Monday, April 30, 2007
The incident surrounding PBA President Bob Fitzgerald sounds more and more like the Mary Kate O'Neil story. A story that did not end happily for the Administration.
Fitzgerald was placed on administrative leave last week after bringing concerns to the top brass. Those concerns may have involved the safety of Officer Steve Seney. Seney lives in Troy. Other officers, including some on the list for possible promotion to sergeant, do not. Seney is third down on the list.
Meanwhile, it is believed that someone made waves with the City Civil Service Commission about the residency issue and police promotions via an anonymous letter. The CCSC then notified the outlanders that they could not be sergeants if they were not in compliance with the residency laws. Many believe Seney penned that anonymous letter (the letter was reportedly signed 'Evestay Eneysay').
Now, it gets murky. Fitzgerald says he brought some concerns to the brass. Next thing, he's placed on administrative leave and ordered to undergo a psych evaluation.* It is speculated that Fitzgerald is accused of threatening Seney with bodily harm.
Fitzgerald is exiled from the police station, where his PBA office is located. He's then allowed back inside the station but is given a police escort along with complimentary coffee and danish. Fitzgerald's police escorts even accompany him to the bathroom but it's not known what function they may perform once the stall door is shut.
Fitzgerald, via PBA attorney Walsh, had to bring an Order to Show Cause to discover the actual charge(s) against Fitzgerald. Often times, people charged with misconduct or crimes like to know the exact charges. For one thing, it helps them know if they did it or not.
If all this sounds like a Clusterf*%#k, you'd be right. You'd also be right if you followed the Clusterf*$%k trail back to Monument Square. Fitzgerald has played hardball with contract negotiations. Then came the Centanni fiasco, where Harry's pledge to terminate three detectives led to exonerations for O'Neil and Centanni (with a confidentiality agreement that everyone suspects was designed to protect at least one city hall employee). This is merely one more chapter in Harry's attempt to tear down our police department. The administration is only tough when no one fights back. When their intended victim hits back (usually through attorneys) they fold, like playground bullies.
Soon, it will be Police - 2, Administration - 0. Fitzgerald will be exonerated and will likely have a nice lawsuit against the city if he chooses. The best advice we could give to Harry is to pull a George Costanza and do the exact opposite of what he thinks is best. But, what fun would that be?
*The psych evaluation was canceled when no one could find a #2 pencil.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
With City Council President Hank Bauer imminent announcement for District Attorney (forcing a primary), the GOP is without any At-Large candidates. They've approached former councilmen Art Judge and Jack Mahoney, only to be turned down. NYS Canal Authority Director Carmella Mantello also contemplated a run but expressed concerns about the toxic atmosphere in the Troy GOP.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
"...authority to negotiate a deal with the various bargaining units and employees to give something back, like vacation time or longevity pay, in exchange for a waiver to live outside the city."
A waiver provision already exists:
§ 60-7. Waiver of requirements.
In the event the Mayor shall certify to the City Council that, after a reasonable recruitment period, he/she has been unable to fill a vacancy in any City position covered by this article by appointing a qualified resident of the City or a qualified nonresident who is prepared to become a resident within 90 days of his or her employment, then the Mayor may waive the residency requirements for said position on the grounds of "difficulty of recruitment." Such waiver shall apply to such specific appointment only as certified and waived by the Mayor.
So, is the administration once again funneling ethanol or is something else going on here? Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive.
Elected officials perceive residency requirements to be popular. That perception may or may not be correct. Based on anecdotal evidence they are correct. No one wants to abolish residency requirements, not for civilian employees and not for the police.
The mayor, however, lacks the intestinal fortitude to perform his duty and enforce the law. The resolution is his attempt to pass the buck onto the legislative branch which, as Council President Bauer points out, has already done it's job by enacting the police residency requirements. If the resolution were to pass, he could say, "Well, they've passed two residency laws, I guess they mean it this time. Now I have to fire people after November 1 because the legislature creates the laws and I enforce them...."
This portion of the resolution, giving the mayor the authority to cut deals on residency, should send a shiver down the spine of everyone with a spine. The part about negotiating with employees (as opposed to bargaining units) is particularly troublesome. Whether the mayor is a Republican or Democrat, the potential for abuse is glaringly obvious. It cannot be allowed to happen. Imagine what this regime would do with such power. Legalized intimidation is not recommended.
The answer to all this is clear. Enforce the residency requirements for city employees. As for the police, scrap the damn thing. If they can't do that for political reasons, repeal the law and the peal it, effective January 1, 2008. Grandfather and/or Grandmother everyone hired before that date. Make the new law clear. If you live outside Troy and you were hired before January 1, 2008, you don't have to live in Troy. If you do move to Troy, you're stuck here. Twenty years from now, the issue will be mostly moot. Forty years from now, we'll have complete mootness.
Good cops are going to do a good job in Troy, no matter where they live. Living in Troy isn't going to make a lazy cop a good cop.
Monday, April 23, 2007
The City Council, after a lengthy and at times testy debate, decided not to put a resolution on the agenda that would have modified the residency requirements for most city employees.
The resolution, put forth by Councilwoman Carolin Collier, C-District 6, would require all city employees, who are subjected to a variety of residency requirements, to come into compliance by Nov. 30 or be fired.
Alright, so far we're with you. Kind of. No, not really. This is the type of thing that happens after the skull bong is empty and someone forgot to bring the Doritos. The first portion of the proposed resolution is unnecessary. From Chapter 60 of The Code:
§ 60-5. General requirement.
All employees of the City of Troy, except those expressly exempt by the Public Officers Law of the State of New York, shall be residents of the City of Troy at the time of their employment or shall become residents within 90 days after their employment and shall remain residents of the City of Troy as a condition of their continued employment. Except as hereinafter provided, any employee of the City who does not comply with the mandatory residency requirements of this article shall be subject to immediate termination by the Mayor.
With us? Good! Try and keep up.
The Mayor can already do what is being proposed. He can terminate residency law violators. Ergo, he can terminate them after November 30. He can do it on Bastille Day, Christmas Day or Secretary Appreciation Day.
And whose job is it to enforce the law? As any C- student can tell you......The Executive. If you don't believe us, lets take a look.
§ C-48. Duties and powers of Mayor.
The Mayor, as the chief executive officer of the City, shall be responsible for the administration of the executive branch of the City government. Specifically it shall be the Mayor's duty:
A. To see that the laws of the State of New York and the local laws and ordinances of the Council are enforced within the City;
Even those of you who know how to read may have missed that. The Mayor's power and duty to enforce the laws is cleverly hidden at the top of the list.
Corporation Counsel David Mitchell says the problem with the current ordinance is that it lacks an enforcement mechanism. That is a problem. To bad it's not true. Here's your enforcement mechanism:
Mayor: Hello, City employee.
City Employee: Hello, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: City Employee, have you moved to Troy yet?
City Employee: No.
Mayor: You're fired!
If Mitchell refers specifically to the ordinance regulating Police Officer residency, then he surely knows that the courts have dealt with this issue
In September 1997, plaintiff Robert Hayden (hereinafter plaintiff) was reappointed by defendant City of Troy as a police officer. At the time of his reappointment, plaintiff lived in an apartment in the City of Troy, Rensselaer County. In July 1998, plaintiff purchased a house outside the Troy city limits in the Town of Pittstown, Rensselaer County, with the intention of living there. Pursuant to Public Officers Law § 30 (4) (3), n1 on December 22, 1995, the Troy City Counsel adopted a resolution, codified as Code of Ordinances of the City of Troy, N.Y. (Troy Code) § 24-4, n2 requiring police officers hired after December 22, 1995 to reside within the Troy city limits. In June 1998, the City's assistant police chief advised plaintiff of the residency requirement and that failure to abide by the requirement "may ultimately result in dismissal from service." Thereafter, plaintiff received a letter from the City's personnel director advising plaintiff that the City has "instituted a practice that requires officers who come under the law to sign a form attesting to any change in their residences." Plaintiff was further advised that failure to sign the attestation form "could become a ground for disciplinary action."-Troy PBA v City of Troy (2002)
The PBA lost that fight. The enforcement mechanism is implicit in both the ordinance and the appellate decision. Council President Bauer said it best: ""The council has done its job. ... We passed a law and it is supported by a Supreme Court judge. We can debate whether it should be enforced or how vigorously it should be enforced but there is a mechanism."
If you need further evidence of how useless this all is, Council Wojcik supports the resolution. Wojcik also offered an amendment that would further require all police officers to reside not only within the city limits, but within 200 feet of Mr. Wojcik. Councilwoman Collier introduced the resolution but appears less comfortable carrying kool-aid for this administration than Wojcik.
This episode may just be further proof that members of the administration attended civics 101 on the small bus. But this isn't really about the first part of the resolution. It's about the second part, which we'll discuss tomorrow.
Friday, April 20, 2007
By Politicus Ebonus Abyssus
Tom Casey, Troy City Republican Chairman, City Ethics Board member, and a city employee is, if nothing else, entertaining and much political fodder. This time Casey was helped along by Democratic political operatives. In a clandestine operation envied by even the most ardent James Bond fans, we obtained the notes that Casey read from at the recent City Council meeting.
In the City Council meeting, Casey began his oratorical tour de force with “Where do I begin?” The notes we found started with, “Where to begin.” Coincidence? Maybe. Secondly, and more interesting, the notes were written on an action team brochure. To be fair, however, you should judge for yourself whether these are Casey’s notes or not. We’ve included the brochure, with the hand written notes, to assist you in reaching a conclusion.
Let’s play devil’s advocate: This could be a left-wing conspiracy to besmirch Mirch and make Casey look like a fool, tool (or both). A Republican-hating leftist Democrat or Working Families Party member (Casey indicated they were one in the same) went to the meeting, took a brochure to further implicate City Hall, and took notes on what Casey said, including the riveting opening of “Where do I begin?” This left-wing conspirator also knew enough not to take notes of anything said by individuals before or after Casey, including 3-Job Bob, to keep the ruse alive. This left-wing conspirator then gave us these notes.
There could be, however, an alternative theory based on a right-wing conspiracy to discredit the Democrats and the Working Families Party and deflect attention from Intimigate. Casey outlined a number of facts at the City Council meeting that he could not have known based on his current jobs with the City. In this theory, Casey talked with 3-Job Bob, Deputy Dan, or someone else in the administration, grabbed an action team brochure off someone’s desk, and took notes on it.
Also supporting the right-wing conspiracy theory are notes themselves. The notes indicated that the Working Families Party at the City Council meeting “looks very white, very educated, ” and then included what Casey actually said at the City Council meeting, that “the vast makeup of the party couldn't make it tonight because they are low-income minorities in the housing projects in Troy.” There are no reasons to write down information that wasn’t said, indicating that these were speaking notes rather than summary notes.
It is also interested that Casey would make disparaging remarks about the Working Families Party. Didn’t 3-Job Bob and friends attempt to take over the Working Families Party last year? I guess this is a case of if you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em. But I digress.
Based on the information, it is up to you, the reader, to decide whether these are Casey’s notes or not. My money is on Casey. But, I tend to evaluate the information and ignore the extraneous noise. Thanks Mr. Casey for amusing us again.
Thank you, P.E. Abyssus.
A few observations. Uh, where to begin?
1. Who has to write down "Where to begin?" Most can improvise that opening quite nicely.
2. "This group of WF looks very white, very educ" (or very Gouc?). We think it's 'Gouc'. We saw the WF's present and they did have a certain Goucocity about them. And they were not just white, but very white. We suspect a few were actually albinos (perhaps Gouc albinos).
3. Is it just us or does it say, "This is Zodiac speaking," somewhere in those notes?
Here's the transcript of the best apology since Plato: Take it away Mr. Casey!
My name is Tom Casey, 82 Fonda Avenue.
Where do I begin?
I look at the, uh, parts of this allegation, and I've decided, uh, I added it up. I think if this were to be true Mr. Mirch and Mr. Crawley would owe the city about five or six dollars. They rode back and forth from the county building, and used a phone. Five or six dollars. It's funny, not to be picky, but the e-mail to call people to this meeting was sent by a man DeSeve whose family stole over two hundred thousand dollars from the taxpayers and has yet to return it as I believe. So, it's interesting.
I just want to say something that these individuals didn't seem to mind Bob and the way he played his game when he was a Democrat. They also seem to have a problem with parties taking over other parties, but we all know that Eddie McDonough and the Democrats ran these parties for years and years and years before the Republicans ever thought of doing it, and there wasn't a word to be said. That's just another interesting note.
Just on the Working Families Party in general. They were started and still are basically a whole subsidiary of the Democratic Party. I can't ever remember them endorsing a Republican around here. If you look at the people who are here representing the Working Families Party, apparently the vast makeup of the party couldn't make it tonight because they are low income minorities in the housing projects in Troy. Empowering these people or using them, I would say the latter. So they're not exactly on the up-and-up.
Just a word about this woman who they're hanging everything on with these allegations. This woman had no problem with going over and accusing one of the council people of ??? phone call, sexual harassment, and now she throws it out again. I think that goes to the credibility.
As far as political work. If you are with a political party, you are not forced to work, you want to work. And it's for selfish reasons. It's called money. If you have a job from a political party and you do not work and no one else works in the party, your party will lose and you will lose your job. So I'm sure she was a willing participant in keeping her job and putting money in her pocket.
And like I said, she throws around sexual harassment allegations like it's nothing. She doesn't know whether this gentleman that she made those phone-- supposedly made those phone calls for -- was guilty of that, but she had no problem with that. I guess she learned well what a tool throwing around sexual harassment was.
But at any rate, that's all I had to say, and thank you.
No, Mr. Casey, thank you!
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
It's not one particular thing. It's not a statement or anything Regan has said in interviews. No, it's an exercise in logic and frankly, her story doesn't stand up.
Here it goes:
When the allegations initially arose, Mayor Tutunjian remained silent. In fact, they were just about to issue an Amber Alert and place his face and vital statistics on a milk carton when he finally went on record. What was he doing during the first week or so, as scandal erupted around him? Like any good Mayor, with the highest of ethical standards, he must have made inquiries.
Tutunjian finally went on record on April 4, 2007:
...many speakers criticized Tutunjian for remaining silent. Wednesday night Tutunjian reluctantly said he was concerned with the allegations because they are "baseless." - The Record, April 5, 2007.
Exactly what was the basis for this baselessness? Obviously, phone records would establish that no hard-to-explain, long distance, subscriber service phone calls were made from City Hall in the last week of October or first week of November, 2005. So, Mayor Tutunjian, eager to exonerate his own high level officials, obtained phone records that became the basis for the baselessness.
But no. We no that's not true. On April 2, he tells The Record:
A FOIL denied
This paper requested records of all phone calls made from Crawley's office for the time in question. It was, not surprisingly, denied. The reason: "Your request has been denied as no records exist in the city of Troy for the above request," according to the response by the city.
Hmmm. The basis of the baselessness could not be phone records because "no records exist...." And we know that the city always responds to all legitimate FOIL requests.
So, the fact that the Mayor characterized the allegations as "baseless" leads us to the only possible conclusion. The Mayor confronted the three individuals named in Regan's affidavit. After all, they do work for him and the week-plus delay is likely attributed to the Mayor's inability to get an immediate appointment with the DPW Commissioner. Presumably, the Mayor interviewed each person separately.
We have numerous denials from DPW Commissioner Robert Mirch. The disgruntled former Democrat has gone on record (and television) denying the allegations. Since Mirch has denied it, logic dictates that Mr. Crawley and Mr. Buell also denied the allegations (how could the Mayor have a baselessness basis unless all three denied the allegations?).
Now, the Mayor can finally go on record and deny the allegations. Why? Well, his three employees have denied the allegations. They would not lie to their boss because they realize the consequences of making their boss look weak(er). A mayor must have confidence in his high-level staffers. If high-level staffers lie to their boss....well, lets just say no mayor can afford to look that impotent.
Thus, we arrive at our conclusion that Ms. Regan's affidavit has serious credibility problems when stacked against the Mayor's strong, unambiguous denial.
It's just a theory.
This post was brought to you by Voice Shot. Use Voice Shot for all your robo-calling needs!
Monday, April 16, 2007
The e-mail came in the wake of the first Record story on Intimigate. The e-mail called for the resignation of Mr. Buell, Mr. Crawley and Mr. Mirch.
See for yourself:
Jeff and all -I received an anonymous email against Dunne before the election and having read the Record article, I'm shocked at your behavior. Good for Ms. Regan for standing up and telling the truth about the "TONYA SCANDAL".
Is there no integrity in City Hall? You owe the people of Troy an apology and your resignations!Harry - you aren't mentioned in the article as being complicit. You know if you were involved (regardless you SHOULD know what's going on in your administration). You should ask for the immediate resignations of Jeff Buell, Dan Crawley and Bob Mirch.
As for November - LET'S THROW THESE BUMS OUT!
Jim de Seve
Many of you may not like this e-mail. Many of you may disagree with the sentiments of Mr. de Seve. That's fine and it's also irrelevant.
What we can all agree on is that the content of the e-mail is a matter of public concern. It is political speech. We can all agree that political speech is one of the cornerstones of our democracy, which everyone - Republican, Democrat, Conservative, Liberal, other - cherish.
Three days after this e-mail was published, Mr. de Seve received a code violation. No, not for over-use of capital letters. In a 'routine' sweep, graffiti was found spray-painted on a wall of one of de Seve's buildings. Mr. de Seve was ticketed but otherwise unharmed.
Here's the ticket
The chronology of events is disturbing. More disturbing are the following facts:
1) The ticket does not list the code that was allegedly violated;
2) The City Code doesn't make graffiti on a wall a violation;
3) de Seve hasn't received any prior code violations so why is this a "Final Notice" and a "re-inspect?"
4) How did the graffiti come to the attention of Code? According to The Record, Mirch said Code was inspecting the neighborhood when they discovered the graffiti. However, de Seve was told that the alleged violation was phoned-in anonymously.
Mr. de Seve wrote Mr. Sheeran on March 29, 2007, which requested in part:
"For easier compliance, would you please send an amended violations notice stating the new timeframe and citing the section and paragraph of the code that is in violation? Also, since this is a legal matter and requires clear legal documentation, would you correct the violation notice to indicate that no previous violations had been issued against us and that your visit was an “initial inspection” not a “reinspection.” That would be greatly appreciated."
To date the City has not responded.
To bad our forefathers didn't proscribe government retribution against political speech. We would have included just such a proscription in the Bill of Rights. Hell, we would have made it the First one.*
We love the smell of a Civil Rights suit in the morning.
*Note: Our legal department points out that even if de Seve was in violation of the code, it doesn't matter. You cannot use a legitimate violation for an illegitimate purpose.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
First, the official title of the appointed SP is "Special District Attorney." A Special District Attorney has the following powers:
1) Must be addressed as The Right Honorable Mr./Ms. Special District Attorney Esq.;
2) An SP has the same authority in an investigation or case that any District Attorney would possess;
3) That authority lasts through the final disposition of the matter;
4) They may, but are not required to, wear a cape;
5) They may have a secret identity, usually as a newspaper reporter, but this is not mandatory.
The SP is not born with these powers. Like Spiderman, these powers come from an outside source. In this case, County Law.
NY CLS County § 701 (2007)
§ 701. Special district attorney
1. Whenever the district attorney of any county and [fig 1] such assistants as he [fig 2] or she may have shall not be in attendance at a term of any court of record, which he or she is by law required to attend, or [fig 3] are disqualified from acting in a particular case to discharge his or her duties at a term of any court, a superior criminal court in the county wherein the action is triable may, by order:(a) appoint some attorney at law having an office in or residing in the county, or any adjoining county, to act as special district attorney during the absence, inability or disqualification of the district attorney and [fig 1] such assistants as he or she may have; or(b) appoint a district attorney of any other county within the judicial department or of any county adjoining the county wherein the action is triable to act as special district attorney, provided such district attorney agrees to accept appointment by such criminal court during such absence, inability or disqualification of the district attorney and such assistants as he or she may have.
2. If, for any reason, the appointment of a special district attorney cannot be effectuated pursuant to paragraph (a) or (b) of subdivision one of this section, the court shall then attempt to effect such appointment pursuant to the other such paragraph.
3. Where a special district attorney appointed under this section is a district attorney, he or she may direct the exercise of such powers and the performance of such duties by any assistant in his or her office in any case in which he or she serves as special district attorney to the same extent permitted by law in any case in which he or she serves as district attorney.
4. No appointment made under this section shall be for a period beyond the adjournment of the term at which made. Where, however, an appointment is required under this section for a particular case because of the disqualification of the district attorney, the appointment may be made for all purposes, including disposition. The special district attorney so appointed shall possess the powers and discharge the duties of the district attorney during the period for which he or she shall be appointed. The provisions of this section shall also apply to a county wholly contained within a city.
We've highlighted some of the more interesting points.
It appears that a District Attorneys Office may decline such an appointment. Which makes us wonder if the Office that is offered the appointment reviews anything prior to agreeing to act as SP. Can they take a peek and say, "Nah, not interested," or "Yippee, look at this!" Or, do they agree to the appointment and run the risk of getting a big, warm pile of....dumped on their desk? The former seems logical.
Although they possess the same powers as a District Attorney, the scope of that power is limited to the Order of the judge. They can only prosecute those named in the order. If further information is developed we are unsure of the process. Clearly, any potential crimes uncovered during an investigation won't be ignored. We're just unsure if the SP can apply to the Court for an amendment to the Order or if the whole process, as to other potential crimes, has to begin again from square one. Any lawyers out there care to fill us in? Feel free.
When the case is finished, the SP typically walks away before the press arrives and is never seen again - unless the city finds itself, once again, in grave danger.
Friday, April 13, 2007
The matter will likely be handled by the office's Public Integrity Unit. The retaliatory complaints against three Democrats will also be investigated. However, given the timing of the complaints made against City Councilman Campana, County Legislator O'Brien and Legislative Minority operative Sue Steele, and the fact that on their face, the allegations don't amount to a crime, we all know where the SP will set his/her sights.
McGrath could have appointed a private attorney to handle Intimigate. Instead, he upped the stakes by handing this matter off to Soares office. The Public Integrity Unit is something of a showpiece over on the left bank. Soares made the unit a priority when he ran for office. They regularly utilize the PIU and have had great success. The attorneys in the PIU also know what they're doing. Albany County is the venue for more than just local, political corruption. The PIU gets to go after big, state-level, fish as well. Best of all, we won't get a super-sized bill from a private attorney.
Things should get interesting. We haven't seen Regan's recent affidavit but hope to have it for next week. With Soares office in the mix you're going to see some tired people walking around the county building today. It's hard to catch some Z's when you're being investigated.
And, it's not just those named. There's a very good chance that this will lead to something far more serious, involving people who have not yet been mentioned.
You can catch WTEN's story, here and Franco's story, here. *
HELP WITH THE CHILDREN
Many of you are the parents of children. Many of those children have never resided outside of Rensselaer County. This may be a confusing time for them. We're here to help.
1. Explain that the phrase Public Integrity is part of the English language and not made up.
2. Answer any questions they may have. Explain to them that Public Integrity is not a potty phrase and they will not be punished for saying Public Integrity.
3. Let them know that they are not in trouble and the Special Prosecutor only eats bad politicians, not children.
4. Hug them and tell them you love them. Counselling is available. Contact us.
*If you go to WTEN's site, check out the Aretakis story.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
The Troy Police Department is quietly enforcing the residency requirements that police live within Troy City limits. They're making sure that new recruits abide by the law.
We've discussed this before and come firmly down on the side of abolishing the residency requirement. We know that remains an unpopular position. Reasonable minds can differ on this issue.
Police Officers are not professionals in the strictest sense. They are not licensed by the State of New York as are physicians, nurses etc. However, since they carry guns and have unlimited access to latex gloves, we won't debate the point.
The term professional has taken on a less formal meaning in the past decade and is used in a more figurative way. When we say professional, we mean someone who dresses appropriately, adheres to a high standard of conduct and demonstrates dedication to the job. Aside from the residency requirement, the only thing preventing Troy cops from being completely professional are those white cars. Those cars look like something you win if you sell over $50,000 worth of Mary Kay cosmetics. They really should be dark blue or black. We're thinking Adam-12. Those colors are more imposing and will also bring out their eyes.
We want our police to act in a "professional" manner. Since we desire that, we should treat them like professionals. Dump the residency requirements. If an emergency situation arises and you want police reporting to the station in a timely manner, institute a time policy. Perhaps they should live within a twenty or thirty minute drive. An officer residing in Watervliet can be in downtown Troy in five minutes. An officer residing in the outer-rim of Lansingburgh will take longer to reach the station.
In the end, as long as we can compete for, and retain, the best, do we care where they live? Really, people, our officers have to perform cavity searches. If you can find good people to fill jobs that occasionally involve rectal spelunking, let them live where they want. Besides, we've never heard of any crime victim refusing the aid of a Troy police officer because that officer resides outside the city.
If they residency laws are to be enforced, start at the top. Leaders lead by example. Perhaps Mayor Harry will sign an affidavit ensuring all of us, police included, that all City Hall employees and Public Officers are in compliance with their own residency requirements.
Since Franco has a good piece on the issue we'll stop here.
And hey, lets be careful out there.
This post was filmed on location with the men and women of law enforcement. All suspects are innocent (cough,cough) until proven guilty.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Republicans requested that the District Attorneys Office seek the appointment of a special prosecutor for three would-be scandals, or scandalettes. The request was made via robo-call by "Dolores" who claims to work at both HVCC and the County.
Besides smacking of 'me-to-ism', requesting a special prosecutor now is, like - so three weeks ago. Kind of like wearing legwarmers, joining EST or using a Walkman.
What has the GOP more excited than Bob Mirch at a Public Employment Job Fair?
First, City Councilman Clem Campana may have used his phone at HVCC to call City Hall.
Second, County Legislator Ginny O'Brien asked DPW Commissioner Bob Mirch to pick up some garbage.
Third, Legislative Minority operative Sue Steele snapped a photo of Rich Crist that went out in a mailer. The mailer juxtaposed Crist's $80,000 salary with Sheriff Mahar's $70,000. We have not seen the mailer.
Each of these scandalettes upset us so much we couldn't eat a second helping of waffles.
Lets take a brief look at each act.
Using an HVCC phone to call City Hall. That could violate some internal HVCC policy. Perhaps HVCC allows it's employees limited, personel use of phones. We simply do not know. It is not known if Campana read from a script, disguised his voice or pretended to be a fictitious person.
We do know it's not a crime. It's not even a violation.
The next two are more fun. We never really understood the O'Brien incident. Apparently, she's the listing agent for a house former Democratic Chair Rob Gregor is trying to sell. Perfectly legal. Now, there was garbage in, or outside of, a neighboring home. We're not sure which but outside makes more sense. Since a messy yard may make the Gregor property more difficult to sell, O'Brien called the DPW to ask them to remove the garbage.
Presumably, the neighboring property is abandoned. Correct? Who knows. Which is precisely the problem with this would-be scandal. It's too difficult to explain. O'Brien doesn't represent Troy and can exercise no official or unofficial authority over Troy's DPW. Also, where's the benefit? The commission remains the same whether the property sells next week or three months from now.
Besides, isn't picking up trash Mirch's forte?
Where's the crime?
Finally, the most disturbing event. Photographing Richard Crist. This is not a crime. It may be a violation of County Ethics rules. We don't know if the County has ethics rules or just a series of suggestions that are honored more in the breach. The idea that the photo was taken "on County time" is problematic. Is handing a birthday gift to a co-worker, which probably takes longer than snapping a photo, done on "County time?" Is a three minute chat about American Idol done "on County time?" Aaahhh! But that time isn't "political time" is it?
The idea that the mailer that utilized the photograph was "informational" and not "political" doesn't pass the smell test but we haven't seen the mailer.
Crime? Doesn't seem to come anywhere close to any crime in the Penal Code.
The key in equesting a Special Prosecutor is giving him or her a potential crime to prosecute.
Helpful Hint #1
If you're requesting a Special Prosecutor, try and find a crime that fits or may fit the alleged act. Ask yourself, who writes the Penal Code? Anyone? Anyone? You in the back. Right! Politicians. Don't be surprised if certain acts that sound unethical have not been criminalized.
Helpful Hint #2
Be the first to request the Special Prosecutor. If you're making a request after the opposition has made a request, you come off like an angry, sad, desperate kid who can't get a date to the prom.
Helpful Hint #3
Make sure the person who speaks for you at City Council meetings isn't 1) violating ethical rules 2) making light of ethical rules 3) admitting that political appointees always do political work on public time because that's their job.
Helpful Hint #4
Wake up your boss and ask him to collect all available records that will prove you did nothing wrong. Ask him to provide those records to the newspaper so reporters stop writing "baseless" stories about you. No boss wants to see his underlings subject to such attacks if it's in his power to stop them.
And that's one to grow on.
Speaking of crimes, here's a crime:
NY CLS Penal § 165.05 (2007)
§ 165.05. Unauthorized use of a vehicle in the third degree A person is guilty of unauthorized use of a vehicle in the third degree when:1. Knowing that he does not have the consent of the owner, he takes, operates, exercises control over, rides in or otherwise uses a vehicle. A person who engages in any such conduct without the consent of the owner is presumed to know that he does not have such consent
Ethical rules should be enforced. The residents of the city and county deserve no less. But, if you're the party in power, be careful. The party in power makes all the appointments and has far more computer records, e-mails and phone records subject to a FOIL request. Perhaps that's why we don't see too many elected Republicans who have simultaneous public sector employment rushing to the DA's office with various requests.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Letters-to-the-Editor are frequently abused by politicians.
For example, in a recent letter to the editor in The Record, we learned that Ann Marie Tracey, a constituent of Peter Ryan (D-3rd), was disappointed in Ryan's performance....on the City Council. This disappointment must have cut deep because Tracey, who voted for Ryan in 2005, stated she would not vote for Ryan again!
What Ms. Tracey failed to disclose was that in 2005 she voted in the 5th District, represented by Mr. Krogh.
Of course, Ms. Tracey could have told the truth. For example:
- Ms. Tracey could have stated that, "I don't live in Ryan's district but if I did I would not vote for him."
or - "I never voted for Ryan and won't vote for him again."
or - "If I had lived in District 3 in 2005 I would have voted for Ryan and I would have become so disappointed with his performance that if I lived in District 3 during the subsequent election I would not vote for him."
All these statements, although true, are clumsy.
Armed with this full disclosure, our forensic team has concluded that Ms. Tracey lied or, in the alternative, she did not write or read the letter attributed to her. But, if she didn't write the letter, who did?
Oh, Tracey is also the sister of Tom Casey, Chair of the Troy Republican Committee.
Mr. Ryan addressed these concerns in Friday's Record. He characterized Tracey as "misrepresenting" the facts. Why don't we just call it what it is? A lie.
What do we tell the children?
Saturday, April 07, 2007
For the first time since - we're not really sure - there will be no elected or appointed incumbent running in the District Attorneys race. It's wide-open and will test the health of the Rensselaer County GOP. Is the party as anemic as it seems? Spitzer, Cuomo, Hevesi and Clinton won an easy majority of votes in the last election. The GOP lost a County Judgeship in 2005. Gillibrand received more votes than Sweeney in Rensselaer County and Assemblyman Gordon came within a hundred or so votes of beating Martin Reid within the County. Add Hammond's WFP votes to Gordon's votes and Republican Martin Reid failed to win a majority of votes.
For the Republicans, the focus has been on three potential candidates: Trish DeAngelis, City Council President Hank Bauer and defense attorney Greg Cholakis. With DeAngelis out, the conventional wisdom is that Hank will be the GOP candidate.
As a candidate for District Attorney, Bauer presents a unique set of problems for the GOP: One tactical, one strategic.
Bauer is Troy City Council President. He is the only At-Large incumbent for the Republicans. If he runs for DA, the GOP Council ticket will be weakened. Already concerned about losing the council, finding another At-Large candidate is the last thing the City GOP wants to do.
Strategically, Bauer adds to the increasing taint of corruption now saddling the Republicans. His ignominious removal from the bench will be political fodder for the Democrats.
Cholakis also has a problem. He's simply not 'one of them.' Greg has the potential to be a fine District Attorney but he doesn't appear comfortable (much like Jimino) with the current GOP high command.
So, who will it be?
We predict that the GOP candidate for Rensselaer County District Attorney will be........County Chair Jack Casey.
That's a prediction, folks. It's not an invitation to rip into Casey or leave comments about his private life. We don't care if he's been married once, twice or never. We don't care if he was seen at some bar back in 1977, or handled some case in 1985 that pissed you off. Please restrain yourselves from acting like Republicans.
Can Casey win? Of course. He's also easily beatable.
No word yet. The usual suspects have been mention: Nugent and Premo. No word yet if either even wants the job. Nugent always seems to saliavte over the job but the rumor is that he's yet to mend fences with Democratic Chairman Tom Wade.
Our prediction is that the nomination will go to former Assistant District Attorney Richard McNally. McNally was the number two guy under former DA (and former Judge) James Canfield, the last Democrat elected District Attorney.
McNally is a good choice. He's an experienced prosecutor and also knows cases from the other side of the v, having served as an assistant public defender. He's also never run for office and would be a fresh political face, a rare commodity in Rensselaer County.
Better still, McNally can win.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Wednesday night's City Council meeting quickly morphed into a Republican circus, making up in entertainment value what it lacked in accountability.
As the embattled Republicans circled the wagons at the City Council meeting, GOP Chair Tom Casey rode to the rescue. Unfortunately his stallion pulled up lame and his Colt fired blanks.
For those unfortunate enough to be hampered with a college education and analytical skills more sophisticated than a spider crab, Casey's argument may sound confusing.
In defense of the three public servants at issue, Casey had this to say in front of a speechless City Council meeting crowd:
Republican City Chairman Tom Casey said even if the allegations are true, then the employees "only owe the city $5 or $6." "The Democrats did not mind Bob (Mirch) and the way he plays when he was a Democrat," Casey said. "Appointed political employees are not expected or coerced into doing political work. They want to because they know if the other party wins, they are out of a job." - The Record
First of all, Tom, closed head injuries can be very serious. We'd have that checked out.
Secondly, we're not on a reimbursement plan, here. You don't take a city car to Chicago and just cut a check. The essence of the allegations are that three city appointees used city property and city time to defraud the voters in order to influence an election.
Casey is not only a GOP officer, he's also a city employee with intimate knowledge of ethics violations.
§ 43-6. Political party officers.
B. No political party officer shall be employed by the City of Troy. Any offer of employment with the City which is tendered to a person who is a political party officer shall be made in writing and shall contain a requirement that resignation from such political party office is a condition precedent to the effectiveness of such offer of employment. Prior to commencement of such employment, the appointing authority must file a copy of such offer of employment together with a copy of such letter of resignation from party office with the City Clerk.
Of course, buried in that Ethics Code is this little number.
§ 43-10. Penalties for offenses.
A. Disciplinary action. Any officer or employee of the City of Troy who engages in any action that violates any provision of this chapter may be warned, reprimanded, suspended or removed from office or employment, or be subject to any other sanction authorized by law or collective bargaining agreement, by the appointing authority or person or body authorized by law to impose such sanctions. A waning, reprimand, suspension, removal, or other authorized sanction may be imposed in addition to any other penalty contained in this chapter or in any other provision of law.
B. Civil fine. Any officer or employee of the City of Troy who violates any provision of this chapter may be subject to a civil fine, in a reasonable amount, of up to $1,000 for each violation. A civil fine may be imposed in addition to any other penalty contained in any other provision of law or in this chapter.
C. Misdemeanor. Any person, whether or not an officer or employee of the City of Troy, who intentionally or knowingly violates any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, if a municipal officer or employee, shall forfeit his or her municipal office or employment; provided, however, that a criminal violation of § 43-7 of this chapter shall also require proof of intent to deceive.
And yes, before you ask, the use of city property for personal use is a violation of the Ethics Code.
In all fairness, Mr. Casey may be unaware of the Ethics Code. After all, there's no requirement for Ethics Board members, such as Mr. Casey, to actually read the ethics rules.
That'll be $6, Tom.
It's not just the GOP that's ethically challenged. A full-blown Tscandalnami is now rocking the Democrats.
The accusations have also drawn counterclaims about ethics from city Republicans. Mirch distributed a news release from Republican Councilman Mark Wojcik asking for an investigation of a vote by Campana that transferred a parcel on Third Street to the Red Front restaurant where Campana's wife works. The entire City Council voted 9 to 0 on Sept. 7, 2006, for the transfer. - Albany Times Union
According to sources, Mr. Campana was at the apex of a brazen conspiracy. Mrs. Campana works for the Red Front. The Red Front wanted to expand to add a deck. Campana agreed to be the all-important 9th vote on the land transfer vote in exchange for his wife getting a job she already had. Camapana has also, allegedly, ordered pizza from the Red Front via (you guessed it) telephone.
It's also alleged that since the deck will mean more tables, Mrs. Campana has been studying speed-waitressing so she can cover more tables during her shift to increase her tips.
Campana's actions in support of a local business violated the following sections of the Ethic Code:
Lets be honest. This was just the GOP's third attempt deflect the Intimigate allegations and just as laughable as the others. How laughable? Councilman Wojcik apologized to Councilman Campana for the letter. Why would Mark do that? Perhaps because he didn't write the letter. It was written for him. By the same person that whispered sweet-nothings in Tom Casey's ear Wednesday night.
Mr. Wojcik, you may not realize it but you are the elected official. The people of your district voted for you in overwhelming numbers. You do not have to take orders from an appointed political hack. We supported you when you stood firm against introducing sharks to Grafton Lakes. Where has that Mark Wojcik gone?
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
NY CLS Penal § 195.00
A public servant is guilty of official misconduct when, with intent to obtain a benefit or deprive another person of a benefit:
1. He commits an act relating to his office but constituting an unauthorized exercise of his official functions, knowing that such act is unauthorized; or
2. He knowingly refrains from performing a duty which is imposed upon him by law or is clearly inherent in the nature of his office.
Official misconduct is a class A misdemeanor.
Granted, Coercion sounds more fun, especially in mixed company and after a few rounds of Jim Beam, but Official Misconduct could be more on point.
The problem is, does anyone really want to be charged, let alone convicted, of Official Misconduct? It's only a misdemeanor. It shows a true lack of ambition and imagination. Theoretically, jail time is possible, but just county time, not state pen time and few people can really pull-off an orange jumper. Not to mention the embarrassment:
Murder Defendant: What you in for, man?
Political Hack: Ummm....omphduct.
Murder Defendant: What?
Political Hack: mmph uct.
Murder Defendant: Say what?
Political Hack: Official Misconduct.
Murder Defendant: You steal money or sumfin'?
Political Hack: Uh...no....I used a city phone for political purposes.
Murder Defendant: Bitch!
The whole scenario is awkward and uncomfortable for everyone. Then, to establish any type of respect, you'll have to shiv someone in the shower. The whole thing could be a drag.
We don't know if Official Misconduct is applicable. You can decide for yourself. Perhaps the Special Prosecutor will consider this particular statute. Maybe the definition of 'benefit' is limited in scope. One side note, it appears that a conviction under this statute results in automatic removal from office. Period. End of story, even if the conviction is appealed.
So, we must keep in mind that the allegations may or may not constitute a crime. If there is a prosecution, there will be no jail time, just lots of good laughs as what comes around goes around.
These allegations are not about using a phone for a political campaign. Councilmen Wojcik and Krogh both work for the County of Rensselaer. Would it be wrong for them to phone a contributor from work, to....invite them to a fundraiser? Schedule a campaign meeting? Yes, it would be wrong. Would it be a big deal? No, people make mistakes, people get sloppy.
Here, the allegations really must be distilled to their essence: A conspiracy to lie to the voters and manipulate an election. It goes to the very heart of our democracy. It's no different than Watergate, albeit on a smaller, more pathetic stage. That's what we're talking about here, it's not merely about using a phone once or twice for something other than official city business.
One wonders if this incident will, much like the Valerie Plame matter, recede into the background as more serious allegations of corruption surface. Allegations that have nothing to do with Mr. Buell, Crawley or City Hall.
Remember though, this is Rensselaer County, where the official Ethical Standard is, "There was no indictment."
Thank you, you've been a great audience.
Monday, April 02, 2007
The Rensselaer County DA's Office has forwarded this matter to Judge McGrath. It's likely that a Special Prosecutor will be appointed. Which brings us to this...
When this story broke, many of you entertained visions of crimes, convictions and jail time. Perhaps you saw Mr. Buell in a perp-walk or being re-christened Sally by his 6-7, 350lb cell mate. Perhaps you imagined Mr. Mirch pimping Mr. Crawley in the prison yard for a carton of Lucky's.
The reality is, acts such as those alleged by Ms. Regan can be illegal, unethical and can violate numerous work rules. They can be as distasteful and as ugly as my Mother-in-Law after a pub crawl. That does not make the alleged acts criminal. Maybe yes, maybe no.
Lets take a look at what our Legal Department has prepared: Criminal statutes that, if the allegations prove true, may have been violated.
NY CLS Penal § 135.65
Coercion in the First Degree
A person is guilty of coercion in the first degree when he commits the crime of coercion in the second degree, and when:
1. He commits such crime by instilling in the victim a fear that he will cause physical injury to a person or cause damage to property; or
2. He thereby compels or induces the victim to:
(a) Commit or attempt to commit a felony; or
(b) Cause or attempt to cause physical injury to a person; or
(c) Violate his duty as a public servant.
Coercion in the first degree is a class D felony.
NY CLS Penal § 135.60
Coercion in the Second Degree
A person is guilty of coercion in the second degree when he compels or induces a person to engage in conduct which the latter has a legal right to abstain from engaging in, or to abstain from engaging in conduct in which he has a legal right to engage, by means of instilling in him a fear that, if the demand is not complied with, the actor or another will:
1. Cause physical injury to a person; or
2. Cause damage to property; or
3. Engage in other conduct constituting a crime; or
4. Accuse some person of a crime or cause criminal charges to be instituted against him; or
5. Expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject some person to hatred, contempt or ridicule; or
6. Cause a strike, boycott or other collective labor group action injurious to some person's business; except that such a threat shall not be deemed coercive when the act or omission compelled is for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act; or
7. Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another's legal claim or defense; or
8. Use or abuse his position as a public servant by performing some act within or related to his official duties, or by failing or refusing to perform an official duty, in such manner as to affect some person adversely; or
9. Perform any other act which would not in itself materially benefit the actor but which is calculated to harm another person materially with respect to his health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships.
Coercion in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.
The first observation we make is that technically, if you really think about it, coercion and local politics are virtually synonomous. The damn thing is built on coercion. Hell, local government probably couldn't function without it.
Take a close look at Coercion in the Second Degree sub. (5). Mr. A wants to run for city council, county legislature, whatever. Mr. B works for the local political boss, mayor etc. Mr. B tells Mr. A, "if you run against us, we'll release all the dirt we have on you." Mr. A has a legal right to run for office. That sounds like Coercion, a misdemeanor. The GOP does it all the time.
An argument can be made that:
1) If a County employee's job is threatened unless he or she does something that they do not have to do;
2) And if the person doing the threatening is in a position to carry out that threat;
The crime of coercion may be applicable. In our scenario, however, the acts alleged against Crawley and Buell do not fit into that statute. They have no authority over a county employee. In this situation they're just of two goofballs too stupid to realize that they could be witnessing a crime.
Furthermore, if the crime of 2nd Degree Coercion can be established and Regan was compelled or induced to violate her duty as a public servant (ie. not play politics on County time), you may have a felony.
We'll leave the nuances of the criminal law to the lawyers. Point is, calling something criminal means you have to locate a criminal statute that fits the act(s).
Next time, we'll look at another statute: Official Misconduct. You won't want to miss it. It'll be more exciting than a special episode of Blossom.