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Council Dems, GOP Clash over Clerk Choice

By Jason Weinstein.
Some Binghamton Democrats are crying foul after the incoming Republican majority on City Council is replacing the city's Clerk and Deputy Clerk.

Democrat Joseph Merrill, who first held the position in 2008 before being sent to Afghanistan on active duty, was appointed back to the position by the Democratic majority earlier this year. Republicans are replacing Merrill and Deputy Clerk Lai Huynh.

Council Republicans have chosen Leighton Rogers as Clerk. He currently works in the office of Broome County Executive Debbie Preston's office, a Republican. They also selected Leana Testani as Deputy Clerk.

Democrat Bill Berg says he understands the clerk's job has always been a patronage position. He says Democrats have had a Democratic clerk in their 13 years in the Council majority. But he feels Merrill's status as a veteran deserved consideration.

However, Republican Chris Papastrat says Council Republicans interviewed a number of candidates, including Merrill. He says the candidates' political affiliation didn't play a role in the selection.

"You can look at their resumes. They're very well qualified and that's what we were looking for, some new energy and certainly the qualifications are there," said Chris Papastrat (R-5th District).

"Forever in the media, television, radio, we hear, 'Thank a veteran today for what they've done for you.' All of a sudden because he has a "D" after his name he's out of a job," said Bill Berg, (D-7th District).