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Bello vetoes bill to boost Board of Elections staffing 

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello on Wednesday announced that he has vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have added six staff positions to the county Board of Elections during what is shaping up to be a hectic election year.

But the Legislature's Republican and Democratic caucuses are already planning to override the veto.

The bill, which passed the County Legislature on May 26 with a vote of 20 to 8, would have created two assistant deputy commissioner positions and supervisors who would oversee absentee voting, information services, and elections inspector training and recruitment. 
click to enlarge County Executive Adam Bello announced during a news conference Tuesday that he had vetoed bipartisan legislation to add six supervisory positions at the Board of Elections. - PHOTO BY JEREMY MOULE
  • County Executive Adam Bello announced during a news conference Tuesday that he had vetoed bipartisan legislation to add six supervisory positions at the Board of Elections.

The six openings would have been filled by three Democrats and three Republicans, according to a memo accompanying the legislation, which set aside $220,000 for salaries.  Bello said the positions would have cost the county $500,000 a year and would have been paid for through chargebacks.

"This will raise taxes in Monroe County by a half a million dollars," Bello said during a news conference Wednesday. "This is simply unacceptable."

Legislator Vincent Felder, the Democratic minority leader and co-sponsor of the bill along with Republican Majority Leader Steve Brew, has said the positions were necessary to help with this year’s expected flood of absentee voting during the health crisis.

Bello disputed that assertion and said his administration has worked with the Board of Elections leadership to hire additional seasonal workers to aid with processing absentee ballots.

In a statement issued after the news conference, Bello said the board will have 22 new seasonal workers beginning next week, a number three times the typical amount. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the board has received an influx of 40,000 absentee ballot applications, he said.

"We have been open an transparent about our willingness to assist the board with their staffing needs for this election year as they prepare to process this record number of absentees for the upcoming June primaries, and anticipate an increased need for absentee ballots in the fall election," Bello said.

Felder said Wednesday that he and Brew had asked Legislature President Joe Carbone to schedule a special meeting for an override vote. For that effort to succeed, 60 percent of the Legislature's 29 members — 18 legislators — have to vote in favor of striking down the veto.

Twenty legislators voted in favor of the legislation.

"The county executive has his concerns about the cost, I don't think you can put a price on a fair election and having a competent Board of Elections," Felder said.  "That's where we diverge in opinion."

The legislation is tangential to an ongoing and divisive dispute among Democrats over the process for selecting a new elections commissioner. The position has been filled by an acting commissioner since early March.

The dispute wound up in court and a state judge on Tuesday authorized the Monroe County Democratic Committee to conduct an election among its members for the new commissioner, although the committee’s lawyer has said he will challenge the decision.

The veto would be the first of Bello’s tenure as county executive, which he assumed in January with a pledge to encourage bipartisanship in the County Legislature, which Republicans control by a single-seat majority.
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