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Binghamton mayor will not pursue legal action against city council

Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo
Binghamton Mayor Jared Kraham.

Binghamton Mayor Jared Kraham announced Tuesday he will not be taking any further legal action against the city council, after members voted unanimously to appoint Republican Mike Kosty to the contested 6th District seat.

The appointment was the latest in a dispute that has continued for months. Kraham and the city council each argued they had the authority to fill the seat. The race for the 6th District seat resulted in a tie between the Democratic and Republican candidates this past November.

Kraham appointed former Council Member Phillip Strawn, a Republican and the incumbent, to the seat. Shortly after, council members appointed Rebecca Rathmell, the Democratic challenger. Kraham sued the council in Broome County Supreme Court.

Last month, a judge ruled that while the city council technically had the right to fill the tied seat, they must appoint a Republican until a special election is held in November. Under Binghamton’s city charter laws, city council must fill a vacant seat with a member of the same party until a special election is held. The ruling also said the council must work “in consultation” with the Broome County Republican Committee to make its appointment.

Republican Committee Chair Benji Federman wanted Strawn for the seat, not Kosty.

On Tuesday, Kraham argued the council’s appointment violated the judge’s court order, but said he does not want to waste more city funds on another court battle.

“City council refuses to comply with the law. But forcing them to do so through a court order would cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in additional legal fees,” Kraham said. “And speaking with attorneys, it would mean restarting a legal process and months more of litigation.”

Kraham said the special meeting, held on March 22, to appoint Kosty was hastily planned without proper notice to residents. He said the move to appoint Kosty breaks precedent set by previous mayors and city councils, referencing appointments in 2016 and 2018.

“City council has taken the exact action of filling a vacancy multiple times before in recent history,” Kraham said. “Including when the vacancy was a member of the opposite party that controlled city council. There is not just past precedent, but past action.”

In August, Kosty donated $90 to Democratic Council Member Michael Dundon's campaign. Kraham said the donation shows Kosty is "far from an independent member of the Republican Party.

City council members have said they appointed Kosty because he had no involvement in the prolonged battle over the seat.

Democratic Majority Leader Kinya Middleton said the council asked for other nominations from the county Republican committee, but didn’t receive any other names.

Middleton said given that the city council has never seen a vacancy due to a “failure to elect”, the appointment did not break precedent.

“There was no basis for a new lawsuit,” Middleton said. “[Kraham] doesn't care about saving the taxpayers money because if he did, he would have never brought a lawsuit to begin with.”

In a statement, Democrat Rebecca Rathmell, who the city council initially appointed to the 6th District seat, argued the appointment of Kosty did not violate the court order.

“What should, however, be considered a ‘clear and willful violation’ of local law was [Kraham’s] lawsuit against Council in the first place,” Rathmell wrote. “Particularly given members’ repeated attempts to recommend alternatives to court that would have effectively avoided the ‘damage for taxpayers’ he now claims to care so deeply about.”

A special election for the seat is set for this November. Rathmell said she plans to run in that election, and Kraham indicated that Strawn would likely run for the seat as well.