Clarkstown Supervisor Hoehmann Says Town Attorney Studying Possible Ways To Overturn Term Limits Law

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Former Elected Officials Remind Hoehmann, Councilman Borelli, That They Supported Term Limits In 2015 In Letter To Board

By Tina Traster

It was a bit like that moment in Casablanca when Claude Rains as Captain Renault blows his police whistle and says Rick’s Cafe must be closed, and then wryly adds, ”I’m shocked, shocked to discover that gambling is going on here!”

It is an open secret that Town of Clarkstown Board members are in active discussions about eliminating the Town’s term limits but many still feigned surprise on Tuesday when the issue was raised at a Town Board meeting. Ultimately the town supervisor conceded he’s asked the town attorney to review the law enacted six years ago that limit board members to a total of eight consecutive years. Both Town Supervisor George Hoehmann and Councilman Frank Borelli are rounding out their last terms under the current law.

“I wasn’t prepared to talk about this, it wasn’t on tonight’s agenda,” said Councilman Pat Carroll, adding that “this is a sticky situation. It puts those who voted for term limits in an awkward position. If it does come up, they’ll have to justify why they changed their opinion.” Carroll was referring to George Hoehmann and Frank Borelli, who were then the Republican minority on a Democratic-led town board and who voted for the imposition of term limits.

The issue was sparked by New City resident Pam Hudson who read a letter during the public comment period on behalf of three former Democrat board members who expressed dismay over the town council potentially trying to do away with term limits, forcing the current town board to address the issue in public for the first time.

“It has come to everyone’s attention that you are thinking of overturning the term limits law that was passed in 2015 by the town board,” said Hudson, adding that the letter said, “we all realize that would mean that this is the last term of service for both Councilman Borelli and Supervisor Hoehmann.”

Borelli, in a heated response, indicated he was not in favor of doing away with term limits. Nothing in the existing law would preclude Borelli from running for Town Supervisor as it specifically allows an elected officer to seek a “different elective public office.”

“It’s not on our agenda tonight but any discussion about overturning the law, I totally disagree,” said Borelli. “I’m strongly against overturning it.”

The letter noted that the town board unanimously voted for term limits in 2015, which limited board members to serve for a total of eight consecutive years. The law was adopted in 2014 and took effect in 2015.

The letter reminded Borelli that at the time the vote was being contemplated in 2015, the councilman had said “the concept had merit and suggested that the Town Board look at different options to enact the law.”

The town board enacted the law at the same time it changed over to the ward system, which divided the town into four separate blocs with individual representation.

The politically-tinged letter, effectively penned by the Clarkstown Democratic Committee, but signed off on by former Town Supervisor Alex Gromack, and Councilwomen Shirley Lasker and Stephanie Hausner, took issue with the potential reversal of the law being contemplated by the Republican-dominated town board.

“We all voted for term limits in 2015 and assumed that any elected official, especially ones who voted for the law and were strong proponents of it, would abide by the law even if it meant they limited their own terms of office,” the letter said. Hudson handed each board member a copy of the letter.

Overturning the law would require four of the five board members to vote in favor of lifting the limits.

At least one councilman favoring an end to term limits is Don Franchino but he stopped short, saying it’s not something town board members should vote on. Rather, he suggested the town “hold a referendum on the issue.”

“The people of Clarkstown have a right to decide,” he said.

Rumors that the town would hold a special meeting on the issue in the final week of August when many people are away were quashed when Supervisor George Hoehmann said, “nothing has been scheduled.”

The letter also raises the question over whether the council is trying to find a means to “annul it or have their Town Attorney declare that the law was never valid in the first place.”

Carroll weighed in on this: “The language is clear to have term limits of eight years. The law is not vague.”

But the Supervisor did acknowledge that “the law is being evaluated and looked at by the town attorney.”