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McKinstry: Westchester Democrats drop one lawsuit against Rob Astorino, four more to go

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announces the 2013

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announces the 2013 county budget during a news conference in White Plains. (Nov. 14, 2012) Credit: Faye Murman

For anyone keeping score, Democrats on the Westchester Board of Legislators recently dropped one of their lawsuits against Republican County Executive Rob Astorino.

The suit in question involved day care, and Democrats say that after the legislature approved this year’s budget – the $1.7 billion plan signed off by seven Republicans and two Democrats with a new 27 percent parental contribution rate -- the suit became irrelevant.

There’s still four outstanding legal battles between branches (three are pending and another is on appeal); they include another matter over day care as well as separate suits over capital projects, a bus route, and the makeup of the Board of Acquisition and Contract.

The ongoing court battles cost taxpayers $124,000 through November (that reflects the county attorney's 849 hours spent on these cases), according to the Astorino Administration. Those figures don't include the board's expenses.

An underlying theme of these skirmishes has been over authority … which branch has the right to make decisions. Some have already been tossed, others on appeal and others working their way through the courts.

You need a score card to keep tabs – and extra-strength aspirin when listening to the back-and-forth. The way I see it, these court-room dramas stem from an inability of the branches to compromise – or effectively communicate with each other.

Here’s a column I wrote in June 2012 about the need to compromise.

Many of the cases have been started by Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins, a Yonkers Democrat who is seeking the nomination to run against Astorino. Jenkins is squaring off against New Rochelle Noam Bramson and Legis. Bill Ryan of White Plains. We should know the Democratic nominee in the coming months.

A question that looms is whether they will drop any more suits (the board’s spokesman, Tom Staudter says no) --- or throw a few more into the mix?

It’s hard to know. It is, after all, an election year.