Below, Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina responds to an op-ed by Councilwoman Vivian Mckenzie, which recently appeared in the Northern Westchester Examiner, as well as portions of an article published in The Peekskill Post. Catalina sent the response to at least one other member of the media.
• Catalina responds to McKenzie and Talbot: ‘Most corrupt group of elected officials city has ever seen’
• Document: McKenzie, Talbot request ‘full public investigation’ into Catalina’s City Hall endorsement event
• Democrats call for investigation into mayor’s ‘use of taxpayer resources to promote political campaign event’
• Video: Peekskill City Employees Union endorses Catalina ticket Friday at City Hall
• Mayor’s Office says ‘major announcement’ to come during Friday afternoon press conference at City Hall
Catalina’s response, in full:
In reply to Councilwoman Vivian McKenzie’s op-ed piece, I would like to clear up a few items and point out the abject hypocrisy of that piece. Since this is an election year, residents should see this for what it is: a poor attempt to distract voters.
First, a simple email went out from City Hall, to my press contacts, announcing a press conference at City Hall. It was a political event and despite the innocence of the simple mistake, it was wrong and I accept full responsibility.
The rest of the “complaint” is nonsense. Citizens, including city employees, have the absolute right to gather on public property. The press conference was called for and was held in front of City Hall on a public sidewalk. City employees came to the press conference on their own time AFTER working hours. Lawful banners were carried. Our part-time videographer, Mike Miner, has a private company—MJM Productions—which was hired and paid for, privately. In other words, Councilwoman McKenzie’s charges are bogus with no basis.
If there is a quantifiable “charge” the city incurred for the mistaken email that was sent out, I will gladly reimburse the city for its cost, but I am informed, there is none.
I find it outrageous that Councilwoman McKenzie is the face of this “complaint.” This hypocrite, now so concerned with “every taxpayer dollar,” skipped out on thousands of dollars she owed the city by her business—Kathleen’s Tea Room—instead having those charges “rolled over” onto her real estate property tax bills. Then, she skips out on those bills by not paying her real estate taxes. McKenzie then enters into a secret agreement with the city comptroller to repay her debts through an “installment” agreement and guess what, she defaults on that payment schedule too. If Joe Taxpayer defaulted, his property would be on the In Rem list so fast it would make your head spin, but, alas, the “protector of the taxpayers’ dollars” simply shrugs off the default. No interest; no penalties, no apologies, no shame, no outrage. Taxpayers should be outraged at these actions from a sitting councilwoman.
Councilwoman Claxton’s outrage over this email is even more stunning given her criminal larceny of a $15,000 and a $25,000 grant she was not eligible for and that was not used for its intended purpose. This $40,000 was called “improper” by The Preservation Company, which is the entity that made the grant years before I became mayor. When Claxton, with no apology and no shame, refused to repay the ill-gotten funds, The Preservation Company repaid the state for the “error” and refused to seek restitution from Claxton. Claxton now is “outraged” by a single improper email, go figure. When I proposed three simple standards as a city policy to insure such illegal activity never occurred again, these council members opposed the measure.
McKenzie, Claxton and Councilwoman Talbot, seemingly awake when calling for the “email investigation,” cry out, correctly, for the principle that no city property, resources and funds should be used for “political activity,” and I agree with them. Yet, when city property is used monthly by the Peekskill Democratic City Committee for their political meetings, they see nothing wrong at all. They have no problem with the use of city property for partisan political activity: the use of city personnel to open the door, to clean up after they are done and for the overtime to do it, as needed. They have no objection to the taxpayers’ money being used for heating the meeting rooms in the winter or air conditioning them in the summer—after hours—simply for their political uses. They claim that many community groups use city property for meetings but (intentionally) muddle the point that their uses are not political. Yet, the cries of outrage, over a simple email.
The sending of that email was a mistake I acknowledge and accept responsibility for. Its cost to taxpayers is fractions of a penny. If the hypocrites, so outraged by my mistake, accepted responsibility for their abuse of power and funds, we would have enough money for a full-time police officer or youth program director or any other use their “stolen” thousands could be constructively used for. I stand by my declaration that they constitute the most corrupt group of elected officials to ever stain this great city.
Above all, I thank the city employees union Local 456 for their endorsement and I stand by them. The City of Peekskill is a better place because of their hard work. I won’t let these council members take away from that.