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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 24, 2008

GOPs threaten lawsuit
Insider deal for new police chief"

By Saranac Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND — By the end of spring, the town will either have a new police chief or a lawsuit.

On Jan. 3, the Albany County Civil Service department posted an exam announcement to fill the vacancy for Guilderland’s police chief. There was no mention of the post at the town board meeting that night.

Town board newcomers, Republicans Mark Grimm and Warren Redlich, who won their seats on the formerly all-Democratic board in an upset election last fall, are saying that the posting was kept secret by Democratic town Supervisor Kenneth Runion in an effort to promote town hall insiders.

"There’s no opportunity for anybody to be sneaky because Albany County does the scheduling," Runion said yesterday.

Guilderland’s long-time police chief, James Murley, had resigned in May after being suspended following charges of not keeping accurate attendance records, misconduct with a vendor, sexual harassment, and violating the town’s ethics law.

In a letter to Michael Cummings, the director of Albany County’s Civil Service department, Redlich asked that the posting for the March 8 exam be removed since it had not been approved by the town board, which is charged with choosing the police chief.

"The selection of the chief of police will be made by the town board," Runion said yesterday, once the list is complete. According to Civil Service Law, there must be at least three people to choose from, he said.

So far, the list will likely include acting police chief Carol Lawlor and Lieutenant Curtis Cox — the only two people who qualify to take the March promotion class exam. Two people from a list of eligible candidates and sitting chiefs from other departments who may want to transfer to Guilderland will also be on the list, Runion said. He couldn’t recall the names of the two candidates from the Civil Service list and Cummings did not return phone calls from The Enterprise yesterday.

"In all honesty, this may be something to be resolved in the courts," said Redlich, a lawyer, alluding to an Article 78 lawsuit, typically brought by citizens frustrated with government. "We know how to do it and we will," he said of his law firm.

"This is a very big appointment," Grimm said, noting that Murley had been in the post for over 30 years. He retired amid controversy almost a year ago and Lawlor has been at the helm since.

"I think the town board and town supervisor have shown their faith in me by naming me acting chief," Lawlor said when asked how confident she was that she’d get the appointment, she added that two of the town board members who will be voting are different than those who named her acting chief.

"Most likely, the Democratic majority is going to appoint the police chief," Redlich said. "If they want to appoint Carol Lawlor as police chief... they have to do it in public view."

Redlich and Grimm have been critical of what they call the backroom culture of Town Hall; at the last town-board meeting, Redlich introduced a motion to bring the heads of town departments before the board to answer questions and discuss the mechanics of each office. It was defeated along party lines, 3 to 2.

"This is another reason, by the way, we should have department heads come before us," Grimm said when asked if he approved of the job Lawlor has done as acting chief.

"It’s been a good year," said the 30-year veteran of the Guilderland Police force of her tenure as acting chief. "We work well with the administration."

Grimm, who ran on a platform of opening up Town Hall, stressed the importance of drawing from a large pool for chief.

"The Guilderland Police department has been far too political for far too long," Grimm said.

Deadlocked from Day One

By Saranac Hale Spencer

On Jan. 16, New York State was committed, by court order, to a strict schedule for compliance with federal voting regulations. Yesterday, the State Board of Elections deadlocked.

Come Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe will likely either appoint a special master to make the board’s decision on what voting machines to authorize or make the choice himself, said Bo Lipari, who founded New Yorkers for Verified Voting and serves on an advisory committee to the board of elections.

New York is the last state in the union to comply with the federally mandated Help America Vote Act that was passed in 2002. HAVA requires that New York’s current lever machines be replaced by machines that conform to several requirements, including accessibility for disabled people and alternative language accessibility.

When the state legislature was faced with deciding between two types of machines — optical scan or Direct Recording Electronic systems — it couldn’t reach consensus and left the matter to individual counties to decide.

The board met yesterday to choose the voting machines from which New York’s counties were to select ballot-marking devices, to allow people with disabilities to vote. But, to prevent a quorum of the board, Republican board members Neil Kelleher and Helena Moses Donohue would not enter the room at the Saratoga Springs hotel where the open meeting was held, Lipari said.

"This time, there’s a clear case of obstructionism on the Republican side of the board," said Lipari, who says he is a strict nonpartisan.

The only machine that the two parties could agree on is the Sequoia ImageCast, Lipari said, but the Republicans wouldn’t approve anything without also approving a DRE system also — hence the deadlock.

"They want to give the county commissioners choices," Lipari said of their reasoning, with a note of disbelief. He then recounted a conversation he had had with a Republican election commissioner, who he would not name; the commissioner told him that the vendors for the DREs had spent millions and couldn’t be turned away.

"Beginning the first Friday... and continuing thereafter on each subsequent Friday until further order of this court," wrote Judge Sharpe in his Jan. 16 opinion, "the defendants shall file with this court, and shall submit by electronic mail to counsel for the United States, a detailed report concerning the previous week’s progress in implementing the terms of this Court’s Orders."

If the judge goes the route of special master, which is the title given to an appointee of the court who carries out an action on its behalf, the one he names may be Governor Eliot Spitzer, Lipari said.

The meeting of the board is set to reconvene today, Lipari said, but, he added, "I do not expect any progress."

By Saranac Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Police arrested Buddy R. Corr for breaking in to a pizza shop and stealing the cash register; it’s likely that he is also responsible for a string of recent burglaries in the area, Guilderland Police say.

Corr, 37, was arrested at his home at the Brandywine Parkway apartments a few hours after the burglary, said Senior Investigator John Tashjian. "He left his cell phone in the store," Tashjian said, which led to his arrest. Officers found the phone at the scene and got a search warrant before picking up Corr, he said.

The register that he stole was worth about $500, Tashjian said; he wasn’t sure how much Corr had stolen all together, but said that evidence found at Corr’s apartment suggests that he is responsible for burglaries at the Westmere Citgo station last summer and the dry cleaners in the 20 Mall. So far, Corr has been charged with third-degree burglary, a felony, for the I Love NY Pizza break-in on Jan. 18, but, Tashjian said, further charges are pending.

Corr was arraigned and remanded to Albany County’s jail. He was on parole following similar burglaries in Long Island, Tashjian said.

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