Peekskill Mayor And Council’s Secret Plan to Spend $900,000 to Relocate Homeless Shelter Exposed

Homeless ShelterAfter a flood of emails pleading for our help we put aside the other investigations we are working on for this breaking story that has Peekskill residents up in arms, especially those living on the South end of the city. Why? Because the Mayor and City Council have secret plans to relocate the homeless shelter to Washington Street! Well, it was secret until now.

The Peekskill Jan Peek Homeless Shelter has been operating for close to 30 years on the end of North Water Street in a former manufacturing building. It is a Westchester County subsidized facility run by the organization called Caring for the Homeless of Peekskill or C.H.O.P. It is part of the county network of facilities and is meant for housing county homeless involved in drug and alcohol abuse. Despite the misleading name, it is not a facility for “Peekskill” residents so it really didn’t need to be located in Peekskill at the time. The owner of the building needed a tenant that could pay the rent on time so he could bide time until he could get the approvals needed to knock the structure down and build a multi-story high end condominium complex. InsidePEEK has learned that the owner tried multiple times to have his project move forward, only to be thwarted by such things as NYS environmental laws and lack of cooperation from Metro North Railroad and others. Finally realizing his big dream and huge payday was never going to happen, he recently sold the building to a Yeshiva from Rockland County who plans on creating a religious school at the location.

This causes a problem for the homeless shelter. After being thrown out by the new owner they need a new location. This is at the heart of the breaking story.

First, a few basic questions and answers: Q -Does the shelter need to stay in Peekskill? A – No. Q – Will the Westchester County funding continue if the shelter moves to say, Ossining, Croton, or Briarcliff for example? A – Yes. Q – If it is not in Peekskill will there be homeless people roaming around Peekskill? A – No, in fact it will eliminate homeless people presently roaming around since the facility will be somewhere else. They are forced out of the shelter during the day and roam around the downtown. Q – Does the City of Peekskill have any oversight, management agreement or responsibility to facilitate the shelter relocation? A – No, in fact, the City has no role in keeping the shelter in Peekskill and no responsibility in the relocation decision or process – unless….

Mayor and Council Give Behind the Scenes Support

InsidePEEK has learned that the shelter management has told some people quietly that the Mayor and Council have offered to help keep the shelter in Peekskill by using City of Peekskill funds to purchase a building for them! Yes, using taxpayer money to purchase a building and rent to the homeless shelter. Wait just a minute! Is that legal? Why hasn’t it ever been mentioned publicly? Wait, there is much more to the story…

Democratic Party and Other Connections

InsidePEEK has discovered that over the last decade, the homeless shelter (specifically C.H.O.P.) has become an extension of the Peekskill Democratic Party. Just like the school district, the party has gained full control of the board for the facility and has used it for jobs, fundraising and local influence for their candidates and friends. It is so important for them to keep the shelter in Peekskill that Mayor Noodle has a good female friend of his, who happens to be a real estate agent, quietly looking for a building for the City to buy. InsidePEEK was told by a few of our readers that this real estate agent was actually Noodle’s girlfriend. We can positively state that this claim is false. She is not his girlfriend but a very close personal friend nonetheless. Wait – she found him a building…

The Washington Street Location

The location she found is located on a very visible and busy part of Washington Street, 851 to be exact. It is a former warehouse and wholesale operation for model train enthusiasts and retailers. It has ceased operations and is looking to sell the building. And the price – $900,000! Yup, the Mayor has already agreed to pay full listing price. Close to $1 million dollars for a building to house a homeless shelter. Not to mention the exorbitant cost of renovation and creating a residential facility. Speaking of that…

Real Estate Listing Wash St

Issues with the Purchase and Relocation

Once the City purchases the building taxes are stopped. Any building owned by a municipality is exempt from paying taxes. According to the real estate listing, that is $33,387 a year subtracted from city revenue, not to mention the increase in debt the city will have to pay. Oh, and the City Council will also have to vote to change the zoning to allow such a facility in that zone. How was all this going to happen without anyone finding out? InsidePEEK has learned that the Mayor wants the transaction to occur in December – after the 2019 Budget is adopted. Why? Is he looking to hide the finances for this purchase somewhere in the budget and not bring attention to this plan until after it is completed? Very sneaky to say the least. InsidePEEK has also learned that the current owner of 851 Washington Street is not happy about waiting until December. Understandably, they want the deal done so they can move on.

Final Thoughts

Luckily, the Democratic Party plan has been discovered, hopefully in time to stop it. It is obvious the Peekskill Democratic Party does not care about the south end of the city. They already lied to the area residents once before when former Mayor Foster and the Democratic Council promised the Centennial Firehouse would remain in operation once the new fire station opened. That will not happen. The firehouse will no longer be in operation, putting the residents on the south end at risk. It is also the area of Peekskill not within the Peekskill School District. It resides in the Hendrick Hudson district. The Mayor, council and the entire Democratic Party have been very open and clear that they only care about the Peekskill School District, they couldn’t care less how the reduction in taxes affects homeowners there. They also have no concern about how the dozens of drug and alcohol patients they plan on housing on Washington Street will affect the quality of life and safety in that area. Not to mention the drop in home values.

Maybe it is time to relocate the shelter outside of Peekskill. That would give a much better opportunity to find the right building and location. InsidePEEK realizes homeless shelters are needed but Peekskill already contains an inordinate amount of social service programs and facilities. Losing one of them is not necessarily a bad thing.


McKenzie Property Tax Scandal Exposed, Doesn’t Pay and Hides Facts from Public

McKenzie Taxes.jpg

We thought we already knew why Vivian McKenzie couldn’t run for mayor – there were too many issues she didn’t want to become public. At least we thought we knew all the reasons – you’re not going to believe what we discovered!

Before we dive into the latest scandal there is a question we at InsidePEEK have been asking ourselves – what is it with these Peekskill Democrats? Why does the illegal, unethical and malfeasant behavior persist? Why do they think they can get away with such behavior? We refer to a comment by one of our readers who posed the same question – “They have been allowed to get away with things for too long. They had full control and hid everything.”

McKenzie has been in hot water before. She should have been forced to resign over her illegal exposure of a city employee by sharing a confidential email with the press. Thanks to having the majority on the council and friends in high places she got away with it – and that’s the problem. Being protected by equally unethical and power hungry ‘friends’ has emboldened McKenzie, Claxton, Rainey, Talbot and others to put themselves over the constituents they represent.

This time McKenzie has gone too far – and she has a newly exposed friend who helped her.

InsidePEEK has learned that Councilwoman Vivian McKenzie owns 3 properties in Peekskill. One is her 979 Main Street business, Kathleen’s Tea Room, and also 2 homes (McKenzie was recently overheard admitting one of the homes is in her sister’s name but really owned by her). People are allowed to own real estate, we at InsidePEEK realize that. BUT – the owners are required to pay the taxes on that real estate – even council members. McKenzie doesn’t seem to think so.

Last fall the City of Peekskill conducted an “In-REM” sale of property. The process is basically a seizing of property that has been delinquent in paying property taxes for at least two years. The law allows the City to follow a specific legal process to take title to the property so it can be sold with the City recouping its lost tax revenue.

It just so happens that McKenzie’s Main Street commercial property turned up on the “In-REM” list for not paying taxes – or did it?

InsidePEEK has discovered that although McKenzie’s property was on the ‘internal list’ it never made the list distributed to the council and the public. Normally, the entire list of delinquent properties is discussed by the council and staff to determine which, if any, properties were legally able to be retained by their owners through a process of paying back the taxes in arrears by a prescribed date by law. Somehow, McKenzie’s property that should have been listed wasn’t. Why? How?

It turns out McKenzie had her friend, City Comptroller Ann Scaglione, remove her property from the list before it was made public! We at InsidePEEK are not sure if that is illegal, but we are sure it is unethical. But that is not the whole story.


How could this agreement happen without three members of the council knowing? Was the down payment made?

Scaglione, without the Republican council members’ knowledge, made a private agreement with McKenzie. The issue of making such an agreement may or may not have been done according to the specific legal process, but it was not done according to the city’s established process, nor by the ethical standards of treating a council member as every other citizen would be treated. Did the City Corporation Council need to approve the agreement? Did she even know of the agreement? It is a legal document but there is no signature by the Corporation Council on the document. We find that odd in this day and age, especially for a municipality. The City’s lawyer should have initiated the document. On top of that – did the City Manager know? Did he approve such a deal? We hope Mayor Catalina will be able to obtain all the facts and expose the entire scandal and the employees involved. The Democrats once again abused their power in office to take care of one of their own. Remember, Scaglione was hired by Foster and the all Democrat council to help deceive the public on the City finances. And speaking of City finances – it is rumored that Scaglione was telling fellow staff that she is looking for another job to get out before those deceptions come to light. More on that we get the details.


Why didn’t the Corporation Council sign this agreement? Did she even know about it? Did the City Manager know? Is it legal?

That is all bad enough but it is not the full story!

InsidePEEK has obtained a copy of the City’s agreement with “VG Bridgewater Inc.” (the legal name of McKenzie’s holdings). In the agreement, McKenzie agrees to pay the City back over two years for a total of over $24,000 in unpaid taxes – does everybody in this position get this type of agreement? We are not sure about that.

Wait, there is still more!

InsidePEEK has also obtained a copy of the pay schedule to the City. At least they did that much. It contains a shocking revelation – McKenzie may have defaulted on her November 2016 payment! She has one payment left at the end of May. Will she pay it on time?


Did McKenzie default on her agreement and get away with it? How can we believe the payments were not only made according to the agreement but whether they were ever made at all?

Here is the final, and maybe the most disturbing thing in this whole sorted story – while in default herself and side-stepping the disclosure process, McKenzie publicly never said anything while she voted to seize fellow citizen’s property for not paying property taxes. How could she do that in good conscience? She hid her own circumstance while willingly not affording others the same benefits she used for herself. A most shameful act. This raises another question – was her vote a serious conflict of interest? Does it open up the City for a legal challenge by those who lost their homes and disqualify the vote? We do not know but perhaps we will learn soon.

A side note regarding McKenzie is the excessive garbage throughout the downtown. It is unsightly, dangerous and embarrassing for the city. McKenzie has berated members of the public over it and continuously complains about it. All while she remains the worst culprit of the problem! The garbage in front of her business is troubling. InsidePEEK was sent photos by one of our readers who pointed out her hypocrisy on the issue. Does she have an illegal apartment above her business? The explosion of these apartments has happened in the downtown ever since the zoning change two years ago. The honest businesses downtown are suffering because of business owners like McKenzie and the misinformed and destructive policy decisions made by her and her fellow Democratic council members.

The bigger question is what can be done with McKenzie? Is there a legal process to have her removed from office once and for all? She has become a liability for the City and her political party. Her business is suffering from her actions along with her nasty demeanor and treatment of the public at meetings. She should resign and move on to take care of her business and family. But then again, if she leaves office how could she continue to protect herself from the law? A difficult situation indeed.

Court Rules Claxton, McKenzie and Talbot Acted Illegally

Must Resign

“Illegal” – that is how NY State Supreme Court Justice Cacace described the December 1, 2015 actions by Councilpersons Claxton, McKenzie, Rigger and Talbot. They broke the law and, as Justice Cacace declared, they also broke provisions of the Peekskill City Charter.

The immediate remedy for such egregious actions by the Democratic majority of the Council is the City Manager’s Tentative 2016 Budget now becomes law, causing a 5.9% tax increase instead of the 3.59% tax increase that the Republican Council members fought for.

The long-term remedy is that Claxton, McKenzie and Talbot must follow Chapter C, Article IV § 25 of the Peekskill City Charter regarding “Penalty for violation of Duty” which states that any officer who “violates or evades any provision of law or of this Charter… shall, on conviction forfeit his/her office.” The only question is whether they will finally do right by the citizens of Peekskill and leave on their own volition or will they require another lawsuit to make them abide by the law. InsidePEEK predicts they will ignore the City Charter once again, and cause further chaos.

Charter Chapter C

As we stated in our previous post announcing the lawsuit, when challenged about the illegal December 1st meeting, Councilwoman McKenzie declared “sue me.” As we know, somebody did. Now she and her cohorts must pay – with the loss of their elected positions. The taxpayers of Peekskill will also pay, with a higher tax increase than what Mayor Catalina proposed.

Previous Posts on this topic:
Peekskill Council Majority Sued Over Illegal Meeting
Evidence Clear Council Majority Acted Illegally

Remember – on November 30, 2015, well after the election, Claxton, McKenzie, Rigger and Talbot voted to authorize the ability to enact a property tax levy above the mandatory 2% Property Tax Cap. This vote was taken even though a tenant of the 2015 “Positively Peekskill” platform was that they would not vote to go above the tax cap. That didn’t take long – just 3 weeks to prove they were lying all through the campaign.

Reading the attached Judgment by Justice Cacace one is stunned by the total disregard for law and the City Charter. The Council Majority violated every procedure and law in place to take their illegal actions. Some of the words used by the Court to describe the actions of Claxton, McKenzie, Rigger and Talbot: “Invalid, null and void” adoption of the budget; “failure to comply with Peekskill City Code”; “none of those provisions (of the City Charter) were complied with”; the budget vote was “unlawfully undertaken during an invalid Special meeting”; “failed to lawfully adopt a budget.”

Sadly, this court judgment declaring illegal activity is not the end of Peekskill’s embarrassment. Far from it. There is much more to be settled. The Westchester District Attorney’s Office investigation on Claxton’s illegal grants is in full swing and other investigations by NY State Comptroller and Attorney General’s Offices are ongoing against The Preservation Company and their parent organization, Hudson River Healthcare.

There is also McKenzie’s illegal and unethical sharing of confidential employee information by forwarding an official email to a political operative.

InsidePEEK believes the only way the City of Peekskill can move forward in a positive manner is for the perpetrators of all the illegal and unethical actions to resign – and go away. The hubris, contempt and arrogance by the guilty is extraordinary. It has made Peekskill the embarrassment of Westchester. Unfortunately, it will continue as long as those causing it remain in City Hall.

Puglisi and Costello Sellout Cortlandt on Pipeline


We’ve been told she has been doing it for a long time and is very adept at it. She is a master at making certain groups think she is with them when she is really working behind their backs against their interests. This time she got caught and so did her partner on the town board.

Who are we referring to? You guessed it, Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi and her partner in the latest trickery, Debbie Costello. They have skillfully (until now) fooled the public into thinking they were ‘fighting’ the Algonquin Pipeline project in Cortlandt. They joined the anti-pipeline protesters and appeared at all the demonstrations and meetings. They made it look good all right but the whole time they were negotiating with the company behind the scenes to get a payoff. The very thing they and their protester friends have vilified other officials of doing along the pipeline route.

They knew the pipeline project was a ‘done deal’ from the start and merely played politics to protect themselves from criticism in the town. As one of our readers stated in an email, she “played us!”

So why is this coming to light now and why such a focus on it? The two reasons this has become public knowledge is because the Journal News through their “Tax Watch” column recently exposed the double dealing by Puglisi and the town board. The second reason is because Costello is now a candidate for NY State Senate. Her run for higher office will now bring a huge microscope on the Town of Cortlandt government and their record on taxes, spending, and just about everything else. Based on what we have learned so far about Puglisi, she doesn’t like ANY light being shined on her or her true record. She prefers to be the only source of information and that no questions get asked. She is not going to like the next 8-9 months with Costello running and bringing huge focus on the town.


David McKay Wilson, the reporter behind the Tax Watch column, is not new to reporting on Puglisi and Cortlandt. He was the one who exposed the illegal process used by Puglisi and the Town Board to sell tax foreclosure properties. This was a topic of a previous InsidePEEK post. That post generated a number of email responses to InsidePEEK with some very interesting information and candid comments. Some of which we will use later in this post.

Wilson exposed Puglisi and Costello’s ruse of fighting the pipeline and how they negotiated to obtain $2.8 million from the pipeline company. Sounds good right? Well, the amount just so happens to be the same cost of purchasing the old Con Edison property near the pipeline project. The same area the company is using as its ‘staging area’ for the pipeline equipment and storage of materials for the project. Puglisi and Costello knew all along they would need to relinquish this property. So now, the town owns unusable, very dangerous property. When that happens, as the Journal News points out, the property is removed from the tax rolls, causing the town to lose $132,000 a year in tax revenue! Every year! What the Journal News didn’t take into account is that this property is not safe as it contains a quarry that requires significant liability insurance so the town will most likely see a spike in its insurance costs.

The Journal News did correctly point out that the cost to the town for their faux fight against the pipeline company actually cost the town “more than $300,000” in legal fees. So the taxpayers of Cortlandt are getting a pipeline that was always going to be installed no matter what and are left with huge legal expenses and loss of revenue every year going forward – all to make Puglisi and Costello to look good to the “anti-pipeline activists,” who are mostly not even residents of the town.

Yes, you read that correctly, the anti-pipeline ‘organizers’ and ‘activists’ are mostly anti-fracking, anti-fossil fuel political extremists from outside Cortlandt, the area containing the pipeline and in some cases from outside the state!

Susan Van Dolsen is the main spokesperson for the “Stop the Algonquin Pipeline” group, she lives no where near Cortlandt or the pipeline and is described in a bio of her as a “grassroots organizer who has been involved with the campaign to ban fracking in New York.” She doesn’t care about Cortlandt. She just wants to stir the pot in as many places as possible because that is what she is paid to do. She, and others like her, use people all across the state and country by playing on their fears and exaggerating and outright lying to those close to these projects to try and create anxiety and activism. All for political gain.

Dolsen and her comrades are huge supporters of Democratic officials and candidates only. They protect their friends and attack their opponents – all to try to influence local elections. Dolsen’s comments in the Journal News article show it all too well. She said Puglisi “didn’t really have a choice,” really? We read every day that the pipeline can still be stopped and everyone should keep protesting, get arrested, hold demonstrations, write to officials, etc.  Now, she didn’t have a choice? What if a Republican elected official acted as Puglisi did? They would be viciously and constantly attacked. Called every name in the book and proclaimed anti everything that is mom and apple pie. How do we know this? Because in Yorktown over a year ago they leveled with the public and negotiated a deal with the pipeline company that was hugely revenue positive for the town and will give perpetual benefits going forward.

Then there is Mike Morey. Yes, he is involved too. He is behind Costello’s Senate campaign. He knows the pipeline is only a ‘political’ issue and not a safety concern. Well, he must believe that since he recently moved out of Peekskill to the Town of Cortlandt – just a stone’s throw away from the pipeline project. Yes, that is correct, he wanted out of Peekskill so badly (to keep his kids out of the schools) that he moved right next to the pipeline. More on all of this in future posts.

Puglisi described what she and the Cortlandt Town Board did was “pragmatic” and they were “at the end of the saga.” If Puglisi was truly pragmatic she would have leveled with the residents over a year ago. She knew then that the pipeline project was a fait accompli. This is a Federal Government project. They want it and need it for future energy supply. That is why the federal level elected officials were no where is sight on this issue. Schumer and Lowey love protests and press conferences. Schumer especially since he has at least one a week. This issue should have been made to order for them. They knew the fix was in and this project was going forward no matter what. Puglisi and Costello knew it too.

Now the town has an even worse revenue problem thanks to the political games of Cortlandt’s elected town board. A former town employee wrote to InsidePEEK saying that “…Linda is good at bamboozling the residents of the town, if they only knew how much.” Another Cortlandt resident wrote; “I am not surprised at any of this. Our taxes keep going up and the services we get go down.” Still another resident wrote, “The roads in the town are horrible and the taxes keep going up with no end in sight.”

Our post about Debbie Costello’s run for State Senate drew a multitude of reaction from across the area. One particular response was particularly impassioned, “Debbie has not been a good representative for our town so how can she even think about running for higher office? The email went on to say “…she had a trust problem with many people in the town, especially in the tri-village area before she got elected, it is much worse now. I’m sure Linda is not happy Debbie is running this year.”

InsidePEEK thanks everyone who has been writing in with their views, suggestions and insights. We at InsidePEEK knew something like our blog was needed but had no idea how well received it would be. Keep the feedback coming and remember that all communication and information is kept strictly confidential.

Not Much Support For Costello Senate Bid

Costello not feelin it

Looks like a Primary is brewing in the Democratic Party for the 40th NYS Senate race. A second candidate has recently announced her candidacy to run – Cortlandt Town Board member Debbie Costello. So now two Democrats have announced, Costello of Verplanck and Andrew Falk of Patterson. It will be interesting to see if anyone else plans to enter the race. It may be likely since both of these candidates have no chance of beating Murphy.

InsidePEEK gets a number of emails a day informing us about numerous stories of interest and giving some very valuable information. No story in our brief existence has generated more contact to InsidePEEK than this one. Most interesting is that we have been contacted by numerous Democrats not happy about Costello’s announcement. Why? Because she is not well liked or trusted among most Democratic circles. Plus, she has a terrible record in her short time as an elected official in Cortlandt.

First, the trust issue. We have been informed that Costello had been a life-long Republican and even worked for a time in the Pataki Administration. She was bounced around from a few positions because those working with her felt she was only out for herself and untrustworthy. She didn’t last long with the administration after that. Next, she ran for office in 2009 for Cortlandt Town Clerk, as a Republican/Conservative, and got trounced. She tried to obtain numerous jobs through the GOP but was never offered one to her liking. So she did what other rejects of the party have done, she changed affiliation to Democrat.

Two years ago Costello, just a year after switching parties, looked to run for office as a Democrat. From what we have been told by present and former members of the Cortlandt Democratic Party, she caused a huge quandary for them. The committee had a choice to make, support Costello, who recently switched parties, or another turncoat, Dominic Volpe, who switched to Democrat many years ago but was a terrible candidate and was a consistent loser of 5 elections. Tired of wasting their time with Volpe, the party chose Costello. She won. Since being involved with the Democrats for a few years she developed the same problems as before. The dems see her as opportunistic and untrustworthy, which is why many are unhappy with her running for Senate. They are also very unhappy she was so quickly endorsed by Supervisor Puglisi and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef. The Cortlandt Dems who contacted us are particularly perplexed by Puglisi’s endorsement since she and Costello don’t get along ever since Puglisi discovered Costello was plotting to run for supervisor and possibly even primary her. The feeling is that Puglisi endorsed her mainly to get rid of her.

Now, for her abysmal record. Since being elected Costello has voted each year for huge tax increases for the town. InsidePEEK will look deeper into the details of these tax increases. Besides the general operating increases there are significant increases to the various taxing districts throughout the town. We have been told that Puglisi and the town board have been very skillful in confusing the tax issue by never addressing the taxing districts. There are tremendous increases over the years that are ignored. More on that when we have details to share.

Costello has also voted on a shady tax foreclosure auction in 2014 that was not held according to the laws that guide such sales. Properties were taken improperly by the town and then sold at a small fraction of their worth and only to ‘friends’ of Puglisi and board members. Once exposed that the property titles were never obtained by the town in the first place and that the sale was not properly advertised, the results of the sale had to be rescinded. She also voted to support a moratorium that has caused a serious lawsuit against the town. See our earlier post on this issue HERE

Finally, our information is that Costello has determined this to be a good year to run for this office since it is a Presidential election year and that Westchester resident Hillary Clinton will most likely be the candidate. She feels the ‘woman’ connection will help put her over the top. This may be her calculation but it is horribly flawed. As we pointed out in an earlier post, neither of Obama’s elections helped the Democratic challenger in this race. The GOP candidate won each time. There will not be anywhere near the number of Democratic voters this time around. Hillary is turning out not to be a good candidate and has lost significant support – including from women.

Costello has a tall hill to climb – lack of support on the grass roots level and a national landscape not in her favor. The Cortlandt Democratic Committee, her ‘home’ committee, is not overly enthusiastic of her candidacy and we hear that the Peekskill Democrats are looking to get behind her if nothing else but to try and deflect away from their public relations nightmare. We also hear there is huge infighting going on in the Peekskill party causing leadership changes and defections. More on that story in a future post.

InsidePEEK’s prediction has not changed, Murphy will win in November and by a significant margin. We will bring more on this developing story as it comes our way.

Evidence Clear Council Majority Acted Illegally


As the Article 78 lawsuit against the Peekskill Common Council majority moves forward it is clear that the evidence against them is overwhelming – much of it by their own admission.

Earlier today InsidePEEK received a copy of the Petitioner’s reply to the City of Peekskill’s Opposition to the suit. The facts show the council majority clearly violated numerous City Charter provisions and may be forced to comply, including the forfeiting of their offices. Darrin Rigger is already off the council due to not running for reelection this fall but the remaining ‘cabal’ of Claxton, McKenzie and Talbot may soon join him.

It has been shown in the legal documents submitted to the court that all council members and administrative staff agreed with Corporation Council Ferraro’s conclusion that the November 30, 2015 budget vote was done improperly thus being null and void. The problem then arose of how to correct the situation – here is where the council majority got themselves in trouble.

MOL in Reply to Opposition with Exhibits 1-12-16-1

Click on image to view full document

The Acting City Manager decided that a Special Meeting was in order. There are emails and affidavits that show this to be the case. At 4:55 PM on December 1st the Acting City Manager’s secretary began calling members of the council majority to see if they were available for a meeting that evening. This process violated the City Carter in two ways. Specifically, two members of the council or the Mayor alone can call a Special Meeting, not the City Manager or his/her secretary. Secondly, the notice must be given at least two days in advance, not 3 hours. See Code section below:

“Special meetings of the Common Council are all those Council meetings other than regular meetings. The Mayor or any two Council members upon notice to the entire Council may call a special meeting. Notice shall be given by telephone, in person or in writing so that it is received at least two days prior to the date fixed for the meeting…” Code of the City of Peekskill Ch. 20 §20-3.

Even during the actual meeting the majority members showed in their own words that they did not call the meeting properly. During the short time the Mayor was at the meeting he attempted to determine the legality of the meeting before the majority proceeded. He was methodical and poised in his questioning of the majority members. Councilwoman McKenzie took offense that the Mayor would be attempting to determine whether the meeting was legal or not. She didn’t seem to care, calling it “nonsense” and “if it is an issue as to whether we are having an illegal meeting, sue me.” Her arrogance and total disregard for the law and City Charter is shocking. Upon publically stating that it was an improperly called meeting the Mayor left the chamber. Unfazed, the Council majority proceeded with the illegal meeting and illegal budget vote.

We will all anxiously wait for the court to rule on the actions by the Council majority and what possible outcome will be the result. If the court rules against the majority it is probable that further court action will be needed to enforce the key Charter provision below:

Charter Chapter C

Peekskill Council Majority Sued Over Illegal Meeting


Councilwoman Vivian McKenzie should be careful what she wishes for. Her public statement at the improperly called December 1, 2015 “Special Meeting” just might come back to bite her and her collaborators in the illegal meeting, Councilmembers Claxton, Rigger and Talbot. What did McKenzie say when challenged after the illegal vote to adopt the 2016 City of Peekskill budget? – “Sue me.” Well, someone did.

Local residents Robert and Catherine Sullivan had enough. They had enough of the outright disregard for the City of Peekskill Charter and the law. Like many of Peekskill’s residents who follow the local government meetings they have been outraged by the common council majority’s attitude over recent years. Not only have they ignored the provisions of the city charter but may have improperly altered it for their convenience. The Sullivans first gave the council majority an opportunity to understand his concerns by sending the entire board an email outlining his observations and why the meeting and vote on December 1st were illegal and not in compliance with the charter. They also sent the email to Acting City Manager Richard Leins. The email was never responded to so the Sullivans had only one way to have the issued addressed and that action also granted Councilwoman McKenzie’s wish.

It all started when the Common Council met on November 30, 2015 to vote on the 2016 budget. The Sullivan email to the council describes it best, “…the fiasco that was the November 30 Meeting made it clear that the majority caucus caballed in order to make a public show allowing members Talbot and McKenzie to validate their improvident campaign promises. Talbot and McKenzie first voted against any tax increase and then purportedly   “compromised” for the good of the City by passing the Council’s Amended Budget which exceeded the tax cap. The problem, as astutely stated by Mr. Vesce, is that when   ”…people don’t do their homework,” and want to engage in clever parliamentary and political tactics, they can commit procedural errors. Such as what occurred relative to the adoption of the budget on November 30. Being “cute” foreclosed them from achieving their real legislative objective. Here, the majority caucus, which apparently planned the defeat of the original resolution adopting the Council’s Budget, did not have the aforethought to properly plan on how to lay a resolution on the table which would achieve the object of their cabal.”

At least the council heeded their corporation council’s warning the next day when they were told the budget vote they conducted the previous evening was improper and invalid. It had to be done over. The problem is they proceeded illegally again when they attempted to call a meeting behind the mayor’s back and without proper notice. The Sullivans warned the council of this as well: “…having reviewed the video of the purported “Special Meeting” of December 1 and the pertinent provisions of the City Charter, it is our view that based upon what was said at the meeting the meeting was not properly convened in accordance with the Charter, specifically Section C-20-3. Moreover, the majority caucus never sought an opinion from the Deputy Corporation Counsel that the meeting was properly called. In fact, she advised the Mayor that she could not opine that it was legitimate. Nonetheless, the majority caucus opted to proceed. There was no evidence adduced at the meeting that two members of the Council called for the meeting and that they notified the other members of the Council in person, by mail or by telephone. Moreover, there was no evidence adduced at the meeting of exigent circumstances so as to dispense with the two day’s notice required by the Charter.” They go on to point out the inappropriate behavior of the four council members who conducted the illegal meeting and vote: “…the conduct and demeanor of members of the Council at the December 1 “Meeting” was not in accord with the Rules of Decorum that were enacted by the Council and not what the citizens and taxpayers of this City expect and are entitled to. When the mayor, acting as a citizen (which he was since there was no legal meeting) sought to address the Council, one member walked off the dais and refused to listen to his comments. After the Mayor left the Chamber, the same member re-took the dais and shouted a sarcastic “Bye” to the Mayor. Such conduct is boorish at best, more consistent with an argument in a school yard rather than a meeting of the legislative body of the City, and is wholly inconsistent with the Council’s own rules of decorum.”

So what now? What if the lawsuit is successful and shows that Claxton, McKenzie, Talbot and Rigger blatantly disregarded the Peekskill City Charter and the Law? The Charter is clear on that:

Article V., Section C-43 of the Charter of the City of Peekskill provides that:

“Any member of the Common Council who shall knowingly or unlawfully disregard any provision of law applicable to the member thereof, or who shall vote for any ordnance or measure in violation of law, or any appropriation unauthorized by law… shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and liable to the punishment and penalty prescribed therefor… and every member voting in favor shall be individually liable to refund the amount to the City at the suit of any taxpayer…”

In addition, Article IV, Section C-25 of the Charter entitled “Penalty for Violation of Duty” states, in pertinent part:

“ Any officer (which includes the Common Council) who willfully violates or evades any provision of law or this Charter…. Shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and, in addition to the penalties imposed by law, shall on conviction forfeit his/her office or employment…”


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InsidePeek has also discovered that this is not the first time these articles of the City Charter have come into play. It has come to our attention that based on previous actions by council majority members, citizens have independently brought this directly to the council and the public. They were ignored just as the Sullivans have been most recently. InsidePEEK is committed to gathering this information and will bring it to you in a future post.

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