Despite an endorsement from the Saugerties Conservative Party caucus and a month-long flirtation with the prospect of running for an open town board seat this November, County Legislator Joe Maloney said this week he’s not running. In an exclusive interview with the Saugerties Times this week, Maloney said he hopes instead to step away from politics altogether after his time on the legislature is up.
For weeks, however, Maloney has flirted with the prospect of canvassing and collecting hundreds of signatures from area conservatives to run on the party’s line. He said that his interest in running was piqued by Town Councilman Paul Andreassen’s announcement of his own candidacy for town supervisor earlier this month. But Maloney said his decision to sit out the race was informed by his confidence in other candidates running for the position.
“When a man like Paul Andreassen decides to run for supervisor … with the same calling that I felt like I had to go into the county for a term I had reluctantly began to think about running for town board — I could not pass up the opportunity to serve under a man like Paul, after serving under Mike Hein and the frustrating, constant battle for transparency and fairness. It would be amazing to, instead of being fought and demonized for every question I asked … have the top dog be welcoming those kinds of honest, educated questions.”
Maloney said had he not met town council candidate Mike Ivino, a 25-year-old fire commissioner for the Centerville Fire District, he would run for town board. Ivino was also given a nod from the Conservative Party. Maloney said Ivino, in his estimation, is “all about the greater good over personal gain,” is “willing to talk about the budget, which is often forgotten” and “isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions.”
“All of a sudden I feel like I don’t have to go up there, that I can support these two men to represent me,” said Maloney. “I am excited to spend a little more time with my family and work to help these two.”
Maloney and his wife, Elizabeth Weredyk, are expecting a daughter in July of this year; currently, the couple has an 11-month-old, a three-year-old and a 12-year-old son.
During his time on the legislature, Maloney has championed legislation that has banned public officials from using their names in public service announcements, fought to overturn the county executive’s veto of a proposed term limits bill which led to the first override of a veto in the legislature’s history, introduced, along with Legislator Tracey Bartels, legislation to ban plastic bags in Ulster County and fought to raise the healthcare insurance contributions of elected officials to match those of other county employees.
“All I’ve tried to do for two years is bring a level of savings, transparency and fairness to county government as far as the way people are treated — employees, local businesses and people in the community,” he said.
When he was elected, Maloney was a registered Independence Party member; although he initially caucused with the Republicans on the legislature, he ultimately aligned himself with the body’s Democrats, registering formally as a party member in June of last year and giving the Dems a 12-11 majority.
In January, the freshman legislator was served with a $7,000 ethics fine by the Ulster County Board of Ethics for advocating for and voting on matters involving the Ulster County Comptroller’s Office, where his wife is employed. Maloney feels that the ruling was made in opposition to his exposure of a pay-to-play culture within county government, and said that he will challenge the board’s ruling by filing an Article 78 that he says will be submitted this week.
“I hope I get seven front-page articles informing everyone that I am ethical,” he said. “When it comes out it will be another thing I’ve exposed — a committee has been weaponized to punish people who ask question. I’ll let the Article 78 speak for itself and I look forward to being vindicated by it.”
Maloney expressed his appreciation not only for the town Conservative Party’s decision to endorse him for the now-forgone town board position, but to county executive candidate Jack Hayes and the county Conservative Party for supporting him in his fight against the county ethics board. In response to Maloney’s fine, Hayes sent a letter to the state attorney general calling for a probe of the ethics committee and the Hein administration.
Maloney said negative press won’t get in the way of his goals for his six remaining months on the legislature, during which he hopes to introduce legislation that would ban or limit the use of plastic cutlery and work to implement a tax on short-term rental properties; he also plans to devote time to the support of the Andreassen and Ivino campaigns.
— Christina Coulter