ticket drama:Albany Councilman Corey Ellis wants answers.
Common Councilman angers the police chief by pressing for
information on ghost parking tickets, and struggles to stoke
outrage in a mostly uninterested council
Councilman Corey Ellis (Ward 3) has his plans for the new
year ready to go: By the first council meeting of 2009, he
wants the council to hear answers from Christian Mesley, the
president of the Albany Police Officers Union, about the sticker
system that allowed select cars to receive blank parking tickets
from city meter watchers. Albany Police Chief James Tuffey
recently pointed to the union as the source of the stickers
during a council caucus. Ellis told Metroland on Tuesday
that if Mesley does not willingly appear before the council
to testify, he will likely be the target of the first council
subpoena. Whether Ellis would have the full support of the
council to pass such a measure is unclear.
Dec. 10, Chief Tuffey turned red with anger during a visit
to the Albany Common Council when Ellis pressed the chief
for more information about the tickets. Ellis had publicly
called for the council to use subpoena power earlier this
month, in an effort to get to the bottom of the ghost-ticket
issue, after Tuffey had told the council it would be difficult
to track how many blank tickets had been distributed. Tuffey
told the council that 14,110 warning tickets had been issued
in 2007. Through November of this year, 10,778 more warning
tickets were issued. Tuffey said that most of the warning
tickets were issued around government buildings in downtown
Ellis said he didn’t think the council would have gotten even
that bit of information had he not called for the council
to use its subpoena power. Ellis said he was happy that the
chief finally dug up the information, but said he still thinks
the main issue is how the process was started and why it was
allowed to exist for years.
lawlessness!” said Ellis. “Someone outside the city government
had a policy that defrauded the city, and our response is,
‘Don’t do it any longer’? The person that did this, we will
go after them. There has to be retribution for defrauding
the city government.”
At the Dec. 15 caucus, Councilwoman Barbara Smith (Ward 4)
raised the issue of the ghost tickets, bringing an end to
the conversation council members were having about how the
ice storm had affected their wards. Members were quick to
insist that the issue was not that dire and that they would
eventually be given more information by Tuffey.
Councilman Richard Conti (Ward 6) told Ellis that the matter
was probably less a criminal one and more a financial one,
with the city having lost revenue. Conti’s assumption that
there was no criminality in the matter strikes Ellis as incomplete.
Pro Tempore Conti said, ‘I don’t think it’s criminal.’ How
do you know that?” asked Ellis. “Did you do an investigation?
You can’t think it wasn’t; you have to do an investigation
first, and let the investigation reveal it was not.”
Ellis said he feels that waiting for the chief to gather information
is the wrong way to go about looking into the matter, being
that the council is Albany’s legislative body and is supposed
to provide checks to the executive.
get bits and pieces of information. It is an outrage. In this
administration, the city residents’ voices are not to be heard,”
said Ellis. “The chief and this administration throw out something
and hope it sticks. If it doesn’t work, they do a little something
more. Everything is piecemeal. Nothing is complete.”
Realistically, if the council wants to know who defrauded
the city, Ellis said, they have to work together to get answers.
It can’t be left up to the administration, which insists it
was unaware of the ghost ticket practice for the 15 years
it seems to have been in place.
Ellis said he finds it troublesome that Jennings and Tuffey
are not more concerned and outraged that the city was defrauded
and have simply chosen to declare an end to the practice.
He wonders how, if they were unaware of the process to begin
with, they can be certain they have brought an end to it.
Ellis said that Tuffey made comments to him during the Dec.
10 meeting that police officers “do jobs people don’t normally
do,” and seemingly accused Ellis of attacking police officers.
Ellis countered: “It’s not about officers and whether they
should have the privilege—it’s about someone producing a sticker
that the city government did not sanction. Setting policy
that was not set by the city. We need to get to the bottom
of this. And to do that, we need to start at the top.”
week, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute, sent out an e-mail to the
staff at the engineering university warning them
to prepare for staff reductions. The impact of
economic downturn has further worsened the school’s
financial situation, she wrote in her e-mail.
According to the Times Union, RPI, which
refused to confirm the number of jobs it was axing,
told the Department of Labor that the layoffs
would number 98. However, The Record is
reporting that the number of layoffs could total
170, nearly 8.5 percent of the college’s workforce.
The layoffs come as little surprise, as the college
instituted a hiring freeze and announced drastic
cuts to departmental budgets in the fall, according
to sources. It was also recently reported that
Dr. Jackson is the fourth highest paid college
president in the country, receiving $1.3 million
Common Council President Shawn Morris used her
end-of-the-year speech to push for a reformed
budget process for the city of Albany. Morris
said she would like to see an open budget process
that keeps the public involved and would start
at the beginning of every year. Morris, along
with a number of other council members, would
like to know exactly where money is going in the
mayor’s budget, and to have legitimate input into
the budget process, as opposed to the current
system, in which the mayor presents the council
with a budget in the fall and incorporates little
of the members’ input. Morris is expected to challenge
Jerry Jennings in a mayoral race this year, although
she has not officially announced her candidacy.
Supreme Court Judge Thomas Spargo was indicted
last week on allegations that he tried to extort
$10,000 from an Ulster County attorney who was
litigating a case in front of him. The money allegedly
would have gone to defray legal costs Spargo had
garnered during his battle to prevent the state
judicial panel from removing him from the bench.
Spargo allegedly told the attorney he would use
his influence to damage the attorney professionally
if he did not produce the $10,000.
loose ends this week-