Monday, April 24, 2006

SIGNS

Joe Cavallaro resides in Haines Falls, in the Town of Hunter, Greene County. He has lived there since 1973, after moving there from Brooklyn. Mr. Cavallaro owns and operates the High Peaks Motel and the Twilight General Store.

In 1998, Joe Cavallaro was arrested for the first and only time in his life. His crime? Trying to speak with someone in John Faso's Albany office.

We were lucky enough to sit down and discuss this incident with Mr. Cavallaro. We thank him for his time and hope you enjoy this glimpse into the character of John Faso, a man who wants to be our next governor. So sit back and enjoy the show. And now.....

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TP: To start off, are you a Republican, Democrat or other?

Joe Cavallaro: Registered Conservative.

TP: Have you ever voted for Mr. Faso?

JC: Yes.

TP: Why did you initially contact Mr. Faso's office?

JC: I had been approached by someone about my store being a designated Official Forest Preserve Information Station for the Catskill Forest Preserve. I'd get two signs. People hiking, camping or whatever, could stop in and get information about where to go, things like that. You know what the signs are? Two pieces of wood with yellow lettering. One for the store and one would go on the road. I thought it be good for business and for the area.

TP: How soon did you expect to get the signs?

JC: A few days before all this happened, I was talking with some Schenectady big shot who said, 'Joe, it'll take months for you to get those. Call someone.'

TP: Who did you call?

JC: My Assemblyman, John Faso. I called his Albany office. I thought someone in the Albany office could get something done.

TP: Who did you talk to on that first phone call?

JC: A staffer. I never even got the word 'sign' out of my mouth. Before I was arrested, if you asked anyone in Faso's office what I was calling about, they couldn't tell you. They wouldn't have even known about the signs.

TP: So, as far as you know, Mr. Faso does not have any irrational hatred of signs? No childhood sign traumas?

JC: I couldn't tell you.

TP: What did the staffer say?

JC: I was directed to call the Coxsackie office but I didn't want to call that office. A few years back I had called about something to do with an ice skating rink and the lady at the Coxsackie office and she was....I don't want to sound mean....like a box of rocks. You’d get nothing done with that office.

TP: So what happened?

JC: The staffer said they'd get back to me. A while later, Nancy Linehan, Faso's Staff Director calls me. She said, "You don't tell me who you are going to speak with. I tell you who you're going to speak with.”

TP: Charming.

JC: I said, 'the only person who talks like that to me is my 82 year-old mother. Then, click. She hung up on me.

TP: How many Faso staffers did you talk to when all is said and done?

JC: Two, the first lady and then Linehan. Then when I called, they hung up on me. I even sent a fax to make a complaint. I probably called thirty times and out of the thirty times, twenty-seven were hang-ups.

TP: The phone calls to the Albany office took place all in the same day?

JC: Yes. I just wanted to speak to someone. I'm a constituent. I wanted to speak with someone in the Albany office.

TP: Other than Mr. Faso, have you harassed any other assemblymen?

JC: Believe it or not, he's it.

TP: Would you like to harass my Assemblyman?

JC: Sure, give me his number.

TP: Did you ever talk to anybody in the Albany office again?

JC: Well, once, when I called back, a lady tried to talk with me. I think she felt bad about what was happening. Then, and this staffer testified to this at the trial, Linehan figured out who she was talking to and grabbed the phone and hung it up. Then I called back and I thought I was getting somewhere. They put me on hold and the next thing I hear is, "This is Trooper Roger Leavitt.” Honestly, I thought lines had been crossed.

TP: Because you hadn't called the troopers?

JC: Right. I honestly thought there was a connection problem. So this trooper starts telling me that I have to stop calling and If I don't, I will be arrested. This conversation is on tape and it was played at the trial. I started lecturing the trooper on the Constitution and all sorts of things. He even asked if the conversation was being recorded. I was like, 'do you realize what you're telling me? I can't call my elected representative's office? I was courteous, but I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I actually asked him how he could take a politician's word over mine. I told him that in a recent poll, politicians ranked below used car salesman for trustworthiness. When they played the tape at trial, the Judge said that I had been right on the law. Both the Judge and the jury laughed about that tape. Anyway, I even gave the trooper directions to my home.

TP: At some point, you call Mr. Faso's home?

JC: Right. The next day, I'm in my store and I think, 'what do you do when an office is out of control?’ You call the top dog.

TP: Woof, woof.

JC: So I called Faso's house.

TP: How did you get his phone number? Did you contact some underground network or pay big money for it on the black market?

JC: I used the phone book. A friend mentioned that he had had a problem and called Faso at home. I asked him for the number and he said, “I think it’s in the phone book.” We looked it up.

TP: What kind of phone book? A special, secret phone book?

JC: Just a big, yellow phone book. The kind everyone has. A third grader could have found his number. Faso's phone number was even pre-fixed with the letters, C-A-L-L.

TP: Pretty tricky on your part.

JC: Wasn't it? He wasn't home. His wife answered the phone. I just said, I'd like to speak with John about a problem. She said he wasn't home but she would give him the message. She was very nice.

TP: Did you get the sense that Mrs. Faso was being held against her will?

JC: Maybe. Probably.

TP: How many times did you call Mr. Faso's house?

JC: Well, the next day, he hadn't called me back so I phoned again. Mrs. Faso answered and said that he wasn't there but that he had been home and received the message. Later that day a trooper comes into the store, handcuffs me and carts me away. My wife started crying. I told her it would be fine.

TP: Did you go peacefully or did you contemplate some type of desperate last stand, like “you’ll never take me alive, copper!”

JC: I expected it. I wasn't really surprised. We drove to Hunter where I was finger printed and lodged. They call it ‘lodged’ like they’re taking you to the Holiday Inn. This is funny. On the way to Hunter, the trooper, and I'm not joking, stopped at The Hole Donut in Catskill to get some donuts. I couldn't believe it.

TP: In all fairness to Mr. Faso, he was a Republican Assemblyman in an overwhelmingly Democratic Assembly. Couldn't he have been very busy not getting legislation passed?

JC: True.

TP: Did you ever once, during this whole time, stop thinking about Joe Cavallaro the constituent and think about John Faso the public servant? Did you ever stop and think about how you could help serve John Faso?

JC: I did think about getting his staff some donuts from The Hole Donut.

Part II of the interview will be published on Wednesday. Stay tuned.



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