Officials call for no-show Orange County legislator to step down after missing meetings for two years

Legislator Joel Sierra was elected in 2017 to represent Middletown residents and is in his second term. County records recently obtained by News 12 show the official has missed every meeting - more than 100 - in the last 26 months.

Blaise Gomez

Apr 26, 2024, 8:58 PM

Updated 28 days ago

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City of Middletown officials are renewing their calls tonight for an Orange County legislator to step down after the official has been a no-show on the job for more than two years.
Legislator Joel Sierra was elected in 2017 to represent Middletown residents and is in his second term. County records recently obtained by News 12 show the official has missed every meeting - more than 100 - in the last 26 months.
“This is an abuse of taxpayer money,” says Middletown Mayor Joe Destefano. “People have been patient enough. We need our voice. He represents 85% of Middletown, and we are not getting that representation."
News 12 first reported on Sierra’s absences last year and recently obtained updated county records that show the total number of missed meetings is much higher than first reported.
Orange County Legislative Chair Katie Bonelii says Sierra doesn’t appear to be representing constituents outside of county meetings, either.
“Our meetings are livestreamed but there is no remote participation,” says Bonelli. “Whether he is responding to particular issues that may have been brought to his attention – I see no indication of him fulfilling those duties.”
Destefano says Sierra has applied several times for disability and has been denied after he was hurt on duty in 2022 as a Middletown firefighter. He says he is still in the appeals process.
Court documents show the official suffers from headaches, blurred vision, and "brain fog" but can still function and drive. They also show Sierra testified during a disability hearing that he does not need to perform any services or attend meetings as a county legislator to receive his annual stipend.
State records list Sierra’s legislative salary at roughly $30,000 annually. Destefano says the official is collecting workman’s compensation on top of his income as the owner of Sierra Automotive in Middletown.
News 12 called the business on Friday to get ahold of Sierra and was given a number to call one of the official’s friends.
“Any parties who are trying to force his resignation while he is still under a doctor’s care are both insensitive and disloyal to a civil servant in our municipality,” says James Rollins.
Others disagree.
“He needs to step up and resign and allow us to put someone in there who’s actually going to work,” says Middletown Alderman Joe Masi.
Masi and Destefano says the county can modify its county charter to remove Sierra from office under the circumstances or appeal to the governor to do so under the state’s public officers law but hasn’t.
News 12 reached out to the county and state for information but hasn’t heard back. Sierra’s term is up next year.


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