Berne Dems ditch Apple over sheriff’s silence on possible First Amendment violation

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
Sheriff Craig Apple speaks at a public event about a program where social workers and trained EMS crews answer some emergency calls in rural Albany County.

BERNE — Berne Democratic Committee members will not be carrying petitions for Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple as he seeks re-election in November, after the committee decided that his silence over the baseless removal of Berne resident and former supervisor Kevin Crosier, a Democrat, from a public hearing last month by county deputies creates doubt around the sheriff’s priorities. 

Committee member Peggy Christman, a retired lieutenant with the State Police who unsuccessfully ran for supervisor in Berne in 2021 against Dennis Palow — the Republican who ordered the deputies to remove Crosier from the Feb. 20 public hearing — told The Enterprise this week that she had written a letter to Apple on March 6 expressing her displeasure with the deputies and asserting that it was Apple’s “responsibility to make clear that your Deputies did not act appropriately.”

Christman told The Enterprise this week that she has yet to get a response.

“He has not replied to me as a member of the Democratic Committee, or as a former New York State Police Commissioned Officer,” she said. “His failure to address the improper actions of his deputies has caused me and the committee to question his leadership and commitment to members of the Democratic Committee in Berne.”

Apple did not respond to an Enterprise request for comment on the committee’s rejection nor did he respond to an earlier request on the action of his deputies at the Feb. 20 hearing. 

While the small-town committee’s decision to refrain from contributing to Apple's re-election makes no real mathematical difference for the highly popular sheriff, who has run unopposed since he was first elected in 2011, it nevertheless holds remarkable symbolism in a county where Democrats typically operate as a well-oiled machine, and who can otherwise take for granted their support of one another. 

Making it all the more remarkable is that Crosier, who is a member of the committee, has had a long and friendly history with the sheriff he now says has turned his back on the community in favor of smooth political sailing. 

“I actually worked for him for 20 years as a paramedic and I worked with him for 15 years as a [town] supervisor,” Crosier told The Enterprise this week. “His lack of response on this issue is very disappointing … It almost looks like he’s not a Democrat anymore. At least, he doesn’t uphold the Democratic values because he doesn’t even want to engage the community. He doesn’t appear to care about anybody’s First Amendment rights. It’s very disheartening.”

Crosier said that he’s heard from several people in the Hilltowns of various party affiliations who have expressed outrage over the fact that Apple “let the town supervisor misuse his deputies.” 

Palow had acknowledged at the end of the Feb. 20 hearing that Crosier was prevented from speaking because of a personal grudge Palow held over Crosier’s alleged behavior at a meeting several years ago when Crosier was supervisor. At the Feb. 20 hearing, after Crosier repeatedly asked Palow if he would be allowed to speak, Palow eventually ordered him removed. 

At no point during his short time at the hearing did Crosier break any of the rules set by Palow, nor did he act in any way that could be considered disruptive, combative, or disrespectful, even after he was interrupted by Palow.

Deputy Supervisor Anita Clayton, a Democrat who was elected to the town board in 2021 on the Republican line, also seemed to confirm to an audience member at the hearing that Crosier was targeted because of comments he had made on social media that were critical of the town board, with Clayton saying in a defensive tone, “Yes, it is prejudicial.”

Crosier now stands ready to sue both the town and the sheriff’s office over the incident after requests for apology have gone unanswered; his attorney had sent letters to each party advising them to retain any potential evidence. 

Crosier said this week that Apple was given “a couple chances” to make things right. “And now I’m forced to sue the sheriff to make him do the right thing,” he said. 

Despite the overwhelming support for Crosier by fellow Democrats from other towns following the Feb. 20 incident, none of the other party leaders have taken a stand against Apple in particular. 

Westerlo Democratic Chairman Ned Stevens told The Enterprise this week, “We don’t have a problem with Sheriff Craig Apple.” 

Knox Democratic Party Chairman Paul Scilipoti verified that his committee has distributed petitions that include Apple’s name. 

Rensselaerville Democratic Party Chairman Hébert Joseph, who is also running for county legislator, was especially supportive of Apple, telling The Enterprise that he personally has collected “over a hundred” signatures on Apple’s behalf. 

Jacob Crawford, who leads the county Democratic party, also said that Apple continues to receive full support; at the same time, Crawford condemned the Republican-backed Berne Town Board that ordered or otherwise sat silently through Crosier’s removal from the Feb. 20 hearing. 

When told that Hilltown Democrats are still behind Apple — at least on the committee level — Crosier replied that voters and community organizers should make sure they don’t let personal or political endorsements of a candidate become a blind loyalty to them. 

“If we’re going to affect change in our communities, we have to be willing to stand up and speak on the hard issues — whether we like the person or not, whether we’ve endorsed them or not — when they don’t do the right thing,” he said. 

More Hilltowns News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.