Sunday, October 26, 2014

You can't make this up: Councilmen files notice against fellow councilwoman (with EMAILS and DOCUMENTS)

In all my years of covering the Capital Region, in all the arguments, name calling, finger pointing and backstabbing I’ve seen nearly countless members of elected boards engage in with each other, I’ve never seen one sue another one.
But, this is Troy and the electeds here tend to set the bar for everyone else.
Last week, Republican councilmen Dean Bodnar, District 3, and Jim Gordon, District 2, filed a notice of claim against Councilwoman Lynn Kopka, D-At Large, for allegedly libelous comments she made in an email.
What makes it even funnier, Kopka inadvertently sent the email where she allegedly slanders Bodnar and Gordon to Bodnar and Gordon – and who knows who else. Honestly, you just can’t make this stuff up.
The email in question was about a piece of legislation that would require any contractors doing a project for the city worth more than $250,000 to implement an apprenticeship program. The non-union shops are against it while the unions – and by extension the shops that hire union help – are in favor of it. The program would make projects more expensive for the city because the contractors would be required to hire the apprentices. On the flip side, it does provide young people an opportunity to learn a trade.
(It’s odd in that a liberal Democrat like Kopka would be staunchly against a piece of legislation favored by the unions and seemingly go out of her way to stop it while two Republicans voted for it. Again, you can’t make this stuff up.)
Kopka, in an email note, to Josh Reap, legislative representative to the Associated Builders and Contractors of New York State, said:
“I thought the 2 republicans - Dean Bodnar and Jim Gordon - were leaning toward a no vote. I think the unions bought them off somehow. They do not have any of the info you provided to me. If you approach them, please do not mention my involvement - just tell them that you represent various contractors, etc and are aware of the legislation.
Your info and a call from a Troy contractor may push them to call the mayor to veto. Time is ticking thought. Keep me posted.”
Bodnar was infuriated and sent this scathing email to Kopka:
“It's 7:50 am on Saturday, and I'm seeing this for the first time. When you phoned me yesterday you didn't mention exactly what you'd written in this email which you'd sent to Jim "by mistake". You just said you sent him something and that now Jim had probably sent it on to everybody in the world...
REALLY? You're accusing Jim and me of being "BOUGHT OFF" on this issue? Do you have any idea what you've said here? Damn it Lynn, I want you to march right over to your acting district attorney and insist he impanel a grand jury to look into this. How can you possibly assert something like this when all we did was disagree with you on a legislative issue. I'm shocked and disgusted--what the hell kind of person are you? I'm copying Kelly Cramer on this---Kelly, please inform us if we have legal grounds for a suit for slander.
Jim's right--the ABC and anyone else who opposed the apprenticeship resolution had every opportunity to speak to all councilmembers for weeks prior to the vote. Where the hell were they? In fact, Jim and I had many conversations during that period in which we actually solicited opinions from local contractors to get their input on this. We honestly studied the issue, presented concerns in public forums on two occasions, sought dissenting views, and ultimately voted in favor based on the information provided. Isn't that what legislators are supposed to do? And because our vote was at odds with yours, WE WERE BOUGHT OFF???
Lynn, I really don't get upset very easily, but if you smear my reputation, or try to hurt my family--that gets me upset. You've got some serious backtracking to do here. If Jim and I decide to go public with this, you've got one hell of a PR problem 
. And maybe a legal one.”
Gordon too took exception. Here is his email to Kopka:
“This is an interesting thread. Interesting that you suggest that we were "bought off somehow". That's is a very serious accusation especially in the word of public service and ethics. I don't know who Joshua Reap is, but he along with anyone else had the opportunity to express their concerns during the two council meetings this was debated at for several hours. I did have a number of concerns with the original draft and those concerns were mitigated. Additionally, we were assured that any non-union contractor, through their association with the ABC had access to the AP and therefore would be a "qualified" contractor with the city.
Finally, I am assuming my eyes were never intended to read this email. And you simply where attempting to make claims regarding myself and Dean privately and suggesting Mr Reap lobby and pressure us to change our mind long after the fact. The issue has passed and is over.
I wonder how many other people may receive this email accidentally...”
 The two Republicans, in turn, filed a notice of claim against Kopka. The opening paragraph of the draft notice of claim states: … “the claimants, Bodnar and Gordon, hereby claim and demand from respondents, Kopka and the City of Troy, monetary compensation for the compensatory and punitive damages sustained by reasons of respondent Kopka’s malicious composition and publication of an electronic email containing numerous libelous statements made of and concerning the claimants.”
  In the end, at the July 10 meeting, the legislation passed by a vote of 6-2 with two other Democrats, Gary Galuski, District 6, and Erin Sullivan-Teta, At Large, voting no and Kopka being absent.
And finally, here are texts of the emails between Kopka and Reap prior to the one Kopka sent to Bodnar and Gordon where she is trying to steer Reap into the best way to get the mayor to veto.
Kopka to Reap on July 24:
“I have not spoken to the mayor yet. will do so later today.”
From Reap to Kopka later that day:
“It was a very good opportunity to voice some concerns and share with the mayor the potential legal problems this legislation may cause both for the city and the many contractors who currently do work for Troy but would no longer be able to do so, should this bill become signed into law.
I have reviewed the legislation you sent me last night and I'm drafting a letter which will highlight our position as well as some of our concerns with the legislation. I will be happy to share a copy with you once its complete. I also got to speak with Bill; it was productive.
I want to thank you for inviting me to that meeting.”
From Kopka back to Reap:
“Josh - get the letter to the mayor (and me) as soon as you can. He only has a day or so before he must act. Happy to include you. All the material presented prior to today's meeting was one-sided.”
Reap to Kopka:
“You got it; letter will be shared tomorrow.”
Kopka to Reap:
“I am not optimistic that the mayor will veto - he is concerned that the council will override (currently split 6 for; 3 against).”
Back to Kopka:

“Thanks. Are there members of the council who voted "yes" but were on the fence?”
And that’s when Kopka sent the email to the world – where she accuses Gordon and Bodnar of being bought off - she thought she was sending just to Reap.
And here is a draft of the notice of claim:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Troy suspends Parks and Rec. Department head (UPDATED)


George Rogers, head of the Troy Parks and Recreation Department, was suspended for five days, according to sources.
Because it is a personal issue, city spokesman Michael Morris would only say Rogers is still employed by the city.
At Monday’s budget hearing, Rogers was critical of Mayor Lou Rosamilia’s proposed spending plan that cuts the Parks and Recreation Department by $161,217 from $2,220,293 to $2,081,455. Two positions are eliminated from the budget, a $32,089 a year laborer and a $54,796 working foreman.
Rogers was upset with his budget getting cut after getting reprimanded for going over budget the last two years. Seems he was also none to happy that many of the seasonal positions - more than was in his budget - were either going to political hacks or the friends and family thereof.

So, at Monday's budget meeting, to offset the costs, Rogers said some people should "grow a set" and up the fees for those using the city's recreational facilities.

When Rosamilia questioned who specifically he was referring to Rogers pointed at Deputy Mayor Pete Ryan.

The deputy mayor did in fact "grow a set" and suspended Rogers for five days without pay.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rice Building to change hands

The Rice Building

The historic Rice Building is close to changing hands.
Luther Tai, an attorney from New Jersey, and the current owners – the Troy Architectural Program, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and First Niagara (formerly Troy Savings Bank) – have spent months guiding the final sale’s approval through the bureaucracy of state government.
While there have not been any bumps in the road towards that end, selling a building to a private entity that has had $2.5 million of public money invested into it does take a while. Thanks to Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno’s influence, the state bankrolled a big portion of the project that at the time was a unique partnership between government, academia and non-profit organizations.
Once the rehabilitation was complete, the building was opened for business in 2000 and it was largely filled with upstart tech businesses from the RPI incubator program. While the building maintains its stunning historic exterior character, the interior was completely modernized to accommodate high-tech companies of the 21st Century. It remains filled with similar companies to this day.
Joe Fama, executive director at TAP, said he would not comment on the inevitable deal but didn’t deny it was in the works.
An undated photo or drawing of The Rice Building
before the Fire of 1920
(As an aside, few love Troy architecture as much as Fama and he and TAP spearheaded the effort to bring it back to life. Safe to say the sale would not happen if Fama didn’t approve of the buyer or the buyer’s plans, which I understand is to keep the status quo and make the necessary investments to keep the building structurally sound and technologically up-to-date.)

In May, 2013, Tai and his sister Lolly Tai, purchased 17 First Ave., home to the bar Footsy Magoos, for $340,000.
The now five-story Rice Building, according to the Preservation League of New York, which gave it an “Excellence in Historic Preservation” award in 2001, is a “rare example of high Victorian Gothic style in Troy with its use of Venetian Gothic elements, most notably pointed-arch polychrome voussoirs.” A voussoir is a wedge-shaped stone used to build an arch.
It was constructed as an office building in 1871 by Benjamin Hall, a poet and lawyer, and for a century or so was known as the “Hall Building. It originally had six stories with three spires on top, but the Fire of 1920 that ravaged a good portion of River Street destroyed everything above the fifth floor. There is some talk of Tai rebuilding the spires, but Fama would not comment on that or anything else regarding the potential sale.
In the 1980s the building was foreclosed for taxes and it sat vacant for more than 12 years. It was literally falling apart with reports of masonry falling off the building and crashing to the street below. The city was ready to demolish it when TAP stepped up and kick started the partnership that saved one of Troy’s most stunning structures.

Monday, October 6, 2014

City hires law firm to investigate Councilwoman Robertson's complaint

Appearing on Talk1300 Saturday, Police Chief John Tedesco said the city hired an independent law firm to investigate a complaint filed by Councilwoman Anastasia Robertson, D-D-District 2, against Police Benevolent Association President Tom Hoffman.
The complaint revolves around statements Hoffman made at the September Council meeting. During the public forum section, Hoffman said Robertson was part of a crowd that was attempting to incite officers to use violence while they were recording the scene on their cell phones.
However, his rendition of the episode was debunked when Robertson produced her actual cell phone video showing that while tensions between the officers and the crowd were thick, Robertson was trying to calm things down. She released the video first to News Channel 6 and then held a press conference days later.
Tedesco said he was at the Council meeting and as such would be a witness in the investigation so the city opted to hire an outside law firm – Bailey, Kelleher and Johnson – rather than have Internal Affairs conduct the probe. Mayor Lou Rosamilia was also present.
He added that he hopes part of the investigation includes an attempt to locate additional video footage of the Aug. 30 incident.
On that day, officers were at a domestic incident involving a white woman and a black woman. Upon their arrival, the white woman left the scene while officers questioned the black woman in an effort to find out what was going on.
The crowd in the North Central neighborhood interpreted that as officers allowing the white woman to walk away while placing the black woman under arrest. Hoffman, who took over as president of the PBA when Bob Fitzgerald retired, said members of the crowd spit at officers and “tried to bait officers into a physical confrontation.”
Hoffman called on the city to investigate Robertson and Robertson filed her own complaint against Hoffman. The Times Union says she claimed Hoffman engaged in official misconduct, which is a misdemeanor.
Days earlier, Robertson enraged many by a posting on Facebook that stated there is a concerted and organized effort by white people to exterminate black people. She referred to this country as AmeriKKKa.