The incident occurred mid-way through a raucous special Common Council meeting called to discuss Mayor Rick Rector’s vetoing of Council legislation concerning the city’s property reassessment process. The meeting was held in the Hudson Area Library.
The meeting quickly got out of hand, as the Common Council split on whether to pass a second piece of legislation seeking to throw out the city’s preliminary property reassessments, which will help decide how much homeowners and businesses pay in property taxes in coming years.
The meeting was rife with angry interruptions, arguing and raised voices from city officials, and some members of the 70-plus audience called out during the proceedings, or cursed at different elected officials.
After a heated argument flared up between DePietro and local real estate agent Alan Weaver during the public comment period of the meeting, DePietro banged his gavel and called a recess, abruptly leaving the room.
The video, which shows the area outside the meeting room, has no audio, but DePietro and private attorney John Friedman can be seen exchanging words before Friedman begins walking towards the staircase.
While Friedman’s back is turned, DePietro strides towards him and reaches out his hands, making contact with Friedman’s back just as the attorney is on the cusp of the staircase, according to the video.
DePietro then pulls Friedman towards him and shoves him against a wall, where he jabs his finger in Friedman’s face while bumping and pushing the man, according to the video.
This reporter was at the meeting and heard the incident’s first half while farther down the staircase, then rushed up and observed the second half, when Friedman was up against the wall. Friedman was first heard loudly asking if DePietro had called him “a motherfucker.”
“You’re a pussy,” Friedman was heard saying to DePietro after a brief pause. After another pause, several people were heard yelling.
Common Council members Shershah Mizan, Calvin Lewis, Tiffany Garriga and Kamal Johnson are also in the video, though they appear to be trying to separate the men or deescalate the situation.
When contacted about the footage, DePietro referred all questions to attorney Micheal Howard, who declined comment.
After the meeting, Friedman filed a criminal complaint with the Hudson Police Department, but the case, coming during the hyper-divisive reassessment process and in the middle of Hudson’s election season, is now being handled by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).
CCSO Lt. Wayne Lopez, the agency’s spokesman, said the investigation was still open, and no charges had been filed as of early Monday afternoon.
CCSO Senior Inv. Kevin Skype, who is handling the case, said he was unable to comment.
Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka, who oversees the prosecution of even minor cases in the county, said Tuesday he had disqualified his office from handling the case. A special prosecutor will be appointed by Columbia County Court to handle it, Czajka said.
Hudson’s reassessment mess, which has raised ire across the city since the preliminary reassessment figures were mailed to residents March 1, is still ongoing. Many homeowners and businesses are anxious about the new property values, some of which are triple what the properties were assessed for in 2012 during the last city-wide reassessment.
Before the recess at the special Common Council meeting, the Council again voted for a resolution — this one worked more strongly than the original, which was vetoed by Mayor Rector — requesting Rector to throw out the reassessments before they were finalized.
Common Council members Eileen Halloran, Rob Bujan, and Dominick Merante — who all abstained from the first vote — voted against the second resolution, but the other seven members voted for it, with DePietro, who traditionally only votes to break a tie, adding an eighth ‘yea.’
Those in favor of throwing out the proposed reassessments have argued they are inaccurate and inequitable; were prepared incompetently by City Assessor Justin Maxwell and GAR Associates, the firm contracted with the city for the process; and were rolled out poorly, as the March 1 notices to homeowners were printed only in English, though 16 percent of Hudson residents speak a different language at home, according to 2018 census figures. Translation services for Bengali and Spanish speakers were only provided after Kamal Johnson and other Common Council members requested they be set up.
The final assessment numbers are due July 1, six days after Hudson’s democratic primaries, which essentially serve as the final election in the heavily liberal city.
Kamal Johnson is challenging incumbent Rick Rector for mayor, while Common Council member Rob Bujan is challenging DePietro for Common Council president.
Afterword: Common Council Sniping
Well, it’s election season yet again in Hudson, and things are getting ugly…