2009-07-10 / Top Stories

Council Candidate Claims Sanders Politicized CB

By Miriam Rosenberg

A candidate, looking to represent the east end of Rockaway and parts of the mainland, has been denied reappointment to a local community board by the man he hopes to unseat in this fall's primary elections.

Marquez Claxton, a community activist and former police officer, alleges that Councilman James Sanders Jr. of the 31st Councilmatic District refused to reappoint him to Community Board 13 on the mainland because Claxton is running against him in the fall primary. "It's an absolute, blatant, shameless political hit," Claxton said earlier this week. "It's political grandstanding on the councilman's part."

Claxton, who has been on the board for two years and was the chair of the public safety committee, says he met with Sanders earlier this year about his reappointment. "He told me he was going to appoint someone to the board who's not running against him," said Claxton. "He came straight out … that's exactly what he said."

Claxton said he had an excellent attendance record at all meetings and was very active on the board.

"The record speaks for itself," he said. "There is no reason I shouldn't have been reappointed."

Despite CB 13's March meeting being his last as a board member, Claxton says he has been to every meeting since then as a community member. He remains on the public safety committee after the board's then-chairman Richard Hellenbrecht asked him to stay on as a community member, because of his experience in law enforcement. While Claxton says Sanders' decision to not reappoint him to CB 13 was political, the councilman's camp claims it is Claxton who is using the board for political reasons.

"That [politicizing of] the board is not the purpose of the community board," said Donovan Richards, Sanders' chief of staff. "The purpose of the board is to help the community [with] public safety, zoning … If a person is using the board for political reasons, that is not the purpose."

Richards added that the councilman replaced Claxton "with a person who lives in Laurelton and seeks the betterment of the community - who wouldn't politicize the board."

Richards also denies the charge that Claxton was not reappointed because of the campaign.

"He [Sanders] uses the same standards he used the past two terms," Richards said. "He appoints people who are serious about change and the betterment of the community. If that person has a narrow agenda, he will be removed. He is of no purpose to the board."

Richards also said that Sanders still funds groups associated with other candidates who are running against him this fall.

"If he wanted to be political, he would cut [their funding]," said Richards. He doesn't want to cut young people [which many of these groups serve]."

The Wave did ask to speak directly with Sanders, but Richards assured us that his comments exactly reflect those of the councilman's.

Claxton, who also lives in Laurelton, did admit that Sanders was "within his jurisdiction" to not reappoint him. It is the reason that is of concern to him. "It is not about, as much, the person as it is about the community," said Claxton.

"It's about what the community loses when they lose a person of my experience." Claxton pointed out that he has no problems with CB 13 - which covers Queens Village, Glen Oaks, New Hyde Park, Bellerose, Cambria Heights, Laurelton, Rosedale, Floral Park and Brookville.

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