This morning, Rockland County Legislature candidate Alden Wolfe held a news conference to tie his opponent, Legislator Bruce Levine, to the Spring Valley mayorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hiring of illegal immigrants for a government public works project.
Levine, the village attorney, called WolfeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s accusation false, saying he had no role in the hiring of illegal immigrants and was on vacation when it happened.
During the news conference in front of Spring Valley Village Hall, Wolfe said Levine should explain what role, if any, he played as village attorney in Spring Valley Mayor George DardenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s decision to hire illegal immigrants and to discuss the advice he had given the mayor.
At one point, Wolfe asked, “What other advice did he give the mayor to cover up the illegal hiring?”
Wolfe denied that he was accusing Levine of committing a crime. He also said his demands that Levine explain himself were not political.
“This is about good government,” Wolfe said. “This is about accountability. … As an elected official [county legislator] … Mr. Levine needs to be held to a higher standard.”
Wolfe said Levine had been silent for more than a week since The Journal News reported that Darden had shelled out his own money to hire 10 people from Route 59 for a urban renewal job.
Wolfe also charged that Levine’s job as village attorney conflicted with his being a legislator Ã¢â‚¬â€ a charge he has made previously. He said Levine was voting on issues that might be good for the village but not necessarily good for the county and all his constituents.
Reached by telephone, Levine said when he learned about the illegal hirings, he told the village treasurer not to reimburse the mayor. When he was told that already had happened, Levine said he told Darden to return the money until he could resolve the issue.
“When someone in government makes a mistake like this,” Levine said, “it creates a complex legal situation.”
He called Wolfe’s accusations “Nixonian” in nature.
“It’s classic for people in political campaigns to make false accusations for the purpose of the trying to divert the peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s attention from the real issues,” Levine said, adding that he believed people were more interested in taxes, the county’s fiscal problems, affordable housing and environmental issues.
Wolfe said the key issue was that Levine couldn’t serve two masters—Spring Valley as village attorney and residents as a county legislator.
“This is not a political issue,” Wolfe said. “Rockland taxpayers deserve the highest level of service from their elected officials, but when scandal clouds the air, we need to know that our elected officials can stand above.”
This is the second campaign between Levine and Wolfe.
Wolfe was appointed to the Legislature in 2006 to replace Robert Berliner after the latter won election to the bench as Surrogate Court judge. Levine, a former legislator for 10 years, decided to seek the seat last year after an 11-year hiatus.
Wolfe won the partyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nomination for re-election with the support of RamapoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s political leaders.
Levine forced a primary and soundly defeated Wolfe. Wolfe and Levine each gathered enough signatures to force a primary, during which Levine soundly defeated Wolfe. Levine won election in November for the remainder of the term, which expires at the end of this year.