussing the issue before approving it 7-1. McNamara voted in favor and Ward 1 Councilmember Chris Petsas opposed the measure.

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