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Live Long Enough to . . .

David Soares answers allegations of financial mismanagement by the Albany County comptroller

‘I’m the one who goes down with the ship if the ship is going down,” said Albany District Attorney David Soares, responding to an audit released by Albany County Comptroller Mike Connors, which detailed poor management of public funds by Soares’ director of administration Richard Arthur. Soares has made it clear that he takes full responsibility for any financial mistakes and has arranged for a group of independent financial experts to look into his office’s accounting. And while Soares has taken swift action to address the audit, critics wonder how Soares, who made a name for himself by coming to a deal with state Comptroller Alan Hevesi for his alleged misuse of public funds, could have managed to let such accounting discrepancies exist within his office.

Connors’ audit shows a number of incidents in which money was mismanaged. $351,000 was placed in a petty-cash account that is supposed to be limited to $5,000. In other cases, crime victims were overpaid restitution and receipts were missing for expenditures that were reimbursed. Other critics have insisted that the district attorney’s office overspends on meals paid for by public dollars. Soares said, “I can’t be responsible for the dietary needs of all my staff. I think if you look at offices around the county you would find similar accounting issues. That is not to downplay the findings of the comptroller. I want to make sure everything is on the up-and-up in respect to our accounting.”

In a statement to the Times Union, Arthur insisted that Connors’ audit has a number of mistakes and mischaracterizations.

Arthur began his career in the district attorney’s office as Soares’ spokesperson, and was later made director of administration. Since then, Arthur has come under fire for his financial management, and for what some legislators insist is a disregard for their authority.

Asked how he planned to deal with the fact that Arthur has become the center of the issue, Soares said, “My job is to help the people do their jobs and provide them with what they need. Last year Chris D’Alessandro came under political attack. Now, this year, it is another person in my office. I won’t have anything to do with advancing someone’s political ambition.”

When asked whether he was concerned about the possibility that accounting irregularities could jeopardize the trust his office needs from the public in order to run a successful public-integrity unit, Soares responded, “To be frank with you, I don’t see how issues with balancing a checkbook could jeopardize the trust of the people of this community in my office. I am going to stay focused. There were no allegations of stealing. I don’t see how this issue could call into question my operation or my integrity.”

—David King

dking@metroland.net


What a Week

 



Albany’s Pride

Albany resident says Albany County Legislator Brian Scavo used unethical practices to get signatures for the congressional campaign of Joeseph Sullivan

Keri Kressler said it was during a trip to her local nail salon that she noticed something was not quite right with the way Joseph Sullivan was collecting signatures for his candidacy for the 21st District Congressional seat. Kressler said she noticed that Sullivan’s petition sheet, left for customers to sign, could not possibly have been properly witnessed and, further, that the woman who owns the store and who signed on to be witness to the signatures, had given a false address. Kressler asked the store owner, who has asked to remain anonymous (because she feels duped and taken advantage of), who had brought her the petition. Kressler said the woman told her Albany County Legislator and Sullivan supporter Brian Scavo (District 7) had asked her to witness the petitions.

“Brian took advantage of her in a big, ugly way,” said Kressler of the woman. “She wants things to go away, but he put her in the middle of this. She insists she did see all the people sign petitions. But where it gets interesting is she does not live at 9 Barkley, where Brian registered her, and she insisted she did not know he registered her to vote at 9 Barkley St.”

Kressler said that the woman told her, and swore in a statement before a notary, that Scavo had registered her to vote at 9 Barkley St., a place that is not her address, and she said he did it without her consent.

Kressler further alleged that a great many signatures on the petitions gathered by Scavo were of people who were not registered to vote and who do not live in the 21st—or who are listed at multiple addresses.

Furthermore, she alleged that the witness statement on at least one of the petitions was not filled out by the witness but instead by Scavo himself. Kressler admitted that she has become familiar with Scavo’s signature, because she worked with David Lussier, who opposed Scavo during his run for the county Legislature, and that she generally does not approve of Scavo and his behavior in her community. Kressler has accused Scavo of fraud, because of the number of what she thinks are by no means mistakes on his petition sheets.

Sullivan told the Times Union Local Politics blog, “I made a good faith effort to qualify for the ballot during the grueling heat of the six week petitioning effort. I had the assist of a loyal handful of volunteers. I can only wonder of the time and money spent by Kresler and her allies, pouring over every one of the 1,734 signatures submitted on my petition. Those who signed my petition signed it in good faith. Together, we were doing our part to further the survival of our nation in perilous times.”

Besides petition issues, Kressler said she takes exception with Craigslist postings made by an anonymous Sullivan supporter. One such posting reads: “DONATE OR WORK for JOSEPH SULLIVAN DEMOCRAT. HE’S RED WHITE AND BLUE AND “FIGHTING FOR YOU” don’t forget vote for the vet. endorsed by the 7th legislative democratic commite.” There is, in fact, no such thing as the “7th Legislative democratic commite,” but Albany 7th Ward leader Bob Jukes told Metroland that “neither of them (Scavo or Sullivan) had a meeting with me.” And therefore, Sullivan had not won their endorsement.

Scavo has left quite an impression on the Delaware Avenue community. Albany Common Council President Shawn Morris caused a stir last year by publicly stating that Scavo had made passes at her teenage daughter. A number of women, who wish to remain anonymous, claim Scavo has repeatedly harassed them.

Business owners in the area tell stories of Scavo screaming at them until they agree to post his campaign material. Furthermore, Scavo not only faces a stalking case that has gone to trial, brought by a woman who said Scavo bothered and followed her on multiple occasions, but also a harassment case brought by a tenant.

Scavo has managed to garner a large number of ex-tenants who wish to remain anonymous, but allege an assortment of harassment and odd behavior, including unannounced visits and illegal renting practices.

After Scavo’s surprise victory, many constituents of the 7th District were struck by what they see as Scavo’s lack of involvement in the Legislature. Unlike every other legislator listed on the county’s Web site, Scavo does not give his address or his phone number. The only piece of contact info is an e-mail address.

Kressler said that she feels Scavo has been allowed to get away with a number of offenses while representing Albany County, including unethical campaigning.

Kressler has been asked by many why she has taken the time to go through Sullivan’s signatures. In a post regarding Sullivan’s petition controversy, the Times Union blog falsely labeled her as an employee of Citizen Action, but Kressler wants to make it clear that she is doing this on her own. “Every single person has asked me, ‘why are you doing this?’ My answer is: look this guy is my legislator, and I am appalled that he is my legislator. I am doing this on behalf of myself and all the people he has duped. The people in my neighborhood are sick and tired of this guy. This is how bad he is. And maybe something will happen. Maybe the board of elections will actually charge him with fraud. I don’t think that is asking too much.”

The State Board of Elections was reviewing the objections made against Sullivan’s petitions at press time. Attempts to reach Joseph Sullivan by phone were unsuccessful. Brian Scavo did not respond to multiple inquiries.

—David King

dking@metroland.net






Loose Ends

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