Capital New York: De Blasio defends appointees to veterans board

The NYC Veterans Alliance was featured in the Capital New York article listed below, written by Gloria Pazmino:

de-blasio-defends-appointees-veterans-boardBill de Blasio. (Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office)TweetShare on Facebook Print


Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday he stands by his administration's new appointments to the Veteran Advisory Board, despite criticism from some in the city’s veterans community.

Capital reported this morning that community advocates and former members of the board were surprised by the news of their removal, and disappointed by what they described as a lack of transparency from the administration, which they said did not include them in the vetting process.

Speaking at an unrelated press conference in Brooklyn, de Blasio defended the process.

“The proposal was generated by former brigadier general Loree Sutton, who is the head of our Office of Veterans’ Affairs, she has an extraordinary record of serving veterans’ needs, and my charge to her was put together a group that would both advise and give different perspectives on the things we need to do to help veterans, but also help us get more resources for more veterans, and the group she has put together I think will do just that,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio’s appointments come a year and four months after he took office—a lag that members of the veterans community said had rendered the board irrelevant and inactive.

One of the members replaced by de Blasio told Capital he did not learn about the new appointments until reading it in the news this morning.

Lee Covino, a member of the American Legion, the Vietnam Veterans of America and the Catholic War Veterans, said he was “taken aback.”

“I felt like we did something wrong the way it sounded," he said. "I took offense to that because we worked very hard. There was no board during Dinkins and Giuliani, Bloomberg was the first to fill those slots even though the charter always mandated it,” he said.

Covino said he had told the administration he did not wish to be reappointed because he needed to attend to a family matter, but said he had hoped to be involved in the vetting process.

“I don’t recognize any of the names, and I’ve been involved since I got out of the service 1971,” Covino said. “The guy from Staten Island, I only know him from politics, he’s a big supporter of Democratic candidates and I know him from being involved in recruiting veterans to vote for Democrats. I don’t know him from working with the veterans.”

"The last I had heard is that we would postpone our quarterly meeting and then meet the new appointees at a meeting first," he added.

Advocates took to social media today to criticize the administration for not having included local veteran members who are active in the community to the board.

Kristen Rouse, from the NYC Veterans Alliance, released a statement saying the group was “disappointed that important veteran advocates from the NYC community are not represented among the appointees.”

“It must be noted here that none of the advocates who raised their voice to offer constructive criticism of Mayor de Blasio’s administration’s slow action and need for improvement on veteran-related matters have been included among the VAB appointees. This sends a clear and unfortunate message that criticism is not welcome,” Rouse wrote on the group’s website.

Monica Klein, a spokeswoman for de Blasio sent a statement in response, which highlighted the qualifications of the new appointees.

“From Chairman of the Wounded Warrior Project Anthony Odiero to Charles Greinsky of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, the Veterans Advisory Board includes a number of VSO representatives and is made up of a diverse group of veterans who are actively involved in the veterans community," she said in the statement. "The Mayor’s Office of Veterans' Affairs values every voice in the veterans community and will continue to remain closely engaged with all of New York City’s veterans and their families.”