POUGHKEEPSIE – A group of protesters gathered in front of Poughkeepsie Common Council Chairperson Sarah Salem’s apartment on Wednesday evening seeking her resignation. Salem failed to come out and talk, despite chants to do so.
Protesters gathered in front of 144 Union Street calling for Salem to “Do the right thing” and resign, according to organizer Jamar Cummings. Despite the invites for dialogue, Salem failed to appear.
“She won’t acknowledge her actions, so we want better leadership,” said one protester. Cummings called for Salem to be held accountable for drinking and driving after her February arrest for DWI.
Salem’s attorney appeared on her behalf in city court Wednesday morning for a continuation of the 2020 DWI case. A representative for District Attorney Bill Grady’s office said that the DA’s office is still negotiating a disposition of the case. Judge Mora said that both sides have to submit papers by September 9 and a decision will be given on October 7.
“Bill Grady needs to hold Sarah accountable,” said a protester. “A young black woman was injured by Salem’s actions and the DA needs to take that into consideration,” said Cummings. The organizer noted that Salem’s window has a “Black Lives Matter” sign in the third-floor window. “Apparently black lives matter except for the black woman that Sarah hit,” Cummings said.
Salem has been under growing public scrutiny since her most recent arrest for DWI in which she caused an accident in Poughkeepsie. Police allege that Salem was intoxicated when she ran a red light on Main Street and struck a vehicle operated by a 30-year-old single mother. When city police administered a field sobriety test to Salem at the scene, the non-binary Salem failed and was arrested on a DWI charge. Salem had previously been arrested by New York State Police in Wappingers Falls on a DWI charge the year before. The first arrest resulted in a reduced charge by the Dutchess County District Attorney’s Office.
The February collision resulted in multiple surgeries for the woman that Salem struck. Shortly after the incident, members of the community called for Salem to address it. The council chair, at a scheduled meeting, declared that she had been involved in an accident while failing to mention the DWI charge.
Salem failed to respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. Fellow Councilmember Matthew McNamara was disappointed in Salem’s avoidance. “Our council is facing many issues and the leader refuses to address her own alleged criminal behavior. The chair should be leading, not hiding,” said McNamara.
In light of Salem’s advocacy for increased oversight of the police department, many in Poughkeepsie have become agitated. Salem has backed the creation of a Civilian Review Board to address complaints against city cops. The proposal, still under consideration, caused the PBA to hold a unanimous vote of “no confidence” regarding Salem’s leadership. The PBA said that Salem has a “vendetta” against police as a result of her criminal history.