by party: Rensselaer County district attorney candidate
Greg Cholakis says nobody owns him.
PHOTO: Chris Shields
seemingly well-qualified candidates duke it out for a chance
to be Rensselaer County’s DA
In the mostly low-key race for district attorney in Rensselaer
County, the oft-cited faults of the current embattled District
Attorney Patricia DeAngelis, and her predecessor, Ken Bruno,
loom large. Both attorneys, bidding to fill the position DeAngelis
will be leaving at the end of this year, say that they have
entered the race driven by a desire to fix a “dysfunctional
last 10 years has either been degrading micromanagement or
absent—M.I.A.,” said Republican candidate Greg Cholakis. “That
needs to change.”
has spent the past 14 years working in the Public Defender’s
Office in Rensselaer County—10 of those years as the chief
assistant public defender.
The prime source of the problem with the district attorney’s
office will be gone at the end of this year regardless of
who wins, Cholakis continued, but the most pressing issues
with the office can be seen in the office’s turnover rate.
Out of an office of 15 lawyers, he pointed out, there has
been a turnover of 12 to 13 attorneys in the past three and
a half years.
staggering,” he said. “Two-thirds of those were experienced
prosecutors.” And with the exception of two people, both of
whom have left, he said, the 12 people who have been hired
have had no more than 18 months experience. This rate of turnover
creates a hurried, unsure work environment, he said, and is
symptomatic of deeper organizational failures.
Richard McNally, Cholakis’ Democratic opponent, agrees that
the office needs serious overhaul: “The district attorney’s
office shouldn’t be about chasing headlines,” he said. “We
aren’t supposed to be looking over our shoulders, worrying
about what [Metroland] is going to write, or what the
Troy Record is going to write, or what the Times
Union is going to write.”
think that that has been an issue. I think they decide on
how they are going to pursue things based on a cynical, political
analysis as opposed to the rule of law,” McNally continued.
“The Republican party has a dominance [in Rensselaer County],
but quite frankly, the enrollment isn’t reflective of that.
They have been effective in using state money. My opponent
is using state money. . . . That is what I am up against.”
It doesn’t take very long for a discussion of Rensselaer County
politics to turn to the subject Senate Majority Leader Joe
you don’t see the pattern,” said McNally, “then I don’t know
how you don’t see it. I think voters in this county are sick
and tired of . . . the other side of the aisle running candidates
based upon name recognition and not qualifications.”
walk into the courthouse and find five people at random, and
ask them this question,” Cholakis said, referring to the insinuation
that he will be a political pawn of the Republican party,
“and when they stop laughing, I think they will tell you that
‘Greg is one of the most independent people in this courthouse
and always has been.’ Right is right; friends and family are
one thing, but right is right and wrong is wrong. Rich has
been backed by a party. I have been backed by a party.”
To date, McNally has raised $55,178, with the Rensselaer County
Democratic Committee donating $1,000. Cholakis outpaces his
opponent, having raised $82,232, with a $20,000 donation from
the Rensselaer County Republican Committee. The Republican
committee has enviably more money than the Democrats to throw
at the race; at $463,003, the Republican fundraising in the
county has outpaced the Democrats nearly 5 to 1.
you are dealing with is someone who has recognized that it
is not a great year to be a Republican, from the president
on down to Patricia DeAngelis, and the way to win this is,
regardless of what he knows the truth to be, is to paint me
as a—” Cholakis said, stopping himself. “He has done everything
short of blaming the war in Iraq on me.”
McNally started out in Rensselaer County, working under then-District
Attorney Jim Canfield, as an assistant district attorney,
becoming chief assistant district attorney in 1989 after Canfield
was elected to the bench.
have prosecuted every type of crime that has come through
the office,” McNally said. “I have been practicing criminal
law in the county for 20 years. I started out as a prosecutor,
and I have been a public defender as well as an assistant
is why I am in this race,” McNally said. “I have got head
and shoulders experience over my opponent.”
On the question of experience, Cholakis countered: “He likes
to say that you can’t learn on the job, and that he learned
from Jim Canfield. Jim Canfield, before he was elected district
attorney, was a public defender; he was not a prosecutor.”
If you want to learn how to defend, Cholakis continued, you
prosecute. And if you want to learn how to prosecute, you
defend. “Because once you learn one side, you learn the other.
The job of the defense attorney means that you necessarily
know how to prosecute.” If you don’t know how to prosecute,
he said, you have no idea how to knock holes in the opposing
have been the chief trial lawyer for the past decade,” Cholakis
said, adding that McNally has spent the same time in a private
Department of Public Works Commissioner Thomas
McTygue held a press conference Monday after The
Saratogian ran a story about allegations of
an FBI investigation directed at McTygue, a story
that Metroland first reported on Aug. 30
[“Investigation Overload,” Newsfront]. McTygue
insisted that Mayor Valerie Keehn was behind the
“rumors” of an FBI investigation and blamed his
longtime political enemies for spreading them.
McTygue held the conference on his 60-acre Saratoga
horse farm that is outside the city limits.
Now Ripped Tunes?
with Interpol and other national and international
police agencies raided and shut down the Britain-based
OiNK’s Pink Palace Monday. The well-known BitTorrent
tracker was populated at one point by more than
180,000 members. The next day, an entry was up
at Wikipedia stating that “Oink was the largest
source of leaked albums in the world, claiming
that it was responsible for leaking more than
60 major album releases in 2007 alone.” The Pink
Palace was an invitation-only site and charged
no fee for its members.
candidate Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) garnered great
public support and boatloads of donations this
week when he announced he would put a hold on
a FISA bill that would grant amnesty to telecommunication
companies that provided the Bush administration
with the private information of their customers.
Dodd insisted that his first move as president
would be to “restore the Constitution.” Other
presidential candidates such as Sen. Barack Obama
(D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) have
yet to take a firm stance on the issue.
2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Prometheus
v. Federal Communications Commission that then-Chairman
Michael Powell’s attempts to further relax consolidation
rules governing media corporations were illegal.
This past week, current FCC Chair Kevin Martin
took up the cause again, this time proposing the
removal of rules forbidding the same media company
from owning both a newspaper and a television
or radio station in the same market. Critics of
Martin’s proposal say that such a move would lead
to even less diversity in U.S. mainstream media.
frustrations of an Albany County Legislature candidate shed
light on problems with the county election system
Anton Konev was annoyed afterthe Albany board of elections
told him that they had lost his first Freedom of Information
Act request to see the ballots he had received in his race
for the Albany County Legislature in the 32nd District. He
was angered when he put in a second request and was told he
would have to FOIL that request if he wanted a copy of it.
But what finally exasperated Konev was being told by election
commissioners that hundreds of students from the University
at Albany that he had registered to vote would not be listed
on the eligible-voter list because they did not give their
PO box on campus.
According to Konev, he had spent a great deal of time registering
more than 100 students on the UAlbany campus to vote, only
to have a number of students not added to valid voter lists
because they gave their physical address on campus and not
their PO box. (All students living on campus are assigned
a PO box when they enroll.)
told me some of them would not be registered because they
think if they send the mail to students that it will come
back to them, which is not true because students are in the
database, and the university will process them as long as
they have a quad,” said Konev. “There is no reason to disenfranchise
Albany County Republican Board of Elections commissioner John
Graziano said that the problem with registering UAlbany students
is one that has existed for years.
the SUNY Albany mail system, if you don’t put the box number
on there, they don’t get their mail,” he said. “There are
two different election districts on campus: One is Guilderland
and one in the city. So they need to have a box number to
get their mail. It has been a seven-year problem. We’ve talked
to SUNY. We’ve talked to everybody.”
Konev has rallied students, politicians and members of a number
of activist organizations to draw attention to what he sees
as a violation of students’ rights, a violation he said should
have been addressed years ago. He insisted that other transient
populations are allowed to register, such as nursing-home
patients. Konev wonders if the “problem” has been allowed
to exist to keep student registration low in the district.
Konev has also received a letter from Diane Cardone of the
UAlbany Services Department that states that mail can be delivered
to students who do not list a PO box number, but that it would
take more time than usual.
Graziano, however, insisted the problem is one of logistics:
“They are a transient population. It is hard for us to keep
up with them. It is hard for the SUNY system to keep up, let
alone us and the post office. We want them all to be able
to register if they want to.”
In a separate issue, Konev, a Republican and the Citizens
for Change candidate for Albany County Legislature, watched
as the ballots were counted for the Independent and Conservative
lines after the September primaries. When presented with the
final tallies, he had clearly lost on those lines. However,
the number of votes tallied by the Albany County Board of
Elections was less than the number he had counted himself.
So he requested to reinspect the ballots.
Konev was informed that he would have to file a Freedom of
Information Law request, and he did. Seven business days later,
Konev inquired about his FOIL request and was told it had
been lost. He was instructed to fill out a second request
for the same information. After his last experience with the
board, he realized that he should ask for a copy of the request;
he was told that to get a copy of his second FOIL request,
he would have to fill out a third FOIL request.
spoke to the commissioner, and he told me they had already
packed away the ballots in the back and I can’t see them,
I can’t examine them, and it will take them months to make
copies of them for me,” said Konev, exasperated. “But there
are only around 50 ballots.”
Graziano told a different story.
was here when they were looked at,” he said. “Now he wants
to FOIL ’em. I told him, ‘Why don’t you just come look at
them again?’ It would be very difficult for us to go and get
them, to pull them out by district as he crosses many election
districts. It is very difficult for us to photocopy and give
them to him. We will give him anything he wants, but everyone
wants instant gratification.”
loose ends this week-