The U.S. Justice Department said it will seek a contempt ruling against Westchester County and County Executive Rob Astorino if he doesn’t agree by Thursday to introduce legislation to implement the county’s 2009 fair housing settlement, The Journal News/lohud.com reports today. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara sent the letter to the county Friday.
A federal appeals court ruled earlier this month that the county had breached the settlement with the federal government. The breach stems from Astorino’s veto of legislation in 2010 that would prohibit landlords from discriminating against renters who use income such as Section 8 vouchers or veterans benefits to pay rent.
Following the Court of Appeals ruling, Astorino said he was already in compliance with the court order because he had asked the Board of Legislators to reintroduce the legislation.
Bharara said that was insufficient.
“Not only did the county executive veto the legislation before him on June 25, 2010, but now that the (appeals court) has upheld the district court’s decision he has made no legitimately reasonable effort to persuade the current Board of Legislators to promulgate and adopt legislation and has, to the contrary, derogated the legislation,” the letter said. “The county executive’s failure to promote source-of-income legislation is the primary reason such legislation has not been enacted.”
In a response today, County Attorney Robert Meehan reasserted that the county is in compliance with the language of the court orders, which say Astorino must ask the board to reintroduce the legislation.
Astorino has been critical of the settlement, which was agreed to before he took office. He has fought the requirement that landlords would be barred from discriminating based on the source of income for rent through several rounds in the courts.