“Lack of Humanity” at Peekskill Meeting, City Attorney Says

Mayor Mary Foster shut down the May 9 Common Council meeting after the city’s corporation counsel told the crowd that she will not stand for the “lack of humanity” displayed at meetings.

“You can fire me if you want to, but I am going to speak on some issues,” Peekskill’s new corporation counsel Bernis Nelson told council members last night as she struggled to make her way to the podium.

The Mayor and council members had asked Nelson not to speak in response to Peekskill resident Leesther Brown’s accusation that the newly appointed assistant corporation counsel, Marie Hodukavich, was hired because she is Nelson’s “home girl,” because the two attorneys had worked together before. Brown also stated that Hodukavich's background was in personal injury law, and asked if she was qualified to handle the city's heavier legal issues.

After failing to make it past city manager Rick Finn’s seat to reach the podium, Nelson interrupted Brown and spoke from where she stood.

“There is a lack of humanity from person to person,” Nelson said of what she’s observed at council meetings.

“We are all human beings, we all came out of the same place…and we are all going to one day go to the same place all together,” Nelson continued, pointing her finger at the crowd.

Hodukavich had just been appointed as the new assistant corporation counsel about 30 minutes earlier. During the citizens desiring to be heard portion of the meeting Brown said that Hodukavich and Nelson had worked together before in New Rochelle. Mayor Foster and city manager Finn explained the city had reviewed a number of resumes and interviews and had decided on Hodukavich, who's resume can be found here on the city's website. Hodukavich served as special counsel to the city of New Rochelle from 1999 to 2009, during which time Nelson worked as Corporation Counsel of the City of New Rochelle (Nelson was in New Rochelle from 1997 – 2009). Nelson started as Peekskill's corporation counsel after serving 14 months in that position for the City of Newburgh.

As Brown started to respond to Nelson, asking if Hodukavich had the necessary background to serve in her new staff position, Mayor Foster pounded the gavel and ended the meeting, sparking uproar in the crowd. Foster and council members exited council chambers as CPARC’s Tracy Breneman and Committee for Justice’s Darrell Davis flung accusations of racism and failure to follow procedure in their direction. Breneman, Davis and their supporters were angry that the early adjournment had eliminated their chance to speak at the podium.

Watch Nelson's remarks and the end of the meeting in the video above. To view the entire video of the Common Council meeting click here

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leesther brown May 10, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Leslie Lawler May 10, 2011 at 03:33 PM
When a single voice controls the forum and shuts the sound of the people out, it is no longer democracy, but dictatorship. I, too, attended last night's meeting, and what I find completely puzzling, is although the Mayor was quick to grab her new toy and start banging the gavel (as she laughs at her Corp Counsel's complete lack of decorum and professionalism) she chose to linger about continuing to banter with Mr. Davis. While the rest of the Council filed out, she chose to confront him at the podium to continue the drama. Watch the tape, folks, and assess for yourself. This is shameful government. If elected officials do not comprehend that their actions will be questioned by the voting and taxpaying public, may I suggest they step down. The only thing Ms. Brown is guilty of is bringing the truth to the podium and she had every right to pose the questions she did. Every resident has that right. Councilwoman McGowan publicly stated so at the last Council mtg. Lastly, shame on Don Bennett for failing to recuse himself from the bid award to Manzer Landscaping. Mr. Bennett's campaign disclosure statements do show that he took campaign contributions from Manzer, and yet he voted in favor of the bid award last night. Shameful.
elizabeth mclaughlin May 14, 2011 at 06:43 PM
I am not a Peekskill resident but I find that a citizen can comment and it really does not matter. They go ahead and do what they want to do anyway. It is best to educate yourself on COMMON LAW and practice it.
elizabeth mclaughlin May 14, 2011 at 07:08 PM
What the citizens fail to realize is that debt brought onto the community by greed. They fell for the ponzi and the grants, programs for projects etc. that can not be supported by the taxpayers. All planned by the EU and Cuomo knows it too. Until the State declares the debt as a fraud for what it is you will continue to see it running rampant throughout government. The State must rid itself from the EU, WTO, UN, IMF. Why has the Attny General even allowed interest rates on credit cards to even be manipulated at exhorbanant rates to bankrupt most citizens? How come FICO clients never been investigated? Or why has FICO = Fair Issac Corp never been regulated? I pray for us all.
Luci Vale June 13, 2012 at 06:09 PM
I have lived in Peekskill for 2 1/2 years now, and very concerned about the future of this city. Bernis Nelson is a fine person, and I trust her judgement. For her to be so obviously frustrated with the present management, then abruptly packing up to walk out of the meeting speaks volumes. I was not at the meeting on Monday night, but did see the whole chaotic episode on video today. How outrageous, and disapointing to see something like this happen here. It has become much too complicated for the average person to understand this polical machine, so that may be why they have given up on trusting their leadership. Something is not right with this management, and it needs to be addressed now.


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