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.