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Work for Us, Live With Us

Proposed legislation would require that Albany city department heads and their deputies live within city limits

 

Albany Common Councilman Corey Ellis (Ward 3) has voted against the confirmation of two men he thought were perfectly qualified for the jobs they were appointed to with the city, because they did not reside in the city limits. And Ellis does not want to have to vote against a qualified nominee again.

“I voted against Mike Yevoli because he lives in Amsterdam; that is 45 minutes outside of our city,” Ellis said. “I voiced my concern to the administration that hopefully the next appointee would have ties to the city of Albany, and when they proposed Troy Mackey as commissioner of personnel, I supported him when I thought his address was in Albany. But when I was informed at the council meeting that he did not live in city of Albany, I had to oppose his nomination.”

To remedy the situation, Ellis has proposed legislation that would require city of Albany department heads and their deputies to reside in the city of Albany. The legislation currently does not have a grandfather clause. The bill was introduced this Monday and will be reviewed in the Law Committee. Ellis said that he wants to ensure a nominee does not just own property in the city but actually resides there.

“If we want to send a message that our city is a growing, safe place to live, why wouldn’t a commissioner want to live here?” asked Ellis. “If they don’t want to live here then they are saying they don’t feel our city is good enough for them. This local law is a law I know that is well overdue.”

Ellis said he has been approached by citizens about the issue, and they want to see city jobs going to city residents. Ellis also thinks it would be hard for any councilperson to vote against the measure.

“People talk about how we have to confirm these nominees who don’t live in the city because we don’t want to lose them,” he said, “and we don’t have qualified people in the city. I know we do. I don’t think passing the legislation should be that tough. Are you saying we don’t have qualified people? I know we do. I feel more than comfortable because I know we have qualified people who do live in the city.”

Albany Common Councilman Dom-inick Calsolaro (Ward 1) said that, considering recent reports of police misconduct based on profiling, he thinks it is important that people who represent the city live in and know the city. “The woman who the police stopped and searched, their excuse was, ‘This neighborhood is unsafe.’ Maybe if all of the city employees lived here they would know the neighborhoods better. They would understand what is going on in each neighborhood.”

Calsolaro said he supports Ellis’ measure and would like to possibly add some complementing legislation.

“I think it’s a good piece of legislation, and I am hoping it goes through,” Calsolaro said. “It is going to committee, and we will work on it a little bit. I think it should go through. I may end up being a co-sponsor. I am looking at a companion piece to see if we can give city employees who live in the city preference when it comes to promotions.”

Calsolaro noted that he is still trying to ascertain the legality of his companion piece. Calsolaro said he would consider supporting the inclusion of a grandfather clause that would run out when the next mayoral term begins in 2010.

“There is no grandfather clause currently,” said Ellis. “If there needs to be one, we will do it. But right now, I don’t know how many commissioners and deputies live in city now and how many don’t. Hopefully we can soon get all that information soon.”

Mayor Jerry Jennings did not return calls to Metroland, but when quoted about the measure in other media outlets, he did not sound supportive of it. Capital News 9 quoted Jennings as saying, “High ranking city officials? Mr. Ellis should do a reality check when it comes to government and when it comes to paying salaries.”

Ellis responded: “If you want to talk about salaries—people who make the salary that comes along with commissioner jobs are more likely to be homeowners, and we do need more of those in the city of Albany.”

—David King

dking@metroland.net


What a Week

Welcome to the Jungle

Venezuela and Ecuador have been amassing troops on their borders with Colombia after a Colombian commando raid killed rebels with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, inside Equador. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been speaking openly of war with Colombia, amassing tens of thousands of troops, and Colombia has insisted that documents it seized from the dead FARC rebels show that Chavez was funding the group, which purportedly has plans to secure uranium and become involved in international terrorism. Colombia has said it will bring charges of genocide against Chavez in the International Criminal Court for his support of FARC.

Angels We Have Heard While High

An Israeli researcher this week gave word that Moses was high on psychedelic drugs when he received the Ten Commandments. Dismissing that the occurrence was a cosmic event or a legend, professor Benny Shannon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem told Israeli public radio that the event “joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics.” In biblical times, it was custom to use mind-altering substances; this most likely brought about the “burning bush” Moses saw. Shannon believes a common religious ceremonial drug, ayahuasca, might have been the psychotropic plant that Moses was on during the event. The drug is from the Acacia tree, popularly mentioned in the Bible.

May Be Fake, But They Feel Real

Another author came out of the fiction closet, when Margaret B. Jones admitted her hard-knocked life memoir Love and Consequences arose from friends she met during an anti-gang outreach. Jones was days away from her book tour when her older sister called the publisher to divulge the fabrication. All books have since been recalled. Jones confessed the tale of gang banging, drugs and gun violence was completely fabricated and told The New York Times, “For whatever reason, I was really torn, and I thought it was my opportunity to put a voice to people who people don’t listen to.” This comes after the recent uncovering of Misha Defonseca’s fake Holocaust memoir and James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces.



Excessive force?

Allegations of misconduct by Albany Police and a possible cover-up lead to calls for an independent investigation

 

In the wake of a bombshell report by the Times Union exposing allegations by Ravena resident Lisa Shutter that she was improperly searched by multiple Albany police officers during a traffic stop, Albany officials are calling for an independent investigation into the Albany Police Department. Shutter claimed in the March 2 article that she was told by APD officials that it would be better to let her complaint be investigated by internal affairs rather than going to Albany’s Citizens’ Police Review Board. However, city law dictates that internal affairs notify the board of complaints.

Shutter told the Times Union that she had been cavity searched on a public street without her consent and without what she thought was probable cause.

The Albany Common Council Public Safety Committee reportedly will soon meet to consider Shutter’s complaints and internal affairs’ handling of the case. However, some officials feel the incident requires more than the city’s standard response to APD scandal.

This week, at a meeting of the Albany Common Council, Councilman Corey Ellis (Ward 3) called for an independent, possibly federal, investigation into the APD’s conduct.

“We’ve met with the chief about the sale of guns,” said Ellis, referring to a case involving APD officers selling automatic weapons ordered for them through the department. “And we have gotten no answers.”

Common Councilwoman Barbara Smith, who is vice chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, said the committee will likely meet to discuss the issue sometime next week. “I think is quite appropriate for the public safety committee to meet with the police chief and any other police personnel we see fit to discuss this with,” said Smith. “I also think that the calls for outside investigation are also quite appropriate.”

The office of Albany County District Attorney David Soares reportedly has requested documents relating to the case. Ellis, who put together a task force on the Citizens’ Police Review Board, said he intends on having the task force consider the incident.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Albany officials to respond in a firm manner, as Shutter’s story is starting to garner national attention.

—David King

dking@metroland.net


We Told You So

Infamous Albany County Legislator Brian Scavo charged with stalking

 

Last November, Democratic candidate Brian Scavo won the 7th District’s Albany County Legislature seat over Green Party candidate David Lussier in a race that came down to a handful of absentee ballots. As previously reported in Metroland [“The Neighborhood Speaks Out,” Newsfront, Nov. 1], the election sparked intense controversy in the district. Neighborhood residents disclosed a litany of complaints alleging that Scavo was harassing women and teenage girls, committing tax fraud and engaging in discriminatory rental practices, among other things.

On Feb. 29, less than four months after his election win, Scavo was arraigned in Albany City Criminal Court on charges of stalking in the fourth degree.

Scavo pleaded not guilty to a class B misdemeanor, and was released on his own recognizance. The case was adjourned until March 14, and a temporary no-contact order of protection was established at the people’s request.

The complainant, Rita Pasarell, is a third-year student at Albany Law School and a constituent of the 7th District. Pasarell filed a six-page complaint with the Albany City Court on Jan. 18, including four pages detailing Pasarell’s accounts of her interactions with Scavo. Eleven specific incidents are outlined in the complaint, and Pasarell alleged that Scavo approached her and made unwanted advances 40 to 90 times in an 18-month period, despite her requests that he keep his distance.

Thanks to Pasarell’s careful records of her interactions with the legislator, assistant district attorney Marie Beckford, who is prosecuting the case, asserted, “I believe the case is strong, and I take these to be serious allegations. Beyond that I can’t say right now, but I do think we have a very strong case.”

Asked for Scavo’s response to the charges, his attorney David Duncan stated, “I don’t want to get into the various defense strategies. We pleaded not guilty, and we will let justice take its course.”

Representatives of the Albany County Legislature did not return calls for an interview.

—Kathryn Lange

klange@metroland.net


PHOTO: Shannon DeCelle

Long Road Ahead

Just returned from canvassing for Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in Cleveland, Ohio, Albany supporters of Obama (including Albany Common Councilman Corey Ellis, pictured) rallied and watched primary returns for Vermont, Rhode Island, Ohio and Texas roll in at Jillian’s in Albany Tuesday night. Anton Konev described how a multicultural group of all ages from all over the Capital Region traveled to Ohio together and went door-to-door in Cleveland’s poorest neighborhoods. Even before it was reported that Obama had lost Texas and Ohio, Konev was already making plans to travel to Pennsylvania for the state’s April primary. The losses Tuesday marked an end to Obama’s 11-state winning streak and gave new life to the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

—David King


Loose Ends

-no loose ends this week-



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