Saturday, October 11, 2008

A FUN RIDE

Well folks, it been a fun ride.

We decided to end this blog after three-plus years of covering area politics.

When we started this blog, there was a Republican governor, Republican DA, Republican Congressman, Republican Assemblyman and a Republican-controlled Troy City Council.

Things have changed and it is more fun shooting up than down.

We may or may not return in the future so please check back occasionally.

Thanks to all of our readers, supporters and detractors as well as the areas elected officials. Without you, this never would have been a successful venture. In the world of local blogs, we think it was successful:

1- over 350,000 visitors;

2- over 4,500 comments;

3- Mentions in The Record, Times Union, Metroland + City Council meetings;

4- Comments from political candidates;

5- 3 indictments but no convictions;

6- 2 communicable diseases.

But, again, it was you, the reader, that made it all possible. So, thanks. Take care, be safe and always question our elected officials, even if its just to knock them down a peg. It's our duty it's fun and it's fat free.

A special thanks to the area print media, including people like Jim Franco and Chet Hardin. They always gave us a fair shake and did not dismiss the potential of this new medium.

Sincerely,

Democratus



Tuesday, August 19, 2008

VACATION TIME

The Troy Polloi is on hiatus for the next week or so.

Talk amongst yourselves.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

WHAT'S ON THE VERIZON

The Mayor of Troy has called a special meeting for August 20th to discuss leasing the Verizon building as a temporary home for City Hall while something happens on the waterfront. What that something is, no one knows...yet.

We have no problem leasing the 30,000 square foot Verizon Building as a temporary home for City Hall provided:

1) The lease is contingent on Troy actually getting the money from the State. We think that is suspect in light of what is going on in Albany at this time. Albany just lost a ton in aid which may prompt lay-offs;

2) Judge must disclose Judge Development's operating agreement and we need to know who the real parties in interest are in the group that sold the building to Judge. The Verizon Building has been the center of this issue. It was sold to Judge at a time when it looked like City Hall would be moving there. The City needs to know who benefited financially when the building was sold to Judge with the expectation that the City would then rent the building;

3) Judge must renovate the building for the new tenants, at Judge's expense. If we're forking-over more than 25k a month, the building should be in move-in condition;

4) Relocating should be put out to bid. If there are no other viable options, no problem. But again, Harry seems obssessed with handing money over to Judge Development, without inviting others to the table;

5) Lower the rent. 25k per month is too high. Please. It's not like people are tripping over themselves to rent the Verizon Building.


Monday, August 11, 2008

MORATORIUM

A moratorium has been placed on this blog. Time constraints will make it difficult to post for the next few days.

Feel free to engage in polite conversation.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

REGAN CLAIM DISMISSED

The New York State Division of Human Rights has dismissed Colleen Regan's claims of sexual harassment. Regan claimed that high-level GOP functionary, Richard Crist, had made numerous sexual advances which, when turned down, led to Regan's termination as a GOP staffer for the County Legislature.

According to The Record:


The division found that of the 20 alleged incidents claimed by Regan only two were within the statutory period. And, it found, Crist was not her supervisor, as Regan had claimed.

So, what happened? It looks like 18 of the allegations occurred too long ago to be acted upon. More importantly, the Division of Human Rights determined that Crist was not Regan's supervisor.

See, in legal terms, you can only properly harass someone if you have some type of authority over that person. Sexual advances made towards a fellow co-worker, no matter how inappropriate, is not harassment because the 'harasser' can not retaliate against the harasee. In the case of co-workers, such behavior is consider 'acting creepy' or, in some rural places, 'going a courtin.'

The Division of Human Rights obviously ignored the political reality in county government, where politics blurs the chain of command. They also ignore the fact that many women do not report this conduct for fear of being fired or labeled a troublemaker. The lesson here is report the conduct to the appropriate person, in writing, close in time to the incident. If no action is taken, move up the chain of command. If there is retaliation for making the report, that retaliation can form a seperate basis for a suit.

The Troy Polloi did not cover the harassment side of Regan's story. Unlike some, we refuse to accuse someone of sexual harassment without any evidence. Regan had her side of the story, Crist his and only those two know the truth. Those who claim "Crist didn't do it' or 'Regan is telling the truth,' are merely guessing.

Crist said he is keeping open the possibility of suing Regan for making the false claims against him but added "there are more important things for us to focus on."


Crist won't sue Regan. He'd face the same problem Regan faced: He said/She said. Regan can still sue as well. She won't.

We're far more interested in the following:

In an unrelated matter, Regan charged that Crist, Mirch and others used the county office building and county employees to run their own political consulting business. Albany District Attorney David Soares was appointed special prosecutor but there is no new information on the case.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

BUSINESS AS USUAL

The Troy City Council has been sued over the one-year moratorium against so-called 'Mini-Dorms." Background can be found here. The basis of the suit is that the moratorium discriminates against little (or mini) people.


According to sources, the Mayor has prohibited Corporation Council from representing the City Council in the matter. Under the City Charter, part of the duties of the Corporation Council is to defend suits against the City, City Council etc.


This is an odd move, even for Tutunjian. Perhaps he fell off his Segway and struck his noggin (feel free to make up your own caption for the photograph that accompanies the link).


The suit seeks equitable relief. If successful, it would abolish the moratorium against 'mini-dorms.' As far as we know, no money damages are sought. So, what has the Mayor accomplished:


1) Violated the Charter;


2) Placed his own Corporation Counsel in a very bad position;


3) The Council will now hire it's own attorney, a sort of mini-patronage gig for a Democratic attorney;


4) The Democratic attorney will be paid with funds likely coming from the Corporation Counsel's budget;


However, the last point seems unfair. If the Mayor has ordered the Corporation Counsel to not defend the Council, then maybe the cost should be born from the Mayor's budget.


The Democrats could bring an Article 78 compelling the Corporation Counsel to appear and defend the Council. They would be successful. But why bother when Tutunjian has given them the opportunity to get their own counsel.

It's a win-win for Democrats but sets a poor precedent for the future. The Corporation Counsel is legal counsel for the City, not the Mayor. There's a distinction but we suspect that distinction is beyond the current occupant of the 2nd floor.


Friday, August 01, 2008

SALARIES

The issue of salary boosts to the City's highest paid employees was indirectly on the table again at last Thursday's Finance Committee meeting.

In a controversial move, City Council President Clement Campana, D-At Large, introduced a proposed ordinance during the council's Finance Committee meeting Thursday which would amend the city's non-represented employees' policy by eliminating unnecessary positions and allowing city expenses, including salaries, to be adjusted in order to reduce the operating costs of city government.

We love it when they talk non-represented employees policy. Gets us hot and bothered. OK, so far so good. Moving on:

The 28-page ordinance took many members of the council by surprise as they attempted to quickly scan over the document in order to have some sort of objective discussion about the proposal, which would eliminate longevity payments and a tuition reimbursement program for city employees, as well as a number of administrative and clerical positions.


We're throwing the bullshit flag on this because it isn't fair to the Council. The Administration, by way of the previous Council, did that crap all the time. If you have a proposed ordinance, let the Council members see it in advance, especially one that is 28 pages long. Come on! Some of these guys haven't read twenty-eight pages since they were assigned Animal Farm in 8th Grade (and they know who they are).

One amendment to the policy which drew the most criticism was the redaction of a sentence in the "salaries" section which read, "In no event shall any employee in Group 'A' be paid less than that which was paid to the employee in the prior year budget."Corporation Counsel David Mitchell, the highest paid, mayor-appointed city employee in Group "A," with a current salary of $85,700, immediately warned members of the council that they would be met with litigation if the proposal was approved with that sentence redacted.

Mitchell then asked Campana, as well as other City Council members and City Clerk Bill McInerney, if they knew who had redacted the sentence. When no one answered him, after a brief shouting match, Mitchell stated that the matter would be settled in court.


Now we get down to the outrage. Lets discuss:

The Council has every right to strike that wording from that section. It's called an amendment and legislative bodies do it all the time.

Mitchell has no basis for any lawsuit surrounding the striking of that language from the existing ordinance. Just ignore him, like McInerny does. Mitchell has learned that McInerney cannot be intimidated.

More important is the history of that section of the ordinance. If you recall, that section was added at last year's Pig Out, when the post-election raises were handed out. That section violated the Charter then and violates the Charter today.

As the Mayor made clear, he sets salaries for a number of appointees, including the Corporation Counsel (remember, ignore him), the Deputy Mayor and the Comptroller.....

C-48 The Mayor shall fix, within the appropriations made therefor by the City Council and Mayor in the budget process, the salary or compensation of all officers and employees appointable by him/her. (Sec. K).


Setting aside the nuances of that section, in particular what can and cannot be done at budget time, it's clear that the Mayor fixes the salary of various appointees. And the fix was certainly in here.

ยง C-21. Powers of City Council

(2) To amend this Charter by local law in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Home Rule Law except that any local law which abolishes, transfers, or curtails any power of the Mayor shall be subject to mandatory referendum.*


The section at issue curtails the Mayor's power to set the salaries of appointees. Those salaries can be raised by the Mayor, with Council approval, but not lowered. Why the Mayor, and his attorney (ignore him) would want to curtail the Mayor's authority is beyond us. Beyond us or not, it violates The Charter.

So, their you have it. The Council should not back down, especially in light of threats. They should not have backed down before and should not back down this time. There's no shame in being sued for trying to prevent raises for political appointees. Even if you lose, it's a win. This Spring, when the issue first came up, some majority members seemed to panic. A lawsuit! Egad! No, no and no! The public doesn't give a damn about legal technicalities. They knew the raises stank, knew they were sneaky, and the Council wasn't going to take a beating from the public for trying to pull the trough away. Remember, they only people who were outraged were those who directly benefited from those raises.

What they do after that section is taken off the books, and when they do it, is another story.

* And, if possible, the express, written consent of Major League Baseball.


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