County’s Law Committee tables a controversial grant application
by the district attorney’s office
grant application made by the Albany County District Attorney’s
office for state Division of Criminal Justice Services money
has raised red flags at the county Legislature. The application
has been tabled by the Law Committee, and has elicited calls
for review. The application was either the strained effort
to budget during a fiscally demanding year or, as critics
will say, the latest example of inept management at the DA’s
The application for the prosecutorial services grant was submitted
to the Law Committee at the beginning of 2008. In the application,
the DA’s office stated that it would request $100,000 from
DCJS for an assistant district attorney and a legal assistant,
with the remainder of the money covering fringe benefits.
On March 24, Richard Arthur, the director of administration
at the DA’s office, came before the Law Committee to seek
permission to move the application for the grant forward.
In his testimony before the committee, according to a March
26 letter to DCJS written by Minority Leader Christine Benedict,
Arthur said that the DA’s office would in fact be seeking
the grant funds for items otherwise not mentioned in the application.
The DA’s office would use the funds to cover budgetary gaps,
including a $1,500 clothing allowance, $5,000 for personal
time, and $38,700 for “fees for services.”
Fees for services include hotel stays, air travel, dining,
and so on.
situation has caused a great deal of concern,” wrote Benedict,
“among members of the Albany County Legislature.”
Sources close to the Law Committee said that when Arthur presented
the intended uses for the money, which differed so drastically
from the submitted application, “jaws dropped.” The committee
tabled the grant application over concerns that approving
the grant with the existing discrepancies would have been
at best unethical, sources said, and potentially illegal.
Benedict has requested that DCJS review all grants received
by the DA’s office, and Bryan Clenahan (D-District 30), chair
of the Law Committee, has reached out through an April 9 letter
to John Rodat, commissioner of the Department of Management
and Budget, asking that the department assist the DA’s office
in its grant application, “to determine [the grants’] appropriateness.”
was a little unclear,” Clenahan said, “where the money was
going to go.”
reality is that this was a very difficult budget year,” Arthur
explained, “and a lot of things were done at the last minute.”
He knew that he was going to have to match up numbers, he
said, in a way that would be problematic, that “it had been
a very complicated budget process.”
The district attorney’s office requests funds, and the county
executive proposes a budget, which then the Legislature adopts.
In June, Arthur made the formal request for the DA’s office
to the executive. In December, the Legislature adopted the
And December, Arthur said, is “a very busy time of year.”
It wasn’t clear to him, looking at the budget, how the funds
matched up on the expenditure and revenue sides.
I saw the budget back in December, I said basically, ‘Oh shit.
What am I going to do about this?’ ” The DCJS grant apparently
was an attempt to cover the budgetary gaps he was facing.
He called DCJS, and was guided through the grant process.
I find ironic here,” Arthur complained, “is that DCJS has
the money, they are the people giving the money to us. And
they are a lot easier to work with, in some respects, than
the county Legislature.”
John Caher, director of public information with DCJS, confirmed
Arthur’s comments, calling the trouble with the grant application
a “bookkeeping glitch.”
Legislator Phil Steck (D-District 15), a member of the Law
Committee, understands that the district attorney’s office
was just trying to cover a budgetary gap. But he added that
in his three terms on the Legislature, he had never before
seen a department apply for a grant, representing one set
of uses, then signal its intent to use the monies for different
Steck stressed that the Law Committee doesn’t deny the DA’s
need for the money, or the propriety of the grant, but “it
just certainly isn’t how other departments would manage a
The Law Committee has tabled the grant request from the DA’s
office. Arthur and DCJS have said that they are both certain
there will be no problem with the application when the Law
Committee meets again Monday.
presume everything will go through smoothly,” Arthur said.
(Funding) Is a Joke
year, New York state budgeted $6.3 million for
the 211 call line. This year, the state Legislature
slashed that to a mere $500,000. According to
the Times Union, the phone line “gives
callers access to a vast information and referral
network on such things as housing, employment,
transportation and where to get help with financial,
medical and legal problems.” Administrators at
the program are hoping to attract some discretionary
funds from individual lawmakers, but nowhere near
what they lost.
attorneys from the law firm of Girvin & Ferlazzo
had been receiving state pension benefits improperly,
said state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The comptroller
claimed that the attorneys, who were on the BOCES
payroll, should have been retained as independent
contractors instead of as employees, which allowed
the lawyers access to the state pension system.
The attorneys had been working for BOCES, an educational
co-op, handling collective bargaining negotiations,
reported the Business Review, adding that
DiNapoli claimed the attorneys pulled down a total
of $234,000 during the 2006-07 fiscal year. They
have since been removed from the pension system.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo recently has undertaken
a statewide investigation into similar potential
of the Poor
former Catholic priest and now president-elect
of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, has unseated the conservative
Colorado Party after its uninterrupted 62-year
rule—a rule noted for the draconian anticommunism
of longtime dictator Gen. Alfredo Stroessner.
Lugo, a vocal adherent to Liberation Theology,
has said that he intends to forgo moving into
the presidential quarters, instead staying in
his modest suburban home. He has promised to utilize
income from the country’s vast resources to alleviate
poverty, and has been careful to not offend either
the powerful president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez,
or the folks in Washington. In a moment of rare
rhetorical attack, he offered that “the United
States . . . has sustained the great dictatorships,
but afterward lifted the banner of democracy.”
Although Lugo represents a clear leftist shift
for the country’s political class, and echoes
the far-broader leftist shift in Latin America,
many in the United States see Lugo as a potential
moderate and a cautious ally.
Health called its “Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual
Assault and Gender Violence” a success. On Saturday,
145 men gathered at Samaritan Hospital, many wearing
women’s high-heel shoes, and took part in a mile-long
walk that raised roughly $14,000. The proceeds
will benefit Samaritan’s Sexual Assault and Crime
Victims Assistance Program of Rensselaer County,
which offers “comprehensive, specialized services
to victims of sexual violence, victims of stalking,
older adults, homicide survivors, as well as other
victims of crime, their family members and friends,
or significant others.”
students host an eyewitness to the alleged crackdown on unionizing
efforts at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia
Time is almost up for University at Albany’s 10-year exclusive
contract with Coca-Cola. On May 2, University Auxiliary Services,
the nonprofit corporation that handles food services for SUNY
campuses, will be voting on a new beverage contract for the
university. And Jackie Hays is hoping that the board doesn’t
vote for Coke.
are not really sure how it will go. We have been putting on
a lot of pressure,” said the second year grad student. She
is a member of Students for Workers Rights, and last year,
they were able to collect 1,211 student signatures on a petition
calling for the college to reject another exclusive contract
with Coke. United University Professions, the faculty union
on campus, also has passed a resolution calling for the university
to sever its relationship with the beverage giant.
According to Hayes, Coke has a notorious reputation for disregarding
the human rights of workers in its foreign bottling plants.
In Colombia, paramilitary death squads have been accused of
committing torture, kidnappings, and murder to dissuade the
workers there to unionize. Killer Coke, a nationwide effort
to draw attention to these alleged crimes, claims that often
the intimidation and abuse of the workers occurs with the
support or direction of the cola company’s management.
Students for Workers Rights have teamed up with Campus Greens
and UUP to host an on-campus lecture by Camilo Romero, a member
of Colombian food industry trade union the National Union
of Food Industry Workers. According to Students for Workers
Rights, the union has “documentation of many members or leaders
being murdered, kidnapped, and tortured by paramilitary groups.”
The groups have invited members of the UAS board to the lecture,
with the hope that the board might be swayed by a first-person
account of the atrocities committed in Colombia in the name
Camilo Romero will be speaking tonight (Thursday, April 24)
from 7:30 to 9 PM in room 144 of the Earth Science and Math-ematics
building on the UAlbany campus.
Activists remind late filers how much of their money is
going to the war in Iraq.
the wake of the state audit of North Greenbush’s project mismanagement,
everyone is trying to direct the blame
One thing is certain: Water Dis- trict 14 is a comedy of errors.
And it has been, according to the findings of state Comptroller
Thomas DiNapoli, since the beginning.
The Water District 14 capital project in North Greenbush,
to extend water service to roughly 1,000 homes, was undertaken
back in 2003 with an estimated price tag of $5.5 million.
In 2005, the town was authorized by the state to increase
that expenditure to $7.1 million for a $6.4 million contract
price. Upon nearing completion the following year, according
to the comptroller’s audit, members of the community, as well
as officials, began to worry that the project was running
drastically over budget.
The audit states that the overruns currently total $268,000
and “will likely approach $800,000 as the project nears completion.”
The audit lays the blame on a lack of oversight and poor communication
between the town board, town comptroller, and building department.
The audit goes on to list a grab bag of mismanagements: $3.7
million in claims not certified by the town comptroller; two
checks totaling more than $410,000 issued without the supervisor’s
signature—signed, instead, by the comptroller; $23,000 in
improperly supported claims, or in claims lacking approval
of the head of the building department; and so on.
Democratic committee members Dan Ashley and C.B. Smith have
seized the audit as proof of the political malfeasance they
have long claimed runs rampant in North Greenbush Town Hall.
What the audit failed to mention, said Smith, is the political
connection between Supervisor Mark Evers and the contractor
hired to perform the project, Casale Excavating. Michael Casale
is the chairman of the Conservative Party in North Greenbush,
and Evers is a member of that party.
In a press release, Smith and Ashley pointed specifically
to four applications for payment, unsigned and unauthorized
by the Building Department, and instead signed by Evers.
in spite of that lack of authorization, signed the vendor
claims to cut the checks,” said Smith. On the applications
for payment, there are dozens of line items. One such line
item is for 38 three-quarter-inch corporation stops for $38,000.
you know what a corporation stop is? I don’t,” Smith said.
“And I bet you don’t. Mark Evers doesn’t. And you can pick
out line after line on these detailed, itemized applications
for payment, and you wouldn’t know what most of this stuff
is. That’s why you have somebody with the background in the
department, who is on-site, authoring it.”
you see this, you ask, ‘Why would he do this?’ ” Smith said
of Evers. The answer, he continued, is because Casale Excavating
was the company collecting the checks. “Would Evers do it
for another vendor? No! But he would do it for the Conservative
Smith also produced applications for payments, with attached
vender claims, which appear to show that Evers was aware that
North Greenbush was spending beyond the contract price as
early as July 2006, despite Evers’ claims to the contrary.
In November 2006, Evers told the Troy Record that he
wasn’t made aware of the overruns “until this week.” However,
according to the applications for payment, it appears that
Evers had signed venders’ claims throughout 2006, all the
while pushing the total expense above the $6.4 million contract
every claim, for every vendor, the supervisor must sign the
claim,” Smith said. “And he did.”
Supervisor Mark Evers was not available for an interview.
Health called its “Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault
and Gender Violence” a success. On Saturday, 145 men gathered
at Samaritan Hospital, many wearing women’s high-heel shoes,
and took part in a mile-long walk that raised roughly $14,000.
The proceeds will benefit Samaritan’s Sexual Assault and Crime
Victims Assistance Program of Rensselaer County, which offers
“comprehensive, specialized services to victims of sexual
violence, victims of stalking, older adults, homicide survivors,
as well as other victims of crime, their family members and
friends, or significant others.”
loose ends this week-