Friday, December 27, 2013

PBA Pres. Fitzgerald is leaving at a tumultuous time

Police Benevolent Association President Bob Fitzgerald is retiring sometime in 2014 and I have to say I have mixed feelings.

On the one hand, Fitzgerald’s fights with the city provided me with a ton of fodder. On the other, when animosity between a union and management crosses the line from professional to personal, it’s just not good for the city.
That said, Fitzgerald’s main objective is to look out for his guys and nobody can say he didn’t do that. He does leave office, however, at a difficult time for the PBA.

While the high profile drama involving the police commissioner/police chief is getting the most public attention, the touchiest subject among the PBA members is the fact they have not had a contract since Dec. 31, 2010.
His relationship with then Mayor Harry Tutunjian was so toxic the common thought was Fitzgerald refused to seriously negotiate until a new mayor took office at the beginning of 2012. Since the PBA used its considerable political clout to help Mayor Lou Rosamilia get elected, everyone expected the novice mayor would cave to the PBA and award a Cadillac contract.

To the mayor’s credit, he did not. The last offer on the table was a 0 percent raise in 2011 through 2013 and a 2 percent bump in 2014. While Fitzgerald did attempt to include some issues like reinstating the ERT, SOS and other overtime boosting programs, the 124 or so PBA members shot down the idea for lack of retroactive raises across the board rather than OT for a select few.
On a personal/professional front, Fitzgerald also has a lawsuit pending against Tutunjian, Tedesco and the city. A few years back an officer claimed Fitzgerald threatened him with physical harm. The mayor and chief suspended Fitzgerald and subjected him to a psychological evaluation. Fitzgerald, in turn, sued.

Sources tell me attorneys for both sides – Fitzgerald is represented by PBA attorney Mark Walsh and while rumors abound, I’m sure if the PBA or Fitzgerald is picking up legal fees – agreed to settle the entire thing for $75,000 but the city shot it down. Should a settlement remain elusive, a court date set for Feb. 24, according to sources.
While the majority of PBA members probably don’t care who the chief is or if there is a police commissioner or not – they would rather just come to work, arrest bad guys and go home – that controversy has dominated the news as of late.

Briefly, if you remember, when Tutunjian appointed John Tedesco (pictured left) chief, Fitzgerald called the media and “revealed’ that Tedesco was chosen because he buried an investigation into drug dealing by members of Tutunjian’s administration. It was an absurd allegation that did nothing but widen the rift between the PBA and the administration. It's nothing new, really, if you remember, then City Manager David Grandeau harbored such ill will with then PBA President Jack Rogers, the former named a sand trap after the latter.
Tedesco did what he promised, made changes to make the department run more efficiently and more effectively and the PBA wasn’t happy. So, Fitzgerald pressured some on the Council, namely Nina Nichols and Kevin McGrath, to appoint Tony Magnetto as commissioner essentially stripping Tedesco of his power. It backfired in a whirlwind of controversy and Magnetto (pictured right) is set to step down early next year.

Tedesco did not lay down on the job and he didn’t retire. Rather, he hired an attorney and is now threatening a lawsuit. The PBA in turn - or was it first? - filed a complaint on behalf of an officer who claims the chief inappropriately released the results of an Internal Affairs investigation that found the officer did use excessive force during a 2012 arrest. The chief asked the FBI to take a look at the entire situation and an agent did pay a visit to the TPD.
In other words, it’s a mess.

Officially, Fitzgerald said he is moving his family to Virginia where his children will have more opportunities. I don’t doubt that.
The unofficial talk is that he announced his retirement without a firm date to leave the door open should the FBI or anything else turn up the heat beyond the comfort zone.
I’m guessing the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Troy Council committee chair chess game

As reported in the Times Union, the Troy Council has agreed on which members will serve as chair to which committees.

Generally, it’s not huge news, but the political intrigue behind the picks this year can’t be ignored. Ken Crowe, of the TU, did a pretty good job addressing it in a straight up news story but since I have the luxury of expressing opinion as well as reporting news, I will expound on Crowe’s astute observations.
For starters, two Republican councilmen were given committees to chair – Jim Gordon, R-District 1, who was elected in November, will chair the Law Committee and Dean Bodnar, R-District 3, who will enter his third term, will chair the Planning Committee.

Despite reports to the contrary, Gordon will not chair the high-profile Public Safety Committee. Rather, that will go to Bob Doherty, D-District 4, and with it comes the unenviable job of dealing with the Troy Police Department drama. And, despite Council President-elect Rodney Wiltshire’s pledge to not give Councilman Gary Galuski, D-District 6, a committee to chair, he now has two – the Parks and Recreation and Public Works Committees. Council President Lynn Kopka, who will be a straight up At Large representative come Jan. 1, will chair the Public Utilities Committee and not the Planning Committee as she wanted.
A few things stand out.
One giving two minority members their own committees to chair just does not happen and is indicative of the fractured majority caucus. Sure, it’s easy to hide true motives behind the guise of starting the New Year with a “bipartisan spirit” but I’ve been around long enough to know there is more to it.
And that is, quite simply, Wiltshire wants a couple things – a new city clerk and Councilman Ken Zalewski as pro temp - and is unsure he can get five Democratic votes so he needs the two Republicans.
Wiltshire wants to elevate Cheryl Christianson to clerk but the current city clerk, Karla Guererri, is Kopka’s girl. To replace her, Wiltshire needs five votes and since Christianson is Galuski’s sister in law he has to abstain so Wiltshire needs the two Republicans to ensure he has the votes. If it’s a four-four tie, which was a real possibility, Guererri would remain clerk until the tie is broken.
The same goes for pro temp. Galuski (picture left), in an email, said he was going for the job and could have gotten enough votes to put a monkey wrench in Wiltshire’s plans to give it to Zalewski but instead now has two committees to chair.
Another point worth mentioning is, as Crowe points out, Wiltshire and Galuski seemed to have buried the hatchet after a nasty email exchange last week where Galuski said he would vie for pro temp and Wiltshire said he would not be Galuski’s – or anyone else’s – “house nigger.” Nasty stuff, without a doubt, but this is Troy.  
Finally, by not giving Kopka the Planning Committee, Wiltshire sends a clear and distinct message to Kopka and by extension Rensselaer County Democratic Committee Chairman Tom Wade that he is the president, he has some juice and is not afraid to use it.

All in all, it’s pretty savvy chess moves on Wiltshire’s part, unless of course hard core Democrats start getting upset with him playing footsie with the GOP again like he did by accepting the Independence Party line earlier this year to ensure him the presidency. One such Dem is Wade (pictured right) and another is Kopka, and you can bet both are already starting the “treason” whisper campaign among the party faithful. Honestly, I can't say as I blame them.
To wrap up, according to the Times Union and not The Record, Councilwoman-elect Erin Sullivan-Teta, I-At Large, will chair the Human Resources Committee; Wiltshire by default will chair the Finance Committee, Zalewski will chair the Technology Committee and Councilwoman-elect Anastasia Robertson, D-District 2, opted not to accept a chairmanship at all, which is kind of odd but I can’t blame her for avoiding the fray.
The respective committees and the chairs will be formalized on Jan. 9 during the Council’s organizational meeting.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sources: City interviews retired captain for commissioner position

Sources confirmed that Mayor Lou Rosamilia and Deputy Mayor Pete Ryan interviewed former police Capt. John Riegert for the position of police commissioner, or maybe public safety commissioner.

The current police commissioner, Tony Magnetto, is expected to step aside early next year and while the city is under no obligation to hire another, it appears they are leaning towards that end. Another name considered, according to sources, is former Asst. Chief Ralph Iler.

Magnetto’s appointment, and subsequent control of day-to-day operations, caused a ruckus because it was driven, in part, by Chief John Tedesco’s attempts shake up the department and make it run more efficiently which upset the Police Benevolent Association.

The chief didn’t appreciate being sidelined, however, and is now threatening a lawsuit against the city challenging the legality of appointing a police commissioner without first having a public safety commissioner in place as the city charter requires. He retained attorney Brian Premo who, as is his MO, wrote a series of letters peeling back the onion, so to speak, of all that is wrong with the appointment, the PBA, the Council and the administration. In turn – or was it first – the PBA requested and was granted an Internal Affairs investigation into Tedesco’s decision to release a letter to Cohoes resident Frank Fogarty affirming his claim that Officer Kyle Jones used excessive force during an arrest last year. As a kicker, the FBI interviewed some of the department brass and took a number of files. Where that investigation goes is anyone’s guess.

Either way, Magnetto’s appointment riled up the troops on both sides and while there are some simple, clear cut ways to defuse the situation, appointing another police commissioner is not one of them.

Nothing against Riegert, mind you. In my dealings with him he seemed like a decent sort and a straight shooter. After he retired, he went to head up security at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – which is ironic because that is where Magnetto is expected to land – and then in 2010 took a job with Albany County as head of its crime analysis center.

It’s unclear if he would even accept the position if it were offered, but what is clear is that if Tedesco (pictured left)doesn’t get his old job back – and that means the job’s responsibilities instead of just the title – he will proceed with his lawsuit.

I don’t get why the administration is even considering another commissioner. As I wrote, the mayor has the authority to tell the chief how he wants the department run. True he’s a college professor by trade and not a cop, but winning the election gives him that right.

Furthermore, the three driving forces behind getting Magnetto appointed won’t be around much longer. Councilwoman Nina Nichols and Councilman Kevin McGrath opted not to run again and published reports indicate PBA President Bob Fitzgerald (pictured right) is going to retire sometime next year. All three pressured the administration into hiring what is, given the above graph, a $30,000 a year buffer.

And, given the new dynamic on the Council that may not see eye-to-eye with the administration, there is no guarantee it would even approve the commissioner’s salary so I don’t understand the logic behind wasting political clout on something that will only cause more angst in the long run.  


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Some possible scenarios at the Troy Police Department (UPDATED)


In a sixth letter to those embroiled in the latest controversy involving the Troy Police Department, Chief John Tedesco is asking for the city’s Ethics Commission take a peek at what has transpired over the last few months.

He is also asking, in the letter written by his attorney Brian Premo, that the Council subpoena all Internal Affairs records related to the investigation into the chief and I assume what kicked off the latest controversy, the chief’s decision to release the IA findings about an officer accused of using excessive force.

Two things come to mind: I’m not sure if the Ethics Commission even exists any longer and I’d love to see the IA records but I don’t think they are public information.

Anyway, a bit of obligatory background: The Council, at the administration’s request, appointed Anthony Magnetto (pictured right) as police commissioner to appease the Police Benevolent Association; Magnetto rolled back some of the chief’s efforts to make the department more efficient; Tedesco is left out of day-to-day decision; Officer Kyle Jones arrests Frank Fogarty for fighting on Broadway and arrests his wife for resisting arrest; Fogarty files a complaint alleging Jones used excessive force; IA Capt. Terry Buchanan conducts an investigation and finds that Fogarty did use excessive force; Tedesco releases the letter confirming the findings to Fogarty; the PBA files a complaint against Tedesco and he is interviewed by the IA and Deputy Chief Robert McAvoy; Tedesco retains Premo, who goes on an aggressive offensive; the FBI shows up and confiscates a number of IA files.

Things are kind of in flux now, but it sounds like a mess that could easily spin out of more control or it could slide into oblivion. I will address the “spin out of control” scenarios fist:

-Every indication is Magnetto will step down early next year and a sure way to perpetuate the mess is for the city to appoint another police commissioner. Not only will it further infuriate the chief and likely force him to follow through with his threat of a lawsuit but, as Premo pointed out in his letters and I wrote a while back, the police commissioner really has no power.

-Jones, as Premo said indicates is a possibility in his letter, comes forward and tells people that he had no knowledge of the complaint filed against Tedesco but instead it was the PBA.

-The IA investigation into the chief continues and ends with some sort of punishment or reprimand. I routinely talk to people who have been around a lot longer than I and to have underlings investigate the chief rather than the mayor or an independent body is unprecedented.

-The Council does attempt to investigate on their own, forcing the PBA or the administration to dig in its heels. Council President Rodney Wiltshire, appearing on Talk 1300, said he isn’t going to jump into the fray with both feet right off the bat. Rather, he said, he would allow the yet to be named Public Safety Committee to explore the Council’s options first. A wise move, but that was a few days ago. The Council, however, is hardly a cohesive body so you never know.

-The PBA continue to flex its political muscle and mucks everything up.

-The FBI digs conducts a thorough investigation and uncovers who knows what.

Some scenarios that could help put the entire issue to bed:

-Tedesco, while on Talk 1300, indicated he just wants his old job back along with the responsibilities so giving it to him is one way to diffuse the situation. When it comes down to it, the mayor is the chief executive officer, and that means he can tell the chief to do whatever he wants done. If the chief refuses, despite Civil Service protection, the mayor can terminate for insubordination. The position of police commissioner is really a $30,000 unnecessary buffer.

-The chief does not follow through with filing the threatened lawsuit because it could throw a bunch of people under the bus.

-The command staff accepts the fact the chief is the chief and lets him do his job.

-The PBA accepts political defeat and just goes about the businesses of arresting bad guys.

-Jones accepts the IA’s determination and takes whatever punishment is doled out. (Based on some comments there seem to be some confusion about Jones. Yes, the IA letter said the investigation was complete and he did use excessive force but the PBA maintains he had not exhausted all his appeal possibilities so the matter is not yet resolved.)

-The city settles with Fogarty.

My educated guess is a mix of the above scenarios come to fruition and I’m honestly curious on how it all plays out.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Wiltshire's e-mail, five votes and the GOP

As I’ve been writing for nearly a month, the new dynamic on the Troy Council is going to be interesting - little did I know it would become so interesting so fast.

On Dec. 9, Council President-elect Rodney Wiltshire sent a strongly-worded e-mail to three other councilmen blasting Councilman Gary Galuski for hanging up on him and other perceived acts of disrespect.

In the e-mail, which can be read below, Wiltshire, who is bi-racial, said: “I will not be his (Galuski’s) boy or house nigger.” Yes, the word distasteful, but focusing on just that is a superficial reading of what is really going on.

While the email is directed at Galuski, one can’t help but wonder if Wiltshire is referring to county Chairman Tom Wade. Wiltshire was one of many Democrats who tried to take Wade out last year with Robert “Rabbit” Riley and there is no love lost between the two. Now that Wiltshire is Council president, he does have some juice and part of that juice comes in the way of appointments – both to committees and to paid positions within City Hall.

Not surprisingly, who Wiltshire wants and who Wade wants are not the same people.

Perhaps the most high profile is that of City Clerk. As I reported nearly two weeks ago (and The Record reported today) Wiltshire wants to replace the current city clerk, Karla Guererri, with Cheryl Christianson, who happens to be Galuski’s sister in law.

I initially wrote that it could be interpreted as an attempt to buy off Galuski, but given the email exchange that obviously didn’t work and Galuski remains squarely in Wade’s corner. And by extension that of current Council President Lynn Kopka, who brought her friend Guererri aboard and would just as soon see her stay in the $54,800 a year job.

In other words, the divide I mentioned before between Wiltshire and company and Kopka/Wade and company is reaching the size of the Grand Canyon.

While Wiltshire said there is no way he will nominate Galuski to chair the Parks and Recreation Committee, which he holds now, Galuski points out it takes a majority to approve any appointment. That much is true, but what’s also true is the nomination has to come from Wiltshire.

Furthermore, given his familial ties, Galuski should abstain so that leaves Kopka (pictured left) and Wiltshire vying for five votes out of eight.

What few may know, if it’s a four-for tie, Guererri remains clerk until a five-vote majority is reached, whenever that may be.

Galuski also said he would lobby for the position of Council pro temp, which also needs five votes. Wiltshire, however, would like to see the No. 2 spot go to Councilman Ken Zalewski, D-District 4. As you know, he has always been an independent voice on the Council and also supported Riley over Wade.

Which brings us back to the Great Divide.

Zalewski is squarely in Wiltshire’s corner. I’ve heard Councilman Bob Doherty, D-District 4, is too but his support tenuous at best. I’m less sure of Councilwoman-elect Anastasia Robertson, but I understand she is too.

That said, Wade has the clout the chairmanship brings, and there is also Mayor Lou Rosamilia (pictured right) to think about. I’m not saying it would happen now, but I know in times past which streets get paved, plowed and swept in which district has been tied to how the representative votes on certain issues. The two entities combined can clearly apply some pressure if they so choose.

In the Kopka/Wade corner is Galuski and Councilwoman-elect Erin Sullivan-Teta.


That leaves the two Republicans – Councilman Dean Bodnar, District 3 and Councilman-Elect Jim Gordon, At Large, with a surprising amount of clout on a Democratic Party dominated Council.

Galuski said Wiltshire is ready to nominate Gordon for the high-profile position of Public Safety Committee chair and who knows what else the two may get or want. As an aside, I’m not sure who else would want to chair that committee because the controversy in the TPD is unlikely to go away anytime soon but it is one of the more coveted positions on the Council.  

In the end, the Council is starting off way more interesting than the last one and it’s not even the New Year yet.

Dec. 9 e-mail from Wiltshire to Gary Galuski, Robert Doherty, Ken Zalewski


    Gary earlier today around 11AM, very rudely, hung up the phone on me after my 5th or 6th attempt to meet up with him and discuss the transition of the council.

    His behavior was and is bizarre, unprofessional, discourteous, and dis-respectful.  Despite what he may believe, I have never disrespected him in that or any manner.

    I am continually shocked by the manner in which some he behaves.

    I am not Lynn, and I don't wish to be compared to Lynn.  I clearly indicated to him before him hung up on me that I am trying to meet with each councilperson in person (as was done 2 years ago) and we would have our caucus meeting after.  Probably this week.

    I specifically had wished to discuss his committee preferences and also have a serious conversation about the perceived slight that I am told that he has felt from me 2 years ago surrounding the courthouse and the pro-tempore vote.  I had wanted to discuss that with him in person and clarify and apologize for my insensitivity.  Since we are not meeting, I guess he will not receive my apology for that behavior.

    However, it is clear, that he is unwilling to meet me, and discuss things.  He has also not responded to my request for committee preferences.  I had assumed that he would have wished to continue as Parks and Rec chair.

    I am not giving him a chair.

    I have just spoken to Cheryl Christiansen about her proposed appointment and confirmed that Gary's behavior will not and does not reflect on her.  She said that she doesn't share his views on things, and is happy to be professional and keep the affairs separate.

    I have a call and an email into Jack McCann regarding both this and Lynn's behaviors and attitudes, I will insist that he publicly support me and my position.

    Let me be very clear, I am not happy with our phone call, and I will not be treated or addressed in that manner.

    This boat has sailed, I am not trying to fix issues that aren't my doing or responsibility. 

    I am going to be making some very hard, serious, and possibly controversial decisions in the following days concerning all of these appointments.  I absolutely need YOUR support and confidence.

    I am not his boy, or the house nigger.


Rodney G. Wiltshire Jr.

At-Large Councilman


Dec. 12 response from Councilman Gary Galuski

Dear Council Member,

I am forwarding an email sent to me by incoming Council President Rodney Wiltshire because it should be seen by all majority members of the Council.  After reading the entire piece, I'm sure you will agree that he owes me an apology as well as others offended by his insensitive and distasteful choice of words.

I am entering my fourth and final term on the city council.  In all of my prior terms, the incoming majority has met to collectively decide committee assignments and committee chairmanships. Never have I or any of my colleagues been submitted to the type of threat incoming Council President Wiltshire issued to me with a guarantee of no chairmanship simply because I asked when we will caucus to conduct such business.  Additionally, he is pretending to grab control of the entire process by handing out committee chairs to his favorites while ignoring senior members of the council.

Recently, he even announced he plans to "give" the Public Safety committee chairmanship to newly elected Republican Jim Gordon.  Two years ago, he opposed giving committee chairmanships to Republicans when Council President Kopka raised the idea which we voted down.

You should be aware that this process deserves and requires the input of all majority members---ALL SEVEN DEMOCRATS.  I urge you to remind incoming Council President Wiltshire he was not elected Emperor and Committee members shall be nominated by the President and confirmed or rejected by a majority of the members of the Council at each organizational meeting. Each committee, if possible, shall have at least one member from a minority political party. (City of Troy Charter Section C-15) He campaigned with promises of transparency in government but, before being sworn into office, projects a closed door style of "my way or the highway" bossism.


In closing, I want you to know I wish to remain as the chair of the Recreation Committee where I feel my background and skills can be full utilized and I will be reaching out to each of you for your support for the position of Council President Pro-Tempore.








Thursday, December 12, 2013

Court of Appeals: Ariel Myers to get a new trial for Griswold Heights shooting

The state’s highest court Thursday ruled the lower court judge inappropriately allowed testimony into evidence during the 2010 trial of Arial Myers, and ordered he stand trial again for shooting Robert Guynup in the Griswold Heights apartment complex in 2009.

The Court of Appeals, in a brief two-paragraph decision, agreed with the dissenting opinion from the Appellate Division, which upheld the conviction of assault and weapons possession earlier this year. In a two-one ruling, the Appellate Division said Judge Andrew Ceresia properly allowed a witness to tell the jury he saw Myers waving a similar type handgun more than two months prior to the Guynup shooting. Meyers was never charged with a crime in that incident.

The Court of Appeals, however agreed with the dissenting opinion written by Judge Elizabeth J. Garry. She wrote that an uncharged crime can only be introduced to help the prosecution establish identity or if the prior bad act had been consistent with the defendant’s unique modus operandi. Assistant District Attorney Keith Muse called Robert Cruz to the stand during the August 2010 trial to tell the jury he saw Meyers waving a .25 caliber pistol at the apartment complex during party where a fight broke out.

“In the absence of clear and convincing proof of either of the two required elements – that defendant perpetrated the earlier uncharged incident or that he used a distinct modus operandi – Cruz’s testimony was so lacking in probative vale that it was necessarily outweighed by its potential for prejudice, and its admission was an abuse of discretion as a matter of law,” Garry wrote in the April decision.

She also pointed to the fact Cruz was the only one to testify despite the fact a number of his family members were present when Meyers allegedly brandished the handgun, that it was impossible to determine if the handguns in each incident were of the same caliber or even which specific caliber gun was used to shoot Guynup and that Cruz admitted to getting his own sentence reduced in exchange for his testimony. She also wrote that the fact Myers was in the area prior to the shooting was not unusual.

Meyers was convicted of shooting Guynup - who survived but was rendered extremely disabled and requires around-the-clock care to provide even his most basic needs - while Guynup was taking photos of a 3:30 a.m. melee, the second of the night, outside his house across the street from the apartment complex on Sept. 13, 2009.

A jury acquitted Meyers of attempted murder but Ceresia sentenced him to the maximum of 25 years in prison for the assault and another 15 years for weapon’s possession which were to serve concurrently.

It’s unclear when Myers will return to court. The Rensselaer County Public Defender’s Office defended Meyers during his trial and Eugene Grimmick handled the appeal.

 District Attorney Richard McNally could not immediately be reached for comment.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"Boy," the Independence Party and cross endorsements

To old timers in Rensselaer County politics he’s affectionately known as “Boy.” To state wide politicians he’s known as vice chairman of the powerful Independence Party. To everyday state Senate staffers he’s known as “Who’s that guy?”

Of course, I’m talking about North Greenbush’s own Tom Connolly, who is again making news for alleged campaign finance shenanigans.

The reason they call him “Boy” is because he learned the art of political manipulation from legendary Rensselaer County Democratic Party Chairman Ed McDonough. “McDonough’s Boy” was shortened to just “Boy” somewhere along the line.

Since the McDonough days – when Connolly was routinely found “sleeping” on the couch in Democratic Party headquarters and when he gave a painting he stole from the City of Troy to newly elected District Attorney James Canfield – he climbed the party ladder and is now a statewide wheel, or vice chairman.

The last moniker is in reference to Connolly’s jobs in the state Senate. First he worked for Sen. Karl Krueger, a Democrat from Brooklyn with close ties to the GOP, making six figures as a “special project coordinator.” If anyone can tell me what a guy Rensselaer County knows about setting up special projects for a senator from Brooklyn please drop me a line. I’m told he is hardly ever at the Capitol or the LOB so either he was always in Brooklyn setting up special events or his salary could be tacked onto what the Independence Party line is worth.

After the Haggerty fiasco – and before Krueger pleaded guilty to accepting bribes – Connolly got fired and now works for state Sen. Phil Boyle, a Republican from Long Island, making $75,000 a year. One would think the Republicans may want the Independence Party’s backing to ensure they remain relevant in the Senate, but only a cynic would think Connolly’s job had anything to do with that.

This time Connolly finds himself in the crosshairs of Gov. Andrew Cuomo - who might want the Senate to stay status quo - and his Moreland Commission. While there are some questions with the commission appointed to weed out corruption in the state Legislature, it did find some compelling evidence to suggest the GOP was padding the Independence Party housekeeping account to use on individual campaigns. Using those accounts in such a way is illegal, but it’s a section of Election Law ignored by many and enforced by none.

To briefly re-cap, the commission found that the stat GOP “donated” more than $350,000 to the Independence Party housekeeping account, which in turn presumably spent it to lambaste Democratic candidates for state Senate during the 2012 election. E-mails between Connolly and a GOP operative indicate there is in the least collusion between the two parties though they do fall short of saying where the money actually came from to pay for the ads – the party’s housekeeping account or another account from which money can legally be spent on campaigns.

Yes, there are donation thresholds and other complexities supposedly targeted by the Moreland Commission and reformers across the board but they are beyond the scope of this post. One simple reform the state could accomplish with little or no controversy is abolishing the ability of minor parties to endorse major party candidates.

As I have written before, the party is little more than a money and power grabbing sham that tricks people into voting on the line because of a catchy name. And it’s not much different than the Working Families Party or the Conservative Party. Depending on your ilk, voters may want to see themselves as independent, part of a working family or conservative so they enroll or vote on that line not knowing any better. The WFP and Conservatives may have a philosophical bent to stand on but still rarely run their own candidates. The Independence Party, on the other hand, really stands for nothing.

Just think, without the ability to cross endorse candidates, the four-year long voter fraud scandal would not have happened in Rensselaer County. It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to of public money to investigate and prosecute and who knows how much the individual players paid out. Wait … it provided me with nearly endless fodder for nearly four years so by all means, keep cross endorsements alive and well in New York state – it keeps lawyers and journalists in business.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Rockwell painting featuring Troy buildings sells for $3.2 million (UPDATED)

Walking to Church
If for no other reason than to show I write about more than corruption, scandal, politics, cops and lawyers, according to the New York Times, a Norman Rockwell painting called “Walking to Church” that features Troy buildings was sold at auction for $3.2 million.

It was one of three paintings sold earlier this week at Sotheby’s for a collective $57.8 million. Fetching the most money by far, $46 million, is a piece called “Saying Grace,” which is $20 million more than previously paid for any of Rockwell’s work, according to the Times. In 2006, Rockwell’s “Breaking Home Ties” sold for $15.4 million, the previous standard for one of his hometown-themed paintings.
Saying Grace
The Saturday Evening Post magazine paid Rockwell $3,500 to paint “Saying Grace,” which features a boy and an elderly woman bowing their heads at dinner time, in 1955. That amount equals about $30,500 in today’s dollars according to the Times. According to the Don Rittner, writing on the Times Union website, the background in "Saying Grace" is the Burden Iron Works. It looks kind of non-descript to me, but hen again all I know about Art is I had a ball at his bar on Fourth Street.  
The third painting sold Wednesday is called “The Gossips,” (below) which features a number of finger-wagging people talking to each other, and it went for $8.45 million. It graced the magazine’s cover in 1948.
Asked why the painting that featured Troy buildings went for a relative paltry sum of money, the buyer, Rick Lapham, told the Times “It’s stylistically different” than Rockwell’s more famous paintings.
“Walking to Church” was on the magazine’s cover on April 4, 1953 and shows family members carrying bibles who are presumably, given the title, walking to church. According to the Times “Rockwell based its composition on a Vermeer painting, ‘The Little Street,’ translating the scene to fit his idealized version of an urban street scene.”
He used a composite of different buildings in Troy and a church steeple in Vermont, according to the Times.
I don’t recognize the buildings at all, and don’t recognize the steeple. It’s because of that – and the fact I am unemployed – that I did not bid on the painting.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The FBI visits the TPD (UPDATED)

An FBI agent was at the Troy Police Department to interview Chief John Tedesco at 9 a.m. this morning, according to multiple sources.

What transpired is unclear, but Tedesco did publically call on the FBI to investigate allegations of impropriety in his decision to release a letter to Frank Fogarty confirming the Cohoes resident’s allegations that Officer Kyle Jones used excessive force during a Dec. 23, 2012 arrest.

(Since posting this, multiple sources have told me Internal Affairs records were seized by the FBI.)

Tedesco hired attorney Brian Premo to represent him in any potential litigation against the city since he was stripped of nearly all his duties with the February appointment of Commissioner Anthony Magnetto. Premo was not present at Tedesco’s meeting with the FBI and would not comment on the specifics of any FBI activity.

“He (Tedesco) previously called for an investigation by an outside agency into the Police Department and Internal Affairs and it’s good news for the City of Troy,” Premo said. “Perhaps now the mayor will realize this is a serious public safety matter and more than a ‘distraction.’”

Internal Affairs, headed up by Capt. Terry Buchanan, did conclude Jones used excessive force when arresting Fogarty for fighting on Broadway in Troy. As per protocol, according to Tedesco, he released the findings to Fogarty. Seven months later, the Police Benevolent Association filed an IA complaint against the chief for releasing the letter. The chief, and the letter, say the investigation was concluded while the PBA maintains Jones did not exhaust all of his appeal options.

As far as anyone knows, there has been no disciplinary action taken against Jones. Though, Tedesco said he told others in the department that the case should be handed to the District Attorney’s Office to pursue possible criminal charges.

If it were you or me we would likely be charged with assault. A police officer is really no different if they use excessive force. Actually, I would say the standard is higher since the complaint says the beating occurred after the arrest which means Fogarty was likely in handcuffs.

Also, according to the Times Union, Tedesco did meet with Buchanan and Deputy Chief Richard “Buddy” McAvoy on Monday. There is no indication of what transpired behind closed doors. I find it odd that two with less seniority can investigate one with more, but then again this is Troy.

Also, according to the TU, the FBI agent met with Buchanan and Capt. John Cooney as well as Tedesco. I may have gotten that information too, but The Record kept my Rolodex.

Meanwhile, Tedesco, through an eight-page letter by Premo (pictured left), called on the Troy City Council to hold a hearing on the matter. In the letter, Premo outlines his belief that the Police Benevolent Association, Mayor Lou Rosamilia and Commissioner Tony Magnetto, among others, basically conspired to get Tedesco to quit his job.

Premo’s letter really says basically what I’ve been saying since Tedesco was appointed by then Mayor Harry Tutunjian over Magnetto and now Deputy Chief Buddy McAvoy – that the PBA didn’t want Tedesco from the get go beca 
use it knew it would shake up the department, used its considerable political influence to get those who can do something about to do something about it and ultimately want control of the department back.

My guess is, though, when a lawyer wields the pen, with the ink comes the power to bring a lawsuit and that carries a bit more weight than a hack columnist.

As of now, the Council has not responded to Tedesco’s request and Rosamilia has called the chief’s actions a “distraction.”



Troy Council appointments are shaping up

Not to say that all is hunky dory between Council President-elect Rodney Wiltshire and company and Lynn Kopka, the current council president who will give up the seat on Jan. 1, but his projected appointments do not indicate an all-out war.

According to sources, Clerk Karla Guererri is out of her $54,800 job, which is no surprise. The new city clerk will be the current deputy clerk, Cheryl Christiansen, Councilman Gary Galuski’s sister-in-law.

Lou Schneider, the assistant deputy clerk who toyed with the idea of running for Council earlier this year, will get bumped up to deputy clerk at a salary of $40,000. Who will take his place is not yet determined, according to sources.

The auditor, Mary Beth Quinn, will keep her $59,600 a year job, according to sources. It’s kind of surprising in that Wiltshire could use it to reward a campaign worker but not really in that her husband, Larry Quinn, back in the day, was a loyalist to Mayor Mark Pattison and active in the Democratic Party.

There are currently no plans to change the $10,000 position of Council secretary currently held by Lucy Larner but it’s not been solidified yet, according to sources.

The position of bingo inspector is also up in the air. It’s such an insignificant job, really, that I don’t know who holds it now and could not figure out how much the position pays since it comes out of a pot of temporary salaries.

Also, the Council will appoint, or re-appoint, some of the city marshals but it depends on whose terms expire next year. You remember last year the Council, behind Councilman Kevin McGrath, went nose-to-nose with Wade over re-appointing Rick Mason to his marshal post. The pay depends on how many eviction notices and other legal documents the marshals chose to deliver, but who gets the job can be a way to throw political muscle around a bit.

While the way the appointments are shaking out aren’t the nuclear bomb they could have been, the one that is a least a quarter stick of dynamite is naming Christianson clerk. Not only is it a message to Kopka, reminding her she is no longer in charge – and an indirect message to Wade that Wiltshire, Councilman Ken Zalewski and company will not bow down to the chairman’s feet – it’s also a way to buy off Galuski (pictured left).

I wrote before that every indication is there is a distinct split in the Council and until this appointment Galuski was considered squarely in the Kopka/Wade corner. But, that was before his sister-in-law will not only stay employed but will get a nearly $15,000 raise to boot.

Pretty savvy strategy by Wiltshire and company.

However, Galuski also has a job at the Board of Elections, which is still controlled by Wade so, in short, I would not want to be Galuski the next time both sides want his vote on something.


Monday, December 2, 2013

The next GOP chair; and chatter about Tom Wade

Now that Jim Gordon has stepped down as the Republican city chairman, which occurred prior to him winning a seat on the Troy Council representing District 1, the question remains who will take his place in what is one of the most difficult and thankless jobs in the county.

Many people are pointing to Kevin McCashion, the staunch Libertarian who unabashedly, and vigorously, promotes the party’s anti-big government and pro-civil liberties at all cost platform on social media.

The thing about McCashion is his take no prisoners’ attitude scares some in the GOP because he won’t take them prisoners either. He’d just as soon as rip his own party as the Democrats if they are too passive, dull or otherwise not running the campaign he thinks they should. Or at least that’s what some in the GOP are scared of.

While some may have reservations about McCashion, I don’t know who else the GOP has. Mark Wojcik? Maybe? He was vice chair and is currently serving as interim chair but I don’t think he wants the commitment being a successful chairman would require.

Regardless of who it is, the chairman has a catchy title but really answers to the powers that be at the county level including Rich Crist, liaison for the GOP county legislators, County Executive Kathy Jimino and County Clerk Frank Merola. At least that’s how it’s been for more than 15 years and is another reason McCashion might not get the nod – I don’t see him deferring to anyone without good reason.

On the flip side of things, after Rodney Wiltshire won the Council presidency, there is the annual chatter about the future of county Chairman Tom Wade (pictured left). Wiltshire, and the likely president pro temp, Ken Zalewski, are not Wade’s guys  and there is a divide already forming on the Council between those who are Wade’s guys and those who aren’t.

Wiltshire (pictured right) got a bunch of support from the “Delusional Bunch,” a group of disenfranchised Democrats who include former Councilmen Michael LoPorto and Clement “Chappy” Campana, and former operative Robert Martiniano as well as a group of Working Families Party people. (As an aside Wade coined them, not me.) That alone should be a warning to Wade, but they took a shot at the last organizational meeting and Wade beat their candidate, Robert “Rabbit” Riley, by a sizable margin. Wade is a shrewd politician, is into the job, is good at the job and I don’t think he goes anywhere until he wants to.

The Dems city chair is Jack McCann but he answers to the county chair. It will be interesting to see if McCann gets re-appointed to his city marshal spot by Wiltshire and company. It’s already a given, since they are Wade’s people, most of the current appointees to clerk, deputy clerk, auditor, bingo inspector and city marshals will not have a job come Jan. 1.

But, if they go after McCann, consider it all-out war.   

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Who will run to replace McNally? (UPDATED)

Now that Rensselaer County District Attorney Rich McNally is headed to the Supreme Court bench, chatter is starting about who will run next November. That, and a commenter asked me if I had heard anything is why I write this.

As near as I can tell, the position of DA goes to the number two in the office, who is now Arthur Glass, until the governor appoints a replacement, which may or may not happen. Regardless of if that happens or not, there will be an election in November 2014 for a full four year term. obviously, the Dems, through McNally, can appoint who they want and then that candidate can run as an incumbent which is a near-automatic advantage in any campaign. 

While there are no solid candidates as of yet, on the Democratic side it appears Carmelo Laquidara is the front runner. He is a well-respected jurist in the City of Rensselaer who narrowly lost a primary for Rensselaer County court to Troy City Court Judge Christopher Maier.

Amy O’Connor was also mentioned as a candidate but she had a mishap involving the Lucas Confectionary wine bar, prescribed pharmaceuticals and parked cars over the summer so running for the county’s top law enforcement officer is a tough go, for a while anyway.

I’ve really heard of no other candidate outside of Glass, but he’s a longshot at best.

On the flip side of things the names who immediately come to mind are attorneys Joe Ahearn (left), Greg Cholakis (Right and Joel Abelove.

Ahearn said he is keeping his options open but I don’t think he’ll run and I feel the same way about a possible Cholakis candidacy. So, I at this early point in time it’s Abelove, who McNally beat by a sizable margin last year.

I know it’s early and we haven’t even celebrated Christmas yet but I’m predicting this race will be hotly contested and fun to watch. The Democrats have had a tough time county-wide yet McNally beat Cholakis in a tight race that went to absentees in 2007 – a race brought into question two years later after voter fraud broke and one of McNally’s most loyal operatives, Bill McInerney, admitted to forging hundreds of absentee ballots.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's all about control of the TPD

One thing we have to remember about the Police Benevolent Association’s decision to file a complaint against Chief John Tedesco for releasing the findings of an Internal Affairs investigation is that it has nothing to do with the fact he sent the letter to the complainant - it has to do with control of the TPD.

It’s all about control of the Police Department when, or if, Commissioner Anthony Magnetto retires early next year. I think a couple commenters on this blog summed up the open questions nicely.

One question is why the PBA waited seven months from when Tedesco issued the letter to Frank Fogarty telling him that Officer Kyle Jones did indeed used excessive force during a Dec. 23, 2012 arrest. Tedesco issued the letter to Fogarty in April and the PBA didn’t file a complaint about it with IA until this month.

As a commenter said:  “Someone (i.e. the PBA) is playing a trump card.”

First, as I mentioned, can you imagine if the report wasn’t released? If a black guy filed a complaint about getting beat up by white cops and the report was buried. Also, the city gave Brian Houle a letter telling him that Jones did not use excessive force when Houle was arrested in June, 2012 and nobody made a stink about that one. As far as I can tell, it is standard operating procedure to release an IA finding to the complainant.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the PBA started making accusations against the chief shortly after Magnetto started telling people he may retire early next year. And that means the PBA, which is a driving force behind getting Magnetto appointed, has to start dirtying up the chief again so Mayor Lou Rosamilia feels obliged to appoint another commissioner.

If you remember the PBA, behind President Bob Fitzgerald (pictured right), started dirtying up the chief the day he was appointed with the absurd allegation that he got the job in return for covering up a drug investigation into the administration of then Mayor Harry Tutunjian.

I don’t think I have to repeat the fact the PBA doesn’t like Tedesco because he is a staunch disciplinarian and initiated all sorts of changes in an effort to make the department run more efficiently. The PBA knew it was coming, didn’t take kindly it when it did as it would just as soon see the status quo and by that I mean overtime.

In addition, Tedesco is threatening to sue the city claiming his constitutional rights were violated by the city imposed gag order and for curtailing of his power and duties. I think everyone hoped Tedesco would just throw up his hands and retire, but obviously that’s not happening anytime soon.

All that may be true, but Rosamilia (pictured left) is well within his right to appoint a police commissioner – yes there is some ambiguity about whether it should be a police commissioner or public safety commissioner but the basic premise is the same. The mayor wants his policies initiated and winning an election gives him that right but the question remains: Who is driving the bus, the mayor or the PBA.

Tedesco’s attorney, Brian Premo (pictured right), has mastered the art of getting at the underlying dirt - God knows, he had enough practice during voter fraud and his representation of others like Rensselaer Chief Rick Fusco - and he is asking a bunch of questions the PBA, the administration and the Council would just not soon answer. Also, he and Tedesco are asking the FBI look into the PBA’s allegations and his decision to release the Fogarty letter. Given the animosity among command staffers, an outside agency taking a look is the only way we will get an unbiased determination on whether the chief acted appropriately or not. And even if the Feds don’t come in, the seed is planted.

The commenter also asks why the PBA is protecting Jones. I think it would do the same if it was Officer Smith – obviously that’s not an indictment of any Officer Smith but a way to say it could be anyone.

In the end, this is a high stakes poker game and the pot is who gets to control the day-to-day operation of the Police Department – The PBA or the chief.