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Brooklyn Democrat chooses walking into heavy traffic over interview with local reporter

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A Brooklyn Democrat decided she would rather walk into traffic on a busy thoroughfare in New York City this week than face questions from a local reporter.

New York Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, who is also the chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, had previously agreed to the interview, but when the local correspondent showed up she decided to flee into traffic instead, according to a video clip posted by the outlet.

“We went to a breakfast in Brooklyn last week to try and talk to her. We had an interview scheduled with her and she decided to cancel. And when we went to this breakfast to try to speak to her, she didn’t want to speak,” reporter Courtney Gross said.

“She ended up leaving the breakfast — we waited for her for some period of time. It was a Junior’s in Brooklyn, and she decided to walk into incoming traffic as you can see,” Gross, an investigative reporter with Spectrum NY1, continued.

“She would rather walk into traffic than address any of the questions we had for her about patronage and nepotism at the Board of Elections,” Gross added.

The incident occurred last month, according to an NY1 report published Tuesday regarding allegations of bipartisan nepotism and other potential unethical behavior on the part of election board members after “critics have claimed nepotism and patronage at the Board of Elections” for years that “have led to serious issues at the polls.”

“The assemblywoman opted to walk in the middle of Flatbush Avenue, into oncoming traffic rather, than talk to us about the board,” said the report, which was filed by Gross.

“I think, especially in Queens, things are run very well,” Queens GOP Chairwoman Joann Ariola told the outlet. “I know there are detractors out there saying there is all sort of corruption out there, or whatever they are crying. But you have to understand: these are people who have run against the county organization and lost. So there is a measure of sour grapes there.”

But, Gross reported, former and current employees at the election board say that the county leaders who comprise it “have real sway over how the board functions and how” New York City elections are run.

Each borough, by law, has a Republican and Democratic Party chairperson and those people normally “recommend who gets nominated to the 10-member Board of Elections,” she noted. And in most cases, the recommendations are ultimately approved by the City Council, which “some say rubber stamps” the appointments.

So that essentially means “each county leader and organization has a seat on the board,” Gross reported, adding: “That system trickles down to the staff as well.”

“Sources at the board tell NY1 the top positions are divided up among party leadership. So, behind the scenes, the top-level jobs with the highest pay are doled out to certain county leaders and organizations to appoint,” notes Gross.

Overall, critics say that the system is ripe for abuse by those who put “patronage and party loyalty” above all else, Gross noted.

“It can be very frustrating for the executive director and the co-executive director who find that the staff who theoretically report to them often have greater loyalty to the party county leader who sponsored their appointment at the board,” Douglas Kellner, co-chair of the state Board of Elections, told the outlet.

“That directly relates to the competence and the capacity of the agency to fulfill its mission.”

Jon Dougherty

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