City Council gets sidetracked by scandal and chooses not to
address “big wig” raises at latest meeting
Bob Mirch had the photocopied e-mail in hand. Standing before
the Troy City Council at its first public meeting, the city’s
Public Works commissioner and Rensselaer County legislator
berated the new Democratic majority and threatened legal action.
So, what had Mirch so mad?
The e-mail, sent by Troy City Councilman Bill Dunne (D-District
4) to his fellow council Democrats and others, addressed the
controversial issue of last-minute pay raises for non-union-represented
city employees that was rushed through the council at the
end of last year. Specifically, the e-mail addressed the top-tier
political appointees, including the corporation council, deputy
mayor, and Mirch himself.
In the e-mail, Dunne wrote: “This is the ‘punishment’ version
of the non-rep policy, which takes back the retro-active raises
for ’07 from the Group A big wigs.”
Mirch proclaimed that Dunne’s e-mail amounted to a violation
of his civil rights.
me ask you a question about that,” Dunne said, pointing to
the word “punishment.”
was I thinking when I typed that?” he asked. “You can’t tell
And neither, he said, could Mirch.
can concoct anything he wants, but the term came to us because
we had several citizens say to us that these guys deserve
to be punished,” he said.
guys” are the former Republican City Council majority and
administration of Republican Harry Tutunjian for proposing
retroactive pay raises for non-rep employees at City Hall,
most political appointees of Tutunjian, after the November
election but in time for the council to vote before the Republicans
lost their control.
wins an election, and then knowing he doesn’t have the council
majority any more, he passes a retroactive raise for 2007
that nobody knew about,” Dunne said. “Then he passes a raise
for 2008 that didn’t appear in the proposed budget. These
people stood to gain a significant amount of money over a
three-year period. And the mayor didn’t have the political
courage to announce these raises before the election.”
lacking a better term for how to distinguish between two possible
scenarios in changing the salaries on non-rep employees, we
called one ‘non-punishment’ and the other one ‘punishment,’
“ Dunne said. “But there is nothing punitive about this. We
aren’t going to flog them.”
Mirch has since backed off from some of his original rhetoric.
Originally, he threatened a lawsuit and to bring the e-mail
to the attention of the district attorney. To date, Mirch
has submitted his complaint only to the council president.
But it appears that the council has backed off, too, on its
promises to rescind the higher-end pay raises.
At Tuesday night’s special council meeting, the council voted
to shift the group B non-rep employees, including the deputy
director of public information, auditor, city clerk and others,
into the same pay schedule that union-represented employees
are under. This means that these workers will receive a 3.5-percent
pay increase for 2008. But, notably, the council chose not
to address the group A employees’ pay.
are still in discussion about what, if anything, will be done
with group A,” council President Clem Campana (D-At Large)
said. “I surmise that there will be action taken, but I don’t
know what it will be yet. . . . It will, hopefully, be on
the February agenda.”
Although other members of the council wouldn’t say, Ken Zalewski
(D-District 5) said that he wants to see the raises for 2008,
which amount to $52,000 in pay and benefits, rescinded.
can put another police office on the streets with that money,”
Democratic Party in Troy has been vocal about rolling back
those raises,” said Frank LaPosta, Troy Democratic Party chairman.
He sees the rescinding of these raises as part of the Democrats
campaign promise to be the watchdog in Troy government. “If
they don’t fulfill this promise, they will be like any other
politician who promises things and don’t follow through.”
Of course, the question still remains: Who leaked the e-mail
On the photocopy of the e-mail supplied to Metroland,
the e-mail was addressed to seven people—the five Democratic
councilmen, Rob Matiniano, and a name that was under redaction.
According to Zalewski, the blacked-out name is that of the
girlfriend of Steve Dworsky, the former city manager of Troy.
Zalewski said that Dworsky was consulting with the Democratic
majority, even sitting in on their caucuses.
Speculation that Dworsky was the one who leaked the e-mail
to Mirch has circulated through the Troy political scene,
although Dworsky denied it.
answer is no,” Dworsky said. “I didn’t give anything to Bob
Mirch. We’re on the opposite side of the spectrum, with him
being a Republican and me a Democrat.”
Insiders point out, however, that Dworsky and Mirch have enjoyed
a long association. Dworsky was the Democratic city manager
in the late ’80s and early into the ’90s, around the same
time that Mirch was also in the Democratic Party.
can forward an e-mail,” said Zalewski, “but I personally would
never send anything to Bob Mirch because I know he is out
to sink us.”
And this e-mail reaching Mirch did have an effect on the council’s
efforts to rescind the group A pay raises.
hurt us tremendously,” Zalewski said. “You have to wonder
why someone would leak this e-mail. You think that you are
working with people, and that you are on the same team, and
that you want to get stuff done, and then something like this
happens, and you have to step back and wonder if you can trust
the people you are working with.”
to the Times Union, the New York State
Police were gearing up to charge former congressman
John Sweeney with theft of services this week
after he refused to pay for a cab ride home from
a strip club. Sweeney reportedly hired the cab
to take him home from Double Vision strip club
in Halfmoon. According to Sweeney’s attorney,
it was all a misunderstanding as Sweeney had assumed
his ride was paid for by a friend, and as soon
as he realized he was in the wrong, he sent his
son to the cab station with a check. Sweeney’s
driver’s license has been suspended since November
when he was arrested for DWI after reportedly
nearly sideswiping a patrol car on the Northway.
announced the suspension of its parliamentary
elections this week, citing security threats following
the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The elections,
which were scheduled for Jan. 8, will now be held
on Feb. 18, according to Pakistan’s chief election
commissioner, Qazi Mohammad Farooq. The Pakistan
People’s Party, of which Bhutto was the leader,
has objected to the new date, calling President
Pervez Musharraf’s ruling party “a killer league.”
The government claims that it wants to ensure
fair and safe elections; however, many doubt that
fair elections are even possible under Musharraf.
The day of Bhutto’s murder, she was scheduled
to turn over a 160-page document to Sen. Arlen
Specter (R-Penn.) detailing the efforts to rig
the country’s elections.
Call a Wahhhhmbulance!
Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) had a breakdown this
week after polls put Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
in a double-digit lead in the New Hampshire primary.
It wasn’t just her watery eyes and comments about
elections not just being a game; it was the way
she bitterly accused Obama of falsely raising
the hopes of the American people and insisted
people should vote for her rather than Obama because
of her “35 years of making change happen!” She
may have sounded insecure, with a bloated sense
of entitlement, but apparently it made New Hampshire
voters feel she was human, as she defied the polls
and won the primary.
for Change in the Polls?
delegates for Barack Obama hold event to draw attention to
their candidate—and to assert that the senator from New York
doesn’t have her home state in the bag
Albany Common Councilwoman Carolyn McLaughlin (Ward 2) had
something exciting happen to her while visiting the bank the
other day. “There was a lady; I don’t know her, I have never
seen her before in my life. She saw my Barack Obama button,
and she said, ‘He is going to be our next president.’ ”
McLaughlin is an Obama delegate, along with a number of Capital
Region politicos including Common Councilman Corey Ellis (Ward
3) and Anton Konev, and they have been energized by Obama’s
victory in the Iowa caucuses. Despite Obama’s second-place
showing in New Hampshire, the shape of the Democratic primaries
has shifted because of Obama’s newfound viability.
Ellis said that he has recently spoken to once-decided voters
who are now more willing to consider voting for Obama. “We
have literally been changing some people’s minds. They are
taking a second look at Sen. Obama for president. We want
people to look at the policies that people are running on,
and if they do that they will be swept up by this movement.”
Pundits have asserted that Obama’s Iowa win has established
him as a viable candidate and that voters who once backed
away from him because they were unsure of his electibility
have now reconsidered him as not only a viable candidate but
their first choice.
Konev, Ellis and McLaughlin held a press conference this week
to draw attention to their candidate and announce that they
were Obama delegates; and while it may seem like a tame move,
some see their early support for Obama as defying a longstanding
Albany tradition. Instead of biding their time to see whom
committees endorse, McLaughlin and Ellis have taken their
Ellis sees this as a result of “candidates of change” being
elected all over Albany. Candidates, he said, who are independent
of old-school Albany politics.
McLaughlin said that her support, and what she sees as rising
support for Obama in the community, is a price Clinton has
to pay for her neglect of the area. “Mrs. Clinton has taken
Albany County for granted, and by doing that she has opened
the door for Obama to come in. I think what is going on, what
took place Iowa and in New Hampshire, is only going to transcend
to Albany County.”
McLaughlin feels that Clinton has all but ignored the areas
of Albany that need the most help. “There are only certain
areas of New York state she has played to. I know in the eight
years she has been in office that whenever she has come to
Albany, she has only been to one event in the community I
represent. She came to the neighborhood to see what our needs
are when No Child Left Behind was announced; other than that,
I can’t get her in our backyard. We need somebody to listen
to the people and help change things.”
McLaughlin thinks that Clinton will find herself in a battle
to win her home state on Super Tuesday. “Traditionally you
are supposed to win in your home state, but the way things
are going she is going to have to fight for that. She can’t
just assume she is going to win New York state. In your own
state it is supposed to be no contest, but I don’t think it
will happen here. It will be a contest because of the message
he is sending.”
Ellis thinks Obama is the kind of candidate that will listen
and will change things. Ellis sees Obama as cut from the same
cloth as the slew of candidates in Albany who have been elected
in the past few years—thanks to their community activism,
and despite the will of entrenched politicians.
want to show people we are independent thinkers,” said McLaughlin,
“that we know a good message when we hear it, one that is
good for this county, good for this community. I was behind
him when he first announced, and I am excited about being
a delegate and going to the convention in Denver.”
York state Gov. Eliot Spitzer gave his State of the State
speech yesterday (Wednesday) in the Assembly in Albany. In
it, he proposed $1 billion in investment for business and,
at the same time, pledged to not raise taxes. He also suggested
the privatization of the lottery system, touched on the issues
of education and energy production, and addressed the subprime
lending crisis with proposals to revise foreclosure and anti-fraud
loose ends this week-