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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 4, 2005

Petition accepted

By Holly Grosch

NEW SCOTLAND — Republican candidates for town posts no longer have a lock on the Conservative Party line.

In the Sept. 13 primary, New Scotland voters enrolled in the Conservative Party will be able to write in the candidates of their choice not designated by the county party leaders for two council seats and the supervisor position. The county’s Conservative Party’s executive committee has endorsed candidates who are all also on the Republican ticket.

County Election Commissioner James Clancy said on Tuesday that he has accepted the petition for the opportunity to ballot in New Scotland’s Conservative Party primary, although some of the signatures were declared invalid.

"I’m very pleased," said Sharon Boehlke one of the petition organizers. "The right decision was made," she said; now the party nomination can "fairly go to the voters to decide who they want to go to ballot."

Boehlke has been critical of the Conservative Party’s policy that the executive board at the county level picks New Scotland candidates rather than local people who are more aware of the daily functioning of New Scotland town government.

Clancy and the other election commissioner, John Graziano, ruled that four signatures on Boehlke’s petition were invalid because the dates had been altered, Clancy said. However, since the petitioners had handed in 18 signatures, even with the four names removed, they still had more than the required nine signatures in order for write-ins to be permitted, he said.

"Election Law is very clean-cut," Clancy said; the commissioners didn’t need to investigate or make any phones calls.

"If anything is changed or crossed out and not initialed," which these did not have initials, then the signatures are invalid and thrown out, he said.

Albany County Conservative Party Chairman Richard Stack had challenged the petitions saying that five dates were illegally altered, and, as a result of the fraud, the entire petition should be voided.


Stack said he was pleased that the commissioners struck four of the five lines he was challenging, although he wished that they had thrown out the whole petition. Their ruling validates that there was fraud involved, Stack said.

He told The Enterprise this week, based on the commissioners’ position, he can now go to the Albany County District Attorney and ask him to investigate the alleged fraud.

He had called The Enterprise after a July 21 story on the petitions ran.

Stack said, based on Boehlke’s statement in the newspaper, "I plan on writing a letter to the D.A. to investigate the [her] allegation of fraud within the board of elections."

As of this Wednesday, Stack hadn’t yet sent a letter.

When Boehlke was interviewed for the July 21 issue, her reaction to her petition being challenged was one of surprise.

She said, when she submitted the petition to the board of elections, the dates were in no way unclear. She said she didn’t change the dates and that she watched each person sign and date their own names. If the dates appear to have been altered, she said, then the only possible explanation that she could fathom is that the papers had been changed after she handed them in.

Commissioner Clancy told The Enterprise this week, "That’s 100 percent incorrect....I’m very upset with her...That’s not how we operate."

"I hope anyone in the future, if they implicate us like that, they have proof....Her comment was uncalled-for," Clancy said.

Boehlke told The Enterprise this week that she did not mean it as an accusation. "I know I didn’t change them," she said. "If anything — it would have happened after," she said.

Stack said he’d like the district attorney to investigate the alleged fraud because then all Boehlke has to do to easily settle the situation is produce copies of her petition from before they where challenged. All experienced petitioners know to make a copy of a petition before handing it in, he said.

Richard Arthur, spokesperson for district attorney David Soares, said that if a significant credible allegation comes into the office, the evidence would be investigated. The district attorney’s office task is to investigate criminal acts and, he said, "many things don’t measure up to criminal acts."

"Election Law is very tough law," Arthur said. It’s not as straightforward as someone caught on tape selling crack cocaine to an undercover police officer, he said. "Voter fraud things are extremely hard...To prove criminality is difficult," Arthur said, but the department does take it seriously.

Arthur said he can’t make any comments about this particular allegation unless or until the office does receive a letter from Stack.

Moot point

Boehlke said that she saw the commissioners’ ruling as a "fair designation." Declaring the lines as invalid was a "matter of taking an eye ball look at it," she said. It was really a moot point, because, even if they struck her whole page of eight signatures, the petitioners together still had enough signatures to be allowed to write in, Boehlke said.

Because of this same point, Stack said it was not worth the Conservative Party’s time or money for lawyers to continue to challenge the petition in court.

How much Animal Control"

By Holly Grosch

NEW SCOTLAND — The town board held a special meeting on Tuesday night to discuss its animal-control program. The town is at a crossroads once again trying to decided what form the service should take: how much the town is willing to pay for the program, how many employees are needed, when will they be on call, and what their hours and duties would be.

The most recent program came to a screeching halt after two of the three animal-control officers quit. The program is hard to maintain because of the odd hours and the time commitment, said Darrell Duncan, the highway superintendent who oversees the animal-control program.

Also, until this spring, the village of Voorheesville shared the cost of the program with the town. The village has since split off, and started its own smaller program.

Supervisor Ed Clark said that the town has not made the post attractive to provide for and keep the employees enthused. At last budget time, some of the animal-control staff officers had requested that their salaries be doubled; the town gave a smaller raise instead.

The captain of the officers was budgeted $5,767 this year. His officers were budgeted $5,371 each.

Duncan said, when the two officers left on July 1, he asked them if they would still be leaving if they got paid more; they paused really thinking about it, and didn’t really give an answer, he said.

"Money is nice," said Kevin Schenmeyer, the captain and sole remaining animal-control officer, "but I don’t think its the whole issue."

He explained that the job has seen a number of employees leave because it requires a certain lifestyle. One of the officers just got married another has children, Schenmeyer said, making the availability a problem. It’s just about time periods of peoples lives and life stages, he said.

What next"

The town board members asked Schenmeyer what would be ideal for the position. He has been running the whole program and been on call all by himself over the last month.

It was hectic but manageable, Schenmeyer said, citing the very warm weather as the reason why animals haven’t been as rambunctious as usual. On average, he has been getting only one or two phone calls a day, Schenmeyer said. Most of the calls are about loose dogs, he added. The town of New Scotland has an ordinance that all dogs, when outside, have to be on a leash or fenced in an enclosed area.

Schenmeyer advised the board if he ran the program he would hire one full-time person and another person to help out.

Duncan said the problem then is defining "full time;" does that mean set office hours, doing paperwork during the day, being on call at all times everyday, or setting their own hours based on calls.

Duncan and Schenmeyer agreed that the town animal-control program worked the best most recently, when there were three part-time employees, each being on call for one week at a time and then off for two weeks.

Clark said that the three employees had been doing a good job, but that the demands of the job were just too much.

"I’m not wanting to scale back," Councilwomen Deborah Baron said. She said one way the town can pick up more revenue to pay for the program that has grown over the years, is by increasing the fee schedule, price of licenses, and fines for not following town dog ordinances.

The town hasn’t had a enumeration program since 1980, and Baron said that she would like to pick that up again.

Baron said she is troubled if the town has local ordinances, including requiring licenses and forbidding dogs at large, but then doesn’t have the manpower to enforce those laws. "Maybe we need to get rid of them," Baron said of the ordinances.

The town attorney, Michael Mackey, suggested four part-time employees rotating every 4 weeks, to ease the burden of the unpredictable on-call hours. Duncan said that the program hasn’t even been able to just keep three people.

"I don’t think it was money as much as inconvenience," Councilwoman Andrea Gleason said.

Clark said that the town has increased pay significantly over the years and that he would like to diminish the expectation of services and cut back on hours and pay.

We’re in a society and time when people expect more, Baron responded.

On the job

Schenmeyer explained to the board what he does. He picks up dead animals, and enforces the rules and regulations of town, leash laws and of controlling animals. He also has to follow the Department of Agriculture and Markets regulations, which includes responding to nuisance calls, and picking up loose or dangerous dogs, he said.

The board asked Schenmeyer how long he can continue being the only officer, while it designs the program and hires more employees.

"I do feel a little overwhelmed," he said adding that he was hoping to go on vacation in August.

The board decided to ask the men who just recently left the program to fill in for Schenmeyer when he’s on vacation and then have Schenmeyer continue as the only animal control officer, receiving the pay that is the currently budgeted for three officers, since he will be fulfilling all the duty hours.

Duncan reminded the board that, if the town continues to pay Schenmeyer at the old rate, then there will be a short fall of about $2,000 to $3,000 by the end of the year, because Voorheesville’s old share won’t be coming in.

Baron asked if Schenmeyer would be okay with remaining the only officer until January, when the next budget starts and have the new program start then as well.

"It seems it has run very well...it has worked out better than we thought," Gleason said.

Councilmen Scott Houghtaling said that the town doesn’t want to burn out the one long-lasting loyal officer. He would like to have a new program start with additional employees hired by the end of September.

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