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Possible Contempt Charges For Westchester County Exec Over Fair Housing Settlement

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The Justice Department is threatening to seek contempt-of-court charges against Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.

Prosecutors said Astorino is violating one of the terms of a 2009 settlement of a desegregation lawsuit.

In a letter to county lawyers, the DOJ said Astorino has failed to promote a bill that would prohibit landlords from rejecting tenants who use government vouchers to pay their rent.

Astorino vetoed such a bill in 2010. When he lost an appeal in March, he asked the Legislature to re-introduce the bill.

But the Justice Department said he did not try hard enough to persuade the Legislature to pass the bill. The department demanded action by Thursday.

In a reply letter Tuesday, the county attorney said Westchester is in compliance with the settlement.

Earlier this month, Astorino accused the Department of Housing and Urban Development of "extortion" for withholding millions of dollars in grant money over the fair housing dispute.

Astorino contends that the county has complied with the settlement. But HUD, the federal courts and a monitor have said Westchester has yet to provide a satisfactory analysis of exclusionary zoning in the county. They have rejected Westchester's finding that there are no exclusionary laws.

"HUD refuses to accept the conclusion of our objective and thorough analysis," said Astorino, a Republican. "To force the county to change its conclusions, it is holding hostage money that's been promised to our communities."

HUD has refused to give storm relief aid directly to Westchester, although it is allowing New York state to distribute federal funds in the county.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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