Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Friends are gathering again

The Friends are gathering again – for the 38th time.
And that means all that’s held sacred is fair game, all political affiliation is left at the door (or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work and does 99 percent of the time), all food and drink are consumed with vigor, and all proceeds are for good causes.
You can read Vito Ciccarelli’scolumn here for the ins and outs of the annual shebang which brings Lansingburgh natives together from across the street and across the country just to get their chops busted or maybe get one of the awards. Both are considered an honor – except the award winners get a plaque and the butt of the jokes have to smile, sometimes wave and most all the time wish they were somewhere else ... anywhere else … until it’s the next person’s turn through the gauntlet.
I wish I could share some of hilarious jokes I’ve heard in the past (and a couple that made me wish I never accepted that first invitation more than a few years ago) but then I would certainly piss off a good portion of The ‘Burgh and that’s something no sane person would voluntarily do. Sure, there is some truth to South Troy Against the World, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to take on every red-blooded male north of 101st Street either.
So, with that in mind, I will say it is a pretty good time with plenty of eats and plenty of booze and plenty of laughs.
Based on Chairman Mick Carrenger’s appearance on Talk1300, info from Ciccarelli’s column and stuff I’ve picked up over the years, six Friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while first got together 38 years ago. They had such a good time they decided to do it again the following year … and the following year and the year after that too and then again 34 more times. More and more decided to join in the fun the last Saturday in February and now the number of Friends is pushing 350.
Amazing, really, that such a tradition can carry on for so long. It’s not only the draw of eat and drink that bring the men together – it’s giving back to the community that taught them how to be men. All the proceeds benefit non-profit organizations and over the years the Friends have donated thousands of dollars to groups like the Lasingburgh Boys and Girls Club, baseball leagues, pop warner, Powers Park, The Flag Day Parade, ALS and the American Cancer Society.
(Sorry ladies, despite the fact that your gender, by biological default, spawned every man in the room you can’t come. However, while wives, girlfriends, mistresses and one-night stands are fair game, mother jokes are not allowed. Well, they are frowned upon … unless they are really funny then they are laughed at and then frowned upon.)
Generally the evening goes something like this: Social hour, dinner, remembrance of Friends who are no longer with us, the awards ceremony (that includes recognitions for athletics, military service, humanitarian of the year and man of the year), skit (which can be good and really funny or so bad it’s really funny), and then the speakers.
Anyway, thanks to this year’s committee that includes Uncle Tucker Hulihan, Gene Blair, Mick Cahrenger, Ron Bounds, Mike McDonald, Eric Gower, Kevin Vandenburgh, Scott Ryan, and Jim Duff for keeping a pretty cool tradition alive and well.
Here is the rundown:
-Where: St. Augustine's Hall
-When: Saturday
-Time: 5 p.m. to ?
-Cost: $35 (includes buffet, dessert, draft beer and soda)
-Tickets: Available from any committee member or at 41 Sports Bar and Grethen -Cahrenger Memorials

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

AG won't investigate Abelove in Crist case; majority opens minority's mail and finds out first

     In a Feb. 6 letter to Peter Grimm, the minority leader of the Rensselaer County Legislature, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office said it would not pursue an investigation into District Attorney Joel Abelove’s decision to drop a case against Rich Crist, the spokesman for the Republicans on the Rensselaer County Legislature.
     “The Public Integrity Unit has carefully reviewed your correspondence and has determined that your complaint does not warrant action at this time,” according to the letter signed by an official in the AG’s office. The signature is not legible. (see the letter below.)
The letter was postmarked Feb. 13, but Grimm and his five colleagues in the minority didn’t receive the letter until Feb. 18. Instead of going directly to that office, it ended up in the majority office and someone there opened and read the letter before delivering it to the proper recipients on the other side of the building. The letter came from the AG’s New York City office and it is unclear when it was delivered to the county building. (See the envelop below)

     “What the majority did is inappropriate and possibly illegal,” said Legislator Cindy Doran, D-Troy. “It’s another example of their complete disregard for our office and the voters of Troy.”

     All six Democrats on the Legislature are from Troy.

     Crist was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and harassment stemming from a family dispute he had with his teenage son in July, 2014. A motion to dismiss the charges was not challenged by Abelove’s office. While the disposition may be correct, the controversy came about because Crist worked on Abelove’s DA campaign last year.

     Meanwhile, the six Democrats on the Legislature, in a Feb. 17 memo, called for Abelove to fulfill his duties as DA and investigate Chairman of the Legislature Martin Reid for inappropriately collecting more than $15,000 in unemployment benefits or for the DA to step aside and let a special prosecutor take the case.
   “In addition, you should agree that your office has a conflict of interest in proceeding with this case due to the fact that you have employed a relative of Mr. Reid as an assistant district attorney and the political difficulties you may foresee I prosecuting someone who has oversight of your budget,” according to the memo sent by the six democrats.

       An administrative law judge determined Reid willfully and intentionally defrauded the Department of Labor.

     Last week, the Democrats were prepared to call for Reid’s resignation however the chairman cut the meeting short before giving the elected representatives an opportunity to speak.

       Also, Reid, a Republican, did repay the $15,335 he improperly collected, according to an Aug. 4, 2014 receipt from the state Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance Division. I’m not authorized the release the receipt but there was some confusion on whether or not Reid paid back what he owed. The first TU article stated that the money would be taken from any future unemployment benefits Reid receives in the future.

       Reid was let go from his state School Board’s Association position and began collecting the maximum unemployment benefit of $405 a week. He failed to tell the Department of Labor, however, that he was making $30,000 a year as chairman. An administrative law judge determined Reid willfully and intentionally committed fraud.
     According to the Times Union, the matter was referred to the Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office. Abelove said he did not receive any such referral and surmised that it must have come while Acting DA Arthur Glass had the helm prior to Abelove’s being sworn in on Jan. 1.
Reid has remained silent on the issue but there are no public plans for him to step down.

      Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, R-Melrose, an outspoken critic of corruption in state government, recently let Reid go from his staff.



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Chairman Reid cuts meeting short to avoid the heat

Rather than face a call for his resignation, Chairman of the Rensselaer County Legislator Martin Reid adjourned Tuesday's monthly meeting before the “Legislator’s Privilege” piece of the agenda - which gives the elected officials the opportunity to speak on whatever is on their minds.
 “Mr. Reid’s actions tonight reinforce why we are calling for his resignation immediately,” said Legislator Len Welcome, D-Troy, one of six Democrats on the 19-member body in a press release. “We had planned to ask Mr. Reid to do the right thing and step down as chairman.”
Reid came under fire after a state Department of Labor administrative law judge found he had “willfully and intentionally misrepresented the facts” in order to collect some $15,300 in unemployment benefits. Reid began collecting after he was let go from a nearly $80,000 job at the state School Boards Association. He failed, however, to tell the DOL he was working as chairman of the Legislature at an annual salary of $30,000.
Reid did reach a settlement with the DOL that includes paying a $2,300 civil fine and repaying the $15,300 out of any future unemployment benefits he receives, according to the Times Union.
The Department of Labor has referred the case to District Attorney Joel Abelove to investigate and possibly prosecute. Abelove has not yet said if he intends to follow through.
“Since that time, numerous constituents have contacted me to express outrage at these findings, which involve the wrongful taking of taxpayer funds and a violation of the public trust,” said Legislator Cindy Doran, D-Troy, in a statement she was prepared to read before Reid cut the meeting short. “I am calling for Chairman Reid to resign his chairmanship post immediately so that the Legislature may move forward under new, unblemished leadership.”
“I believe Chairman Reid’s continuing leadership of the Rensselaer County Legislature is inappropriate and that it will distract from the important work we have been elected to do,” said Legislator Gary Pavlic, D-Troy.
 “What galls me is the fact that he has not repaid the $15,335 which he obtained by dishonesty and deceit,” said Legislator Mark Fleming, D-Troy.
The "Legislator's Privilege" is on the Feb. 10 agenda and is slated or the last item of business before the meeting is adjourned. 
Reid, and the majority’s spokesman Rich Crist, could not be reached for comment.  
(As an aside, this is the first time the Democratic minority has done or said anything of significance in more than a decade.)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

I've been had

Well, it looks like I’ve been had.
Someone left a fake copy of Mayor Lou Rosamilia’s speech lying around so someone would pick it up and leak its contents.
The first line of that speech is “Good evening, this is my fourth and final State of the City address.”
The first line of the speech he will give tonight is something along the lines of: “As you know, this is my fourth such speech and I would like to take this opportunity to discuss many different issues as we embark on another year in the Collar City.”
While nobody likes getting duped, I have to give them credit (whoever “them” actually is) because it was a pretty cool plan and beautifully pulled off.
However, there are some other thoughts as well:
-You would think the administration has more important things to worry about – like the city’s finances, all six of the city’s unions who are working without a contract, the FBI and/or the EPA investigation and the basic stuff like plowing snow.
-I’m unclear of the purpose, actually. Was it to weed out a “spy” within the ranks of City Hall? Was it a trial balloon? Was it just for kicks? I have an idea who the "spy" is but I won't mention her name here - she could be in enough trouble as it is.
-Generally, at least in poker or in battle, when someone bluffs they try to scare the other side(s) with an artificially inflated show of strength. This is obviously the opposite.
-I suppose, like in poker, you can bet a buck as if you had a pair of deuces when you’re really sitting on a full house to instill a false sense of confidence in the hopes the opponent keeps upping their bet. But, in this instance, once it got out, some City Hall employees not in on the bluff were worried about their jobs. What are a couple sleepless nights among friends?
-I’ll admit to not knowing Rosamilia all that well but he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would pull such a stunt. Further proof he has no control over the people under him, the same people who have done him no favors at all through his first three-plus years as mayor.
-I maintain Rosamilia doesn’t run again for the same reasons I gave in the last post … he just might not admit it tonight.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Rosamilia expected to announce he will not seek a second term

Mayor Lou Rosamilia is expected to announce he will not run for a second term during his State of the City address on Thursday, according to sources close to the mayor.
Rosamilia was elected in 2011 by a comfortable margin over Republican Carmella Mantello, who is likely to take another shot at Troy’s top spot.
The former Hudson Valley Community College accounting professor and former Rensselaer County legislator has had a tough three-plus years in office and the next four, for whoever is mayor, will be all the more difficult.

This year’s budget contains two huge one-shots: A $1.9 million deferral of a mandated pension payment and the $650,000 sale of the former City Hall site. Plus, all six unions are without a contract, emergency dispatch service is expected to increase by at least $250,000, the city is mandated to build a new courthouse and bonded $1.5 million for the project and has bonded millions more for capital improvements. In other words, the city is broke – worse than broke.
Recently, the state Comptroller said the city spend $5.9 million more than it took in from 2011 through 2013 and Moody’s gave the city’s finances a “negative outlook.”
Over the past three years, Rosamilia has had to suspend the head of his Planning Department, Bill Dunne, for installing sidewalks outside the scope of the federal Community Development Block Grant funds, appointed a police commissioner that threw department leadership into chaos, has had to deal with a hostile Council – the majority of which are of his own party - that conducted an investigation into he and his administration for the first time in 36 years. Federal and state agencies are also looking into the controversial demolition projects on King Street and the King Fuels site.

He just never seemed comfortable in the job. He ran almost reluctantly after taking over the party's first candidate, Clement "Chappy" Campana, who ran into issues of his own.
The mayor’s expected decision will open up the slot of a host of possible Democratic Party candidates. Council President Rodney Wiltshire, an enrolled Democrat, said he won’t primary Rosmailia but since his relationship with the party proper is strained – to put it nicely – he may be forced to primary whoever the party picks if he wants the job. More on potential Democratic Party candidates later.    
Mantello clearly wants to run for the Republicans and Councilman Jim Gordon, R-District 1, also is maneuvering for the party’s endorsement.