Former Commissioner Accuses Astorino of Cronyism

WESTCHESTER, N.Y. -

A longtime Westchester County commissioner fired this month is attempting to turn the tables on his former boss, county executive Rob Astorino, who is running for governor of New York on the Republican ticket.

Bruce Berger, who ran Westchester’s Solid Waste Commission until Monday, claimed that he was sacked to make way for a “political crony” friend of Astorino. He wrote a scathing letter dated April 21 asking potential donors to the Republican’s underdog campaign to keep their money to themselves instead of giving it to Astorino.

“I have been replaced by a Republican judge who lost reelection last November and who has no relevant experience in the field,” wrote Berger, 57, who has served for the past 14 years in the position. “The judge, Daniel
Angiolillo, ‘needed help,’ so I was the easiest person to remove since I am not active politically and was one of the last holdovers from the prior Democratic administration of former County Executive Andrew Spano.”

Berger was informed on April 10 by Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett not to return the following week to his job, which was established in 2000 to rid the carting industry of mob influence.

The campaign of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic incumbent, did not comment on the story but the state Democratic party released a statement.

“Astorino fired a decent person and replaced him with a political hack,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesperson for the Democratic party. “That makes him unqualified to be governor.”

But a spokesman for Astorino told Hamodia that the issues were “much ado about nothing.”

“The timing of [Berger’s departure] was based on his choosing, not anybody else’s choosing,” said Phil Oliza.

Oliza said that Berger was not fired but resigned due to health reasons. He had previously indicated that he wanted to leave and was not fired “at the last minute,” he said.

“When Mr. Berger was departing he departed on very good terms, he was very gracious,” said Oliza.

Attempts to reach Berger were not successful.

In his letter, Berger warned that his replacement, while a “bright man,” does not have the experience and street smarts to fight the organized crime groups who used to control the solid waste department. Angiolillo served in the state Supreme Court and appeals court since 2000.

“I wanted you to know all of this,” Berger wrote, “in case you’re solicited for donations this election cycle by the New York State Republicans or by any of Astorino’s representatives. And if you’ve already made such donations, you’re certainly entitled to demand that they be refunded.”

The Democratic majority in Westchester’s Board of Legislators has asked the Astorino administration for an explanation of the firing and said it will investigate.

A Siena/New York Times poll released Tuesday shows Cuomo leading Astorino by 58 percent to 28 percent.