the flaws: Clifton Dixon alleges election wrongdoing.
of old-fashioned fraud come out of a primary race for Albany
In 2003, the New York State Supreme Court adopted a legislative
redistricting plan to create majority-minority districts in
fair proportion to the population of minorities in the City
of Albany. The case, which evidenced unequal access to the
political process for minorities in Albany County, expanded
the 4th Legislative District to include parts of the 3rd,
4th, 5th, 11th, and 12th wards in Arbor Hill, North Albany,
Albany Shaker Road, and Bishops Gate.
According to Clifton Dixon, a 4th District Democratic candidate
for Albany County Legislature in this Tuesday’s primary election,
“This is the first regularly scheduled election where the
majority-minority constituency will be able to elect the candidate
of their choice.”
However, Dixon is concerned that the “historically disenfranchised
community” is being manipulated by his opponent, Democrat
Jacqueline E. Jones. “Her egregious behavior is contradictory
to why it was made a majority-minority district,” he alleged,
“for there to be a clean and fair election where the constituency
would be able to pick, fairly, the representative of their
Dixon filed a general complaint against Jones on July 23 with
the Albany County Board of Elections, in which he alleged
that his opponent’s petitions contained fraudulent signatures.
“She registered them to vote and had them sign at the same
time,” he said. “Oftentimes, she had them sign the petition
before she registered them to vote. In many instances, she
wasn’t able to do that in time, and the person was registered
the day after the date the signature shows.”
were predated or backdated, because if you get one person’s
signature first,” explained Dixon, “other candidates can’t
get it. Each fraudulent act can be punished as a misdemeanor
under election law. There are dozens of allegations.”
In several instances, he alleged that Jones was absent when
constituents signed the petition, though she declared herself
signed an affidavit saying she was in my presence when I signed
my signature, and that wasn’t the case,” said Dana Mackey,
a constituent whose name appears on one of Jones’ petitions.
Although the Albany County Board of Elections found many of
Dixon’s claims to be true, there were not enough faulty signatures
to invalidate the petitions.
election law is very clear, where if the witness statement
is incorrect, the whole sheet is supposed to be thrown out,”
said Dixon. “But it’s up to the discretion of the election
commissioners. I was under the impression that the commissioners
would look at these issues directly, but apparently it was
given to someone else. I don’t think these issues were looked
into totally, with complete diligence.”
need five percent of registered, active voters in the district,”
explained John A. Graziano, Republican commissioner for the
Albany County Board of Elections. “The complaint that he filed
against certain signatures—even if we agreed on certain ones,
and we eliminated them—it didn’t go below the number that
done an extensive review of every complaint Clifton had brought
in,” Graziano continued. “We communicated to him in writing
what our position was. Literally, we spent hours with him.
But he brought it above us.”
Following the BOE’s ruling, Dixon attempted to bring the case
to court, but it was dismissed by state Supreme Court Justice
John Egan Jr., who claimed it was not filed on time, though
Dixon countered that he filed by the date he was given.
was my last resort,” said Dixon. “Justice Egan dismissed the
case based on the fact that it was served the day after it
should have been, though it was served on the date I was originally
told. So that’s a concern.” Court documents appear to confirm
In a letter of request for investigation sent to Albany District
Attorney David Soares on August 29, Dixon stated that Wanda
F. Willingham, Jones’ mother and Democratic County Legislature
incumbent, interfered with a judicial subpoena on Aug. 6 by
encouraging witnesses not to obey its orders and appear before
we were at court, Willingham came up to court that day, telling
everybody not to speak to anyone,” said Bruce Wilson, a resident
of the 4th district who signed Jones’ petition and was called
to testify in court along with 11 other witnesses. “She said
that to all the witnesses. She just said, ‘Don’t speak to
them.’ She said it to all of us.”
Dixon also filed a request with the Board of Elections to
invalidate the designating petition of Jones on the grounds
that her 2004 change of party enrollment from Working Families
to Democratic was not made in conformity with election law.
was not done through any credible procedural process,” said
Dixon. “I believe the reason she changed from the Working
Family Party in 2003 was because she wanted to vote for her
mother, Wanda Willingham, in the primary.”
Dixon, a self-employed real-estate broker, political consultant,
and community activist, worked as Willingham’s campaign manager
during the 2003 election.
On August 21, BOE commissioners Graziano and Matthew J. Clyne
denied Dixon’s request, dismissing his complaint as “a ministerial
irregularity by a BOE staff member three years ago.”
don’t think all my objections were looked into totally,” said
Dixon. “But at this point she’s on the ballot, and the election’s
Jones did not arrive for a scheduled interview to discus Dixon’s
Don’t Have to Go Home, but . . .
President Vladimir Putin dismissed his prime minister
and the Russian government Wednesday, just three
months before scheduled parliamentary elections,
and six months before next year’s presidential
election. He appointed ally Viktor Zubkov to replace
the prime minister. Reports suggest that the move
positions Zubkov as Putin’s obvious successor
in next year’s election.
soldiers who were involved in a seven-soldier
op-ed piece, “The War as We Saw It,” which appeared
in The New York Times three weeks ago,
were killed in Iraq this week. In the op-ed, Sgt.
Omar Mora and Sgt.Yance T. Gray questioned the
war in Iraq and whether the situation there can
be fixed. The op-ed ended, “We need not talk about
our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see
this mission through.” Mora and Gray both died
in a vehicle accident in western Baghdad on Monday.
Change in Sight
being questioned by both houses of Congress, Gen.
David H. Petraeus and American Ambassador to Iraq
Ryan C. Crocker could not confirm that the surge
of American troops in Iraq has helped improve
security or unify sectarian leaders. Both men
declared the necessity for a continued strong
presence of American troops, quelling hope that
there would be a change of military strategy.
Though a recent New York Times/CBS Poll
showed that Americans prefer having the military
in charge of the war instead of the White House,
there appears to be little difference between
what Petraeus and Bush have planned for the troops.
George W. Bush is telling New York to “drop dead,”
according to Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who lambasted
Bush for his refusal to allow the expansion of
children’s health insurance in the state. The
heated Spitzer has joined with California Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.),
and others in an attempt to fight against federal
regulations preventing Spitzer from expanding
Child Health Plus in New York.
Troy, the fight over the Working Families Party slate goes
Chris Consuello’s petitions are in at the board of elections.
Filed as a candidate with the Working Families Party, he intends
to run for mayor of Troy. It is not the first time his name
has been on the ballot, either. Last year, Consuello gained
marginal notoriety when incumbent Assemblyman Ron Canestrari
(D-Cohoes) conceded the WFP’s line for state Assembly to the
So why did his fellow WFP members move to remove him, and
six others candidates running for City Council, from the party?
Because, WFP said, these candidacies are part of a widely
acknowledged game of one-upmanship that consumes major players
in Rensselaer County politics. Just as the Conservative Party
has been taken over by Republicans in Rensselaer County, and
the Independence Party has been taken over by the Republicans
and their allies, insiders say the WFP is in the sights of
have seven candidates in Troy who did not go through the endorsement
process,” said Pat Pafundi, chair of the Rensselaer County
Club of the Working Families Party. “It undermines our whole
This endorsement process, Pafundi said, is “rigorous,” pointing
to the lengthy questionnaire each candidate must fill out,
which is designed to ascertain whether or not they are sympathetic
to the party’s goals and beliefs.
interview lots and lots of people, and if we have a difference
of philosophy, we are not going to endorse them. These people,
we have never seen these people,” she said. “We have suspected
that we have people who are trying to take over our line.
We have spoken to these candidates, and we suspect they are
not real candidates. We had members reach out to them, and
some of these people didn’t even know they were on the line.
How does that happen?”
have been working very hard,” said Pafundi. “We don’t want
to be undermined by another party.”
Earlier this month, a member of WFP filed a complaint, pursuant
to election law, to the chairman of the party about the “rogue
voter can make a complaint that another member of the party
doesn’t belong in the party and should be kicked out,” said
Josh Sabo, an attorney representing WFP. “There was a complaint
that these seven individuals didn’t belong, that they were
tools of other parties, and they should be kicked out of the
After a hearing, Sabo said, “The chairman decided that the
charges were true and that each of these individuals were
basically working at the behest of Robert Mirch, that they
were working at the behest of the Conservative Party, and
that they should be removed from the Working Families Party.”
Mirch, who is the Dept. of Public Works Commissioner in Troy,
as well the constituent liaison to Sen. Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick)
and the majority chair in the Rensselaer County Legislature,
signed off as public notary on the petitions for the contested
Mirch did not return calls for an interview.
Upon the WFP chair’s decision, instead of acquiescing, the
seven people hired lawyer Tom Spargo to reverse the decision
made by the chair, and to allow them to continue to be in
the party, Sabo said. The chair of the party has in turn filed
a counterclaim saying that not only should they be removed
from the party, but they shouldn’t be on the ballot for the
it is a battle over control, there were many new registrants
in the WFP, way out of whack with registrations anywhere else,”
Sabo pointed out.
In Troy, as of Sept. 1, there were 596 members of the WFP
enrolled. In November 2006, there were 483—an increase of
113. For comparison, in the entire county of Rensselaer, there
were 883 WFP members registered in April of last year. There
were 1015 members enrolled as of April of this year—an increase
of 132, the vast majority being in Troy.
don’t have that many serious rogue attempts, but, in a couple
of places, we have seen surges upward in registration,” said
Emma Wolfe, organizing director for WFP. “This isn’t that
common. In Suffolk, we’ve had some issues, and then in Troy.
Those are the two places; otherwise, there is a not really
It is a bizarre way to get political power, she said, but
on the other hand, it makes a lot of sense. “Basically, you
figure out how you can co-opt a political party line, and
you get a lot of elected officials coming to you because you
have the power of the ballot line.”
to court is not something we wanted to do,” she said. “But
when you have candidates running on your line without endorsements,
but also running without even intending to hold office, it
is sort of beyond the pale.”
Insider and the Outcast
the Albany County comptroller primary is as much about settling
old scores as it is about implementing new visions
have been reopened in the Albany County Democratic Party as
incumbent Michael Conners and Guilderland Town Board member
Patricia Slavick prepare to square off in Tuesday’s county
comptroller primary. Party pariah Conners is relying heavily
on his legislative experience and his record as comptroller,
as his comparatively less experienced opponent flexes her
qualifications and party ties in a race that highlights divisions
within the party.
is endorsed by a long list of Albany County Democrats, including
state Sen. Neil Breslin, who backs Slavick “on her credentials
alone.” Slavick, a certified public accountant and business
analyst, worked for General Electric in various capacities
for 27 years. In 1999, she moved into the public sector, working
for the state tax department and for the Office of Mental
Health. Slavick has served on the Guilderland Town Board since
2000, and is currently employed in the office of the state
that [the comptroller’s] office needs to be managed by someone
with my experience,” said Slavick. “I would bring a lot to
the position based on my work history and credentials and
qualifications and my town-board experience.”
has overseen a number of high-profile, sometimes unpopular
audits that have led him to push for reforms in administering
Medicaid, the operations of Capital District OTB, and the
Albany County Nursing Home. He said that his office has saved
Albany more than $34 million in debt service at the Albany
Conners said, he has also implemented a fraud, waste, and
abuse hotline for county employees and upgraded the county’s
computer financial system.
thus far has been a fairly quiet one receiving little attention
from the local press, save for a Times Union article
about a FOIL petition submitted by Slavick’s campaign manager,
Donald Csaposs, to the office of the comptroller requesting
a list of all audits scheduled to be performed in 2007, as
well as all audits performed for the last three years.
maybe one piece of paper listing all the audits,” said Slavick.
“But we didn’t get any type of response, and I haven’t seen
anything published on the [county] Web site as far as audits.
I would think because there is no list. I would have to surmise
claimed that the FOIL request was indeed processed in a timely
never picked it up,” said Conners. “Everything they wanted
was available the 14th of August. We’re not allowed to respond
to people on a FOIL request; the clerk does. If the clerk
didn’t inform them that that was there, shame on the clerk.
If the clerk did and they didn’t pick it up, shame on them.”
FOIL response has caused Conners’ opponents to question his
performance as comptroller and has given Slavick one of her
like to develop an audit plan with audits on a schedule .
. . to make sure audits did get performed so we know how well
the county is meeting its goals,” said Slavick. However, “due
to confidentiality,” said Conners, the 2007 audit schedule
from his office requested by Slavick’s campaign’s FOIL petition
audit schedule we’ll never give to anybody on the outside,
because when we do these audits, we show up at the department
unannounced, which is the best way to do it,” explained Conners.
“You don’t want to give people the chance to do things, hide
things, whatever they’re gonna do.”
claimed to have repeatedly requested that Slavick debate him
publicly on the issues of the race and her criticisms of his
office but that she has declined to do so.
was no communication to me on that, absolutely none,” Slavick
said. “No one on his campaign has mentioned something like
that to me. I would have responded.”
very powerful enemies who are unfortunately using my opponent
to try and do things to me that they didn’t have the courage
to do themselves,” said Conners. “It’s ridiculous to make
the assertion . . . that I can’t do the job of comptroller
because I’m not politically loyal to the Breslins or to the
has been an adversary of Sen. Breslin, and his brother, Albany
County Executive Michael Breslin, since the 2004 race for
Neil Breslin’s seat in the state Senate. Conners switched
his party affiliation and accepted the aid of Senate Majority
Leader Joseph L. Bruno (R-Brunswick) in challenging Breslin
after the Democrats declined to support his bid.
move across the aisle downgraded him from dissenter to outcast
in the Democratic Party, and his wavering party allegiance
continues to be cited by his enemies.
a Democrat, I’ve been a Democrat, I will stay a Democrat .
. . because I follow the philosophies of that party,” said
Slavick. “I would never switch parties for an opportunity
defines himself as “fiercely independent” and justifies his
shunning from the rest of the Democratic Party as a boon rather
than a handicap.
not under the control of the Democrats, the Republicans, the
Legislature or the county executive,” said Conners. “I do
what I think is right.”
loose ends this week-