Leesther Brown

In July, Peekskill resident Leesther Brown filed a complaint with the federal government stating that, as a federal employee running for partisan political office, Councilman Andre Rainey—the Democrat running for mayor against incumbent Frank Catalina—was in violation of the Hatch Act.

On Sept. 15, The Peekskill Post reported that Rainey had resigned from his job at the VA, because, as he said, he feared a GOP lawsuit over the issue. Brown—who was not interviewed for that article—discusses in the interview below the reason why she filed the complaint and corrects what she feels is misinformation surrounding the issue.

To avoid lawsuit over Hatch Act, Councilman Rainey resigns from VA

Tell me when you filed the complaint, and why.
When Andre got the job at the VA I spoke at a Council meeting because I did not know if he could work at the VA and sit on the council at the same time. That went nowhere. So, I researched it, and since he was not working at the VA when he ran for council, there was no violation. When he decided to run for mayor, I put up a Facebook post asking, ‘What about the Hatch Act?’ That went blind, so I went online again and searched it because it happened with two candidates the Democrats put up before—Jackson and Cunningham. Their jobs were federally funded so they could not run. Remembering that, I called Washington, DC and they sent me a form which I filled out and sent back. I dealt with Erica Stern Hamrick, who looked into it and said Andre was indeed in violation, but that she had to inform him that he was in violation. She told him he had two weeks, and he told me himself he had until Sept. 19. He knew full well that I filed that Hatch Act complaint because I let him know I did.

Editor’s Note: The Peekskill Post contacted Hamrick’s office for this article, but she would not speak about anything related to the case, as it is a private matter.

Was filing the complaint a political move on your part?
Had it been the opposing party and a Republican was getting federally funded, they would have done the very same thing. Everyone knew about this issue with Andre, and Frank didn’t step up and do anything about it. I don’t know if that was out of fear of being called racist, but I can tell you that what Andre is saying about the GOP threatening a lawsuit if he did not leave his job or leave the race—that is completely untrue. Who threatened a lawsuit? I never threatened a lawsuit. I simply told him I was going to report him.

I have had people tell me there is no way Leesther Brown thought of this herself. What do you say to those people?
On the death of my mother, that is not true. I want to make it very clear. Frank Catalina, Robert Sullivan—who I don’t know that well but have gotten to know during this campaign—John Testa or whomever else you want to bring up, they cannot tell me to do anything. Anybody who knows me knows that I will do what is in my heart, and I know that if you are a federal employee you can’t run for partisan public office. That’s that.

So your complaint had nothing to do with the GOP?
It had nothing to do with the GOP and quite frankly, I’m not too sure they’re pleased that I did it because they’re getting blamed for it. That is the feeling I’m getting.

So, you are of the mind that if you did not do this, the Peekskill GOP would not have done it due to the fear of being called racist, which would play into the hands of what the Peekskill Democrats are saying about them anyway, correct?
Absolutely, but I am not even too sure they knew they could do it. I am certainly not calling them stupid, but I brought this up at the podium during the Council meetings. Nobody said anything.

Andre Rainey has a young son and now does not have a job, though that was his decision. Some people are asking if this helps the city. Does this help his son? Did Leesther really need to do this? What say you?
Should we ignore all the laws because it suits them? I did this because he was breaking the law and that is wrong. The law is the law. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot tell people you are this great leader, and then turn around and break the law. Now, I know I sure as heck would not quit my government job to run for mayor at $13,000 a year. The question is not why did Leesther do this and why did she do that. The question is, what did [the Peekskill Democrats] say to him that convinced him it would be okay to quit his government job?

Do you think the fact that he left his job to run for mayor shows the public that he is putting the needs of the city over his own personal needs?
Does he, really? I mean, he’s been [on the Council] for two years. The city does not have a liaison to the Housing Authority, which everyone knows is in turmoil right now. I told him a long time ago that he should go down there and sit in on the meetings and try to be the liaison. He ignored that.

Well, he seems to be involved in the community and is always promoting the city’s youth.
Let’s be real here. What has Andre Rainey ever done for the city, other than put out a music video? 

Well, if one did not know until now, by what you just said it is obvious you are an outspoken critic of Andre’s. The Hatch Act complaint you filed has nothing to do with any personal animus?
You may think this is tit for tat, but, again, I do not care who it is. If you violate the law, you violate the law. I learned this from the Democrats when they did it to me, even though I didn’t violate the law, but you go after everything. If Frank Catalina did it, I’d be in his face. If Colin Smith did it, I’d be in his face. As a matter of fact, I spoke to Colin about the Hatch Act months ago, so he knew I was concerned about the Hatch Act before he even decided to run for the Council.