The ethical roots of Rensselaer County politics run nearly as deep and steady as those of Birnham Wood. Area newcomers may find themselves befuddled if they gaze into the scandal-ridden maelstrom that is local politics.
Therefore, we offer this Part I Primer on area political scandals.
Glossary of terms and phrases:
Scandal - A scandal is an incident involving allegations of wrong-doing, disgrace, moral outrage or any lubricant. A scandal may be based on reality, or the product of false allegations, or (if we're lucky)a scrumptious mixture of both (Feality).
Many scandals begin with a Whistle-Blower.* The Whistle-Blower reveals the alleged wrong-doing. A true whistle-blower has actual, firsthand knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing, often times having participated in the wrong-doing or, at the very least, rented the hall where the wrong-doing takes place. Whistle-Blowers can be graded as follows:
a) Grade A - These WB's are innocent of any wrong-doing and blow the whistle while simultaneously resigning in disgust from the organization, group or entity that is the subject of the scandal. These are true WB's. Another important element in a Grade A WB is the fact that the WB was once a supporter of the organization or person being blown.
b) Grade B - A recently fired employee who has first-hand knowledge of recent wrong-doing. These are true whistle-blowers as well but they leave themselves open to claims of disgruntlement.
c) Grade C - This WB may have first-hand knowledge of alleged wrong-doing but may also be a detractor of the scandal's subject.
d) Grade D - Not a true WB. This person is typically a political opponent of the scandal's subject and often times merely regurgitates rumors. Many times the allegations involve possible ethical misconduct but not crimes. A Grade D Whistle-Blower is also known as merely a blower and is usually the one in the tinfoil hat.
The actual scandal can also be graded or categorized by seriousness (or sometimes by height and weight).
A Tier One Scandal, a rarity in local politics, is a real treat. A Tier One Scandal (or T1) involves at least one felony, the real possibility of jail time and, hopefully, a leggy blond. Unfortunately, a Rensselaer County T1 is too much to hope for.
Tier Two - More common locally, a T2 usually involves a possible misdemeanor or unethical conduct that can lead to unemployment or, worse, job-hunting in the private sector. A T1 can also involve a blond, but not a leggy blond.
Tier Three - The most common scandal. No crime is involved and the result is usually personal embarrassment rather than any official censure. No blonds are involved in a T3 but you get the occasional one-legged brunette.
Tier Four - Meaningless revelations that involve conduct that is not illegal or unethical. T4's are often brought by the subject of a T1 or T2 to take some of the heat off.
Other terms you should know:
Actually using the term Whistle-Blower is generally frowned upon. If you disagree with the allegations of a Whistle-Blower, the Whistle-Blower is a disgruntled employee or disgruntled former employee.
If you agree with the allegations, the Whistle-Blower is a brave public servant.
Acquittal - In a typical criminal action an acquittal usually means that the prosecution has not proved every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In political scandal terms, an acquittal means that the defendant is innocent, pure, virtuous and a potential Court of Claims judge.
* A Whistle-Blower rarely uses an actual whistle, usually relying upon letters, e-mail or sworn statements.