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Playing Keep Away

Two men are still getting the runaround after Troy forecloses on their landlord’s building

According to corporation coun sel Charles Sarris, the city of Troy has no formal procedure for the removal and storage of personal property from city- foreclosed properties. The issue came up at a special meeting of the city council’s Law Committee Tuesday night, during a discussion surrounding the foreclosure and removal of property from the Marshall Ray Building at 701 River St.

“I do not know what the city’s procedure has been,” Sarris said at the committee meeting. “I do know that in the past they have been careful to protect people’s property in those rare instances where they have taken it.”

As Metroland first reported on April 29 [Newsfront, “Hey, That’s Our Stuff”], John and Emmet Murphy have been trying to get back property from the city that allegedly was taken from the Marshall Ray building by the Department of Public Works on March 27. Two days earlier, the city of Troy was served with an order to show cause in that foreclosure case, according to a document provided by Richard Weisz, the lawyer representing Michael Kitner, the building’s owner.

The Murphys have attempted to retrieve their property from where it is being stored, at a DPW garage, but the city would not release the belongings unless the two brothers signed a city-generated release. After seeing that some of their property was missing, Emmet Murphy said, they refused to sign the release. If he signed the release, he said, the city would be cleared of any future responsibility for the missing items.

“To protect to city’s interest, I was not going to release any property to Murphy unless he signed the release,” Sarris said, “and I understood why he didn’t want to sign it.” According to Sarris, the release he prepared was general and would release the city of Troy from “any and all claims to personal property kept at 701 River St.”

“I wouldn’t sign that either,” said Council President Clement Campana.

The Murphys were required to provide Sarris with a list of their possessions that the city allegedly is holding, and may be required to provide additional proof of ownership.

“That’s one of the things we’re going to want,” Sarris said.

Originally, Robert Mirch, director of the DPW, said he told the Murphys that they would have to provide the serial numbers to prove ownership of the assorted tools left in the building. “’Cause to this day,” Mirch said, “I don’t know who the Murphys are. That was my first reaction. How do I know that they own the stuff?”

“The stuff that we do have, that we have taken out of the building, it’s not the city’s, so if they’re saying it’s theirs . . . why hold them from getting their things?” asked Democratic Councilman John Brown (at-large).

Sarris said that he has not seen an inventory from city workers of the property removed from the building, but it does not appear that city workers are required to prepare an inventory.

“What the city did was nothing more than stealing, and now they are trying to legitimize it,” said Councilman Bill Dunne (D-District 4) in an interview before the committee. “What this does is it gives the guys who work for the DPW and the guys who work for the code department, not the bosses but the guys who do the real work, it gives them a bad name. They are being forced to do things that aren’t right.”

Dunne also had concerns about the timing of the removal of property.

“I want to know the chain of events,” he said. “I want to know, was there not, in fact, a cease-and-desist order from the judge? Was it before the day they removed the property?”

According to Public Information Officer Jeff Buell, timing was not an issue with the removal of property, and the city intends to foreclose on the building again.

The previous foreclosure action on the Marshall Ray building was overturned due to the return of legal notices sent by mail and the improper listing of legal notices in the Troy Record.

The issue of the foreclosure and back taxes owed by building owner Michael Kitner—the amount of which is currently in dispute, and could be as low as $135,000 and as high as $260,000—also was discussed at the meeting.

“I think [the removal of property] is small fish compared to the real issue here, which is Kitner and what we’re going to do to resolve that,” said Councilman Peter Ryan (D-District 3).

Campana disagreed.

“People’s personal property is not small fish,” he said. “There has to be a process.”

“I’m less concerned with Mike Kitner,” Dunne offered. “The court will decide the situation. But I would like to see these guys get their stuff back, and I hope it’s not interfering with their ability to do business.”

The Murphys have stated that they work construction, and most of the items being held by the city are tools. The brothers must now have their lawyer contact Sarris to move forward on the issue.

Sarris recommended that, in the future, a process be established to handle the removal of property, potentially contracting a third-party storage company who could then auction off the property if it is not claimed.

—Chet Hardin and Cecelia Martinez

What a Week


Dazed and Confused

Saratoga County DA apologizes for calling news reports about Skidmore 420 incident “not accurate”

Barbara Lombardo, the managing editor of The Saratogian, was put on the defensive after her newspaper reported on an April 20 pro-marijuana rally held on the campus of Skidmore College.

The article, “Students celebrate cannabis holiday on Skidmore campus,” by Mareesa Nicosia, reported that about 100 Skidmore students gathered on the campus green to smoke marijuana as part of the “420” rally, and that campus police, city police and the college’s administration were all aware of the event and did nothing to break it up.

Saratoga County District Attorney Jim Murphy publicly discredited the article, stating: “I am convinced and feel comfortable with the fact that we believe the reporting of the incident at Skidmore is not accurate,” to reporters on April 30.

Murphy questioned its accuracy after receiving conflicting reports from Skidmore campus security. He said that he met with campus security to find whether or not police and campus officials should have done more to prevent or punish the smoking of pot on campus.

According to Lombardo, Murphy’s comment referred to the number of students present, a small discrepancy that Lombardo feels detracts from the more important issue of students smoking marijuana on campus.

Now, said Lombardo, Murphy has recanted his original criticism. She has since met with the DA, saying that it was inappropriate to say that the numbers reported by The Saratogian were incorrect just because they conflicted with numbers reported by campus safety.

“In trying to accept the information he’s getting from security, it made it look like our numbers were out of thin air,” Lombardo said, “and they weren’t.”

According to Lombardo, she received a letter of apology from Murphy that read, “Please extend my apology to Mareesa, my intent was not to challenge her article. I tried to keep the focus on the marijuana, and Skidmore seemed to focus on the numbers, which to me was far less important than what actually went on.”

Lombardo said she believes that it was not the intention of Murphy to discredit the article as a whole.

“He’s the one who initiated the discussion in the first place,” Lombardo said. “He definitely has an interest, and the exact number of students participating wasn’t as relevant as Skidmore’s approach to dealing with pot smoking in public.”

Requests for comment from Murphy were directed to Skidmore media relations. According to an employee in Murphy’s office, the DA will be out of the office until Monday.

“We do believe that the number quoted was inaccurate, that’s what our campus safety people believe,” said Andrea Wise, Director of Media Relations at Skidmore. “But the issue is bigger than just the numbers.” Wise said that she did not know if the reports that students were smoking marijuana were also inaccurate.

“I’m telling you what campus safety people observed when they walked through the crowd,” she said. “They said they saw nobody violating the law and could smell no evidence of illegal substances being used.”

The article also received criticism from Skidmore students who felt the coverage of the 420 rally was unfair and cast the students in a negative light. An April 24 editorial published in the student-run weekly Skidmore News criticized The Saratogian for not reporting on the nationwide scale of the rallies and said that the focus should be that nobody got hurt.

“The reason no police arrived and no arrests were made is because no violence occurred,” the editorial read. “People were smoking pot, so it shouldn’t be surprising that they weren’t getting rowdy. They had couches and tents, not tools of violence. . . . Now, more than ever, we’re painted as irresponsible children—juvenile delinquents even.”

Lombardo said that she had not seen these criticisms.

“We try to make a special effort at The Saratogian to show all the positive things that go on at Skidmore,” Lombardo said, “and there are a lot of great things that go on at Skidmore.” Lombardo pointed to a front-page article published a week later highlighting organic gardens at Skidmore.

“We were also careful in the article to say that it was only a small percentage of kids compared to the student body,” she said. “It was going on and it was in public, and if the kids there think it was an unfair representation of them, maybe they can be part of the solution next year.”

On Tuesday The Saratogian published a letter from Skidmore president Philip Glotzbach defending the actions of campus security.

“I both acknowledge and understand the concerns of those in our community who feel that we did not respond appropriately on April 20,” Glotzbach wrote, “and I accept the responsibility to ask whether we might have done better. Having inquired into how we responded in this case, I have concluded that our campus safety officials—who monitored the site regularly throughout the day following protocols that are widely accepted within the broader law enforcement community—did indeed act responsibly.”

Glotzbach also wrote that Skidmore intends to work with Saratoga officials to determine how to respond to 420 incidents in the future.

—Cecelia Martinez

Not Yielding

Photo: Chet Hardin

Not everyone at the May Day unveiling of the stimulus-funded road-reconstruction project for Delaware Avenue was a happy commuter. Bicyclist and resident of Delaware Avenue Laura Welles (pictured on right with Lynne Jackson) watched on as Gov. David Paterson announced the $14.9 million repaving project. She was critical of the planning process, saying that the Delaware Avenue community was very clear that it wanted consideration for the many bicyclists who use the dangerous stretch of road, but their concerns were ignored. “It was very clear,” Welles’ prepared statement read, “that the planners were looking for excuses to not include bike lanes.”

Loose Ends

-no loose ends this week-

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