Will Hold the Purse?
in ghost-ticket controversy, long-time Albany treasurer Betty
Barnette faces a strong challenger
For years, Kathy Sheehan made superconducting magnets. Well,
she didn’t actually make these essential components for medical
MRIs, but the firm she worked for did. “It was a very cool
place to work,” Sheehan said, “very innovative.”
Sheehan, a Democratic candidate for Albany city treasurer,
put in 10 years with the high-tech firm Intermagnetics General
Corporation in Latham, serving under three titles: vice-president,
general counsel and corporate secretary.
my role as vice-president, I was a part of the senior-management
team that set the strategy for the company and then executed
that strategy. As general counsel, I was responsible for legal
compliance,” she said. The company was publicly traded, and
Sheehan oversaw the filings with the Security and Exchange
Commission, “any queries that came from the SEC, our obligations
to shareholders, notices to shareholders, our stock-option
plan, all of that was under my scope of responsibility.”
For much of this, she worked closely with the chief finance
officer and the finance department, she said. “I am used to
working at a company that is very transparent. All of our
financials are publicly disclosed and reported. Anything that
was going on in the company that was important to shareholders
had to be disclosed in a timely manner. So I have operated
in an environment that requires a high level of transparency
and accountability, and I think that that could really benefit
When Sheehan started with the company, she said, they were
making about $88 million in sales. By the time the company
was acquired by its largest customer in 2006, it had reached
$300 million in sales and doubled its employees.
Sheehan is running against the current treasurer, Betty Barnette,
in a year when the 18-year incumbent has been mired in the
controversies surrounding the city’s no-fine tickets swindle.
Barnette was called before the Common Council during its months-long
investigation into the city’s systems of awarding no-fine
had hopped that we’d be debating on Sept. 8th,” Sheehan said.
“The League of Women Voters had set up a debate, and I was
just informed that Barnette said that she had a scheduling
conflict and wouldn’t be able to debate.”
Barnette did not return calls for comment.
As treasurer, Barnette oversees the Parking Violations Bureau,
which is responsible for collecting the fines for illegal
parking in the city. Under oath, she told the council that
she had never heard of the bull’s-eye stickers that the police
union passed out to its members, which protected them from
parking fines, nor the VIP list that likewise shielded city
employees and members of the public alike. “Until recently
I had no knowledge of any bull’s-eyes or placard system, ghost
tickets, no-fine tickets or VIP list or an exempt system,”
Barnette told the council.
However, on May 8, the Times Union reported that Barnette
had received at least seven no-fine tickets, calling into
question her earlier testimony.
When asked how she could have been ignorant of a system that
had been handing out thousands of no-fine tickets annualy
for more than a decade, considering that she had personally
received seven of them, the treasurer stood by her initial
claim, telling the TU reporter: “The first I heard
of any ghost tickets or warning tickets is when I read it
in the Times Union. The truth is the truth and that
is the truth.”
The report from the New York state comptroller’s office, released
this month, stated that the city issued 57,420 between 2001
Barnette, the former chair of the Albany County Democratic
Committee, is a staunch ally of Mayor Jerry Jennings. According
to her campaign filings with the New York State Board of Elections,
Barnette has received $4,000 from Capital City Committee,
the mayor’s PAC, as well as $1,342.73 from Jennings campaign
treasurer is an elected citywide office, an independent officer
that shouldn’t answer to just one person in City Hall,” said
Sheehan. “I would like to take some of the politics out of
it. I would like to bring a professionalism to that office.
Particularly in an office that, in 2010, will become the chief
fiscal officer for the city.”
This is an important point, added one of Sheehan’s most ardent
supporters, Council President Shawn Morris. Next year, Albany
is restructuring the government offices that oversee the city’s
finances. Along with the creation of an auditor’s office,
the treasurer will be given the responsibilities formerly
handled by the comptroller, including the issuing of municipal
bonds, cash-flow forecasting and making investments for the
city. The treasurer will essentially become the chief financial
officer for the city.
think that Kathy certainly has a much-better background,”
Morris said. “She is bringing a nice big resume.”
are issues with the treasurer’s office in general,” Morris
continued. “There are so many ways we need to improve what
happens there.” For example, she pointed to two consecutive
lawsuits filed by the city comptroller’s office against the
treasurer’s office for not filing information electronically.
sponsored a law that required her to do this, and she still
didn’t do it,” Morris said. “There is this reluctance to comply
with actual laws. There just seems to be a reluctance by the
incumbent to comply with the other offices in city and state
government, and I think that that is a very, very serious
Plus, Morris said, she supports Sheehan because she sees her
as outside Albany’s culture of political positioning. “I think
that there needs to be a stronger separation between political
offices and elected offices. So you have the city treasurer
as the county chair, and fully embracing the various political
shenanigans against other elected officials. I think that
that raises a lot of concern. Maybe the treasurer’s office
is one that shouldn’t be so politically charged.”
are taxpayers dollars,” Sheehan said. “We are responsible
to the taxpayers. It is important to understand what we are
doing with our funds, how we are safeguarding those funds,
and what the policies and procedures are behind how we collect
taxpayer money and how we spend it. I don’t see that as highly
think a lot of the problem is the perception that the current
treasurer is in lockstep with the mayor,” Sheehan said, “and
acts as though he is to whom she answers. Now, that may be
fair or unfair, but that is definitely a perception out there.
I would make it very clear who I ultimately answer to.”
in on the Democratic primaries, 11th Ward candidates are still
fighting hard for the common council seat
Over the next few weeks, residents of the 11th Ward in Albany
have a good chance of running into one of the four candidates
for common council while walking around their neighborhood.
Candidates Ken Barnes, Luke Gucker, Anton Konev and Justin
Teff can be seen out almost every night, talking to voters
is working really hard,” said Gucker. “That’s been very clear,
there are no do-nothing candidates. I’ve seen everybody out;
we’re all out there.”
But with four candidates running with similar platforms and
a heavy focus on door-to-door campaigning, it may be hard
for voters to keep them all straight.
understand that there’s a relative bounty of candidates for
people to choose from in this ward,” said Gucker, “so it’s
kind of hard to distinguish between them after coming to the
door all summer. I think the debate was a really good chance
to see us all side-by-side, tackling the issues, and it was
a chance to let people know really how we feel.”
In early August, all four candidates came together at First
Lutheran Church to participate in a debate hosted by the League
of Women Voters and sponsored by the Pine Hills Neighborhood
Association with the help of a number of neighborhood associations
in the 10th and 11th wards. About 50 people came out to the
event, which was recorded and made available online the next
have had people come up to me and say that the debates had
persuaded them towards me,” said Konev. “I also have heard
people who were persuaded towards one of my opponents, Justin
Teff. He was pretty impressive at the debates.” Konev said
that he views Teff, a lawyer and current ward leader, as the
candidate to beat due to his large support system in the area
and his professional experience.
At the debate, which asked questions submitted by voters in
the audience, the four candidates lined up on a number of
big issues. Even Teff, who publicly supports incumbent mayor
Jerry Jennings, joined the other candidates in their stance
against the impending convention center, the expansion of
the landfill into the Pine Bush, and the influx of charter
schools in Albany.
do not like the expansion into the Pine Bush,” said Teff at
the debates. “I think whether it’s the environmentally sensitive
nature of the land, whether it’s the Karner Blue Butterfly,
that it is a disaster.”
Barnes, Gucker, and Konev are also all running on third-party
lines on the November ballot, giving them a second chance
should they lose the Democratic primary. However, Konev feels
that the primary will most likely decide the race.
impossible to win unless you win the Democratic election,”
he said. Gucker disagrees.
the number of Democrats registered in the city it is definitely
important, and I’m working as hard as I can to do as well
as I can in the primaries, absolutely,” said Gucker. “I’m
not taking my eyes off either one, really. I’m putting my
heart and soul into the primary, but that’s not the end of
For the general election, Barnes is running on the Conservative
line, Konev the Independence line, and Gucker the Working
Families and Green lines. However, Konev said that he plans
to challenge Gucker’s submitted petitions for the Green line.
handed in the petitions fully aware of the issues with them
being challenged,” Gucker said. The problem with the petitions,
which do not state ‘Ward 11’ but contain Gucker’s address,
was brought to his attention by Teff and Konev. After conferring
with lawyers, Gucker decided to turn in the petitions rather
then alter them after they had been produced.
felt like it was legitimate, and I worked hard on those petitions,”
he said. “I think Anton was just looking for it, and I was
aware of that. I handed them in anyway because I feel that
they are valid and there are court cases backing me up.” Gucker
said that there is a precedent case involving petitions that
did not state the specific locality but did have the candidate’s
petitions are required by the state law to state the office
that the person is signing for and the locality for that office,
and the petitions for Luke Gucker fail to do so,” Konev said.
“I respect Mr. Gucker. His policy positions are very close
to mine. I’m just following the law.”
With the candidates focusing on similar issues, like community
policing and code enforcement, success may come for the one
who is able to make himself stand out from the crowd.
guess it’s encouraging that we’re on sort of this similar
path, but it makes it harder to differentiate,” said Gucker.
“I think that there are really important differences between
all of us, but I think the real differences go a little deeper
than the big issues. I think that what really will set a candidate
apart is a clear vision for where the ward is going.”
think all four of us believe that we are the best candidate,”
said Konev. “Our platforms differ very slightly and having
four people in the race provides for people to have a choice.”
fight: 1,500 citizens came out for Rep. Tonko’s town
attacks and hyperbole drown out reason at Tonko’s health-care
you going to hang tough on the public option?” a supporter
of single-payer asked. The crowd broke out into cheers and
purpose of the evening is to elicit information,” answered
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-21). “Hanging tough on cutting costs
that are excessive, providing for the efficiencies of scale,
introduction of technology to avoid duplication, all of that
needs to be fixed. And I am going to hang tough.”
According to Bethlehem Town Supervisor John Cunningham, roughly
1,500 people crowded into the pavilion in Elm Avenue Park
in Bethlehem to debate, cajole, encourage, threaten, and shout
at an unflappable Congressman Tonko. A nearly split crowd
of supporters and opponents of the Democrats push for health-care
reform echoed the national debate along familiar lines: those
who want universal health-care to protect the low-income and
uninsured, and those who either don’t want to pay for it or
believe it is an overreach in power by the government.
At one point, the congressman engaged in a constitutional
debate with a man who argued that nowhere in the Constitution
is the federal government charged with the power to impose
universal health care.
is a copy of the United States Constitution,” the man proclaimed.
“In Article 1, Section 8 of this document, the powers of Congress
are given clearly and explicitly and anything else is prohibited.
Where are you getting the authority to push this kind of plan?”
Tonko came prepared, and pulled out his own copy of the Constitution.
“Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes . . .
to provide for the common defense and general welfare of the
An evening of confused debate and misinformation, however,
did have moments of relative clarity. In one such moment a
young mother asked the congressman to explain “in coherent
terms how, when Obama took office, the deficit was at one
trillion and now it is at nine trillion dollars.”
The crowd erupted into applause and jeers.
was, about a decade ago, a forecasted 5.6 trillion dollar
surplus,” Tonko answered. A man in the crowd shouted, “Where
did it go? Where did it go?”
Tonko pointed to the emergency measures taken to stymie further
growth of the recession, taken both by former President George
Bush as well as President Barack Obama. He also pointed out
that Bush’s tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, as well
as the spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have
recently been “put online,” meaning that these expenses have
been added into the calculations of the deficit.
theory is here that the plan as established, 3200,” Tonko
said, referring the bill number for the House of Representative’s
health-care reform act, “will not increase the deficit . .
a lie,” he was shouted down. “That’s a lie! There’s no way
Tonko launched into a complicated explanation of funding the
plan, as the crowd continued to shout him down.
To fund the health-care reform being discussed, Tonko said,
would add roughly $30 to $40 billion a year to the nation’s
$2.4 trillion budget. He arrived at that number by a math
that was too complicated for many in the room: Over the next
10 years, the Democrats’ health-care reform is anticipated
to cost upwards of $1 trillion, or $100 billion a year. However,
the plan will also reduce costs, through savings, efficiencies
and better control, by $60 billion a year.
The numbers were confusing the crowd, as it began to grumble.
and listen,” an elderly person shouted, “you might learn something.”
that leads us to about 30 billion per year that is unpaid
for,” Tonko said. “That is doable, there are ways to capture
taxes,” someone shouted.
I can’t keep my money that I make?” the questioner responded.
Tonko stressed Obama’s campaign promise that these funds would
not come from raising the taxes of those who make less than
$250,000 a year. “Are you in an income strata that is above,
say, $250,000?” he asked the woman.
a mother,” she quipped. “It’s priceless what I make. I am
in the same tax bracket as you Mr. Tonko, and I’d like to
keep my money.”
First Ward challenger Scott Mannarino running a proxy campaign
for the mayor?
First Ward Councilman Dominick Calsolaro said that having
an opponent in Scott Mannarino “came out of the blue.” The
challenge, the two-term incumbent said, looks like a play
by supporters of Mayor Jerry Jennings’ to keep Calsolaro from
having the time to campaign for Corey Ellis, Jennings’ main
opponent in the 2009 mayoral race.
Carolyn Ehrlich, Jennings’ campaign manager, confirmed that
Mannarino has the mayor’s endorsement and that Jennings has
been going door-to-door with Mannarino in the First Ward to
drum up support for the newcomer. Calsolaro is not surprised.
He’s not worried, either.
I ran the first time, in 2000, it was an open seat then, and
he [Jennings] ran with my opponent then and I ended up winning,”
said Calsolaro. “I don’t know how much effect it’s really
going to have.”
A search of Mannarino’s campaign filings on the New York State
Board of Elections Web site reveals that his campaign committee
claims to have raised and spent less than $1,000 since his
filed an ‘in lieu of’ statement, which means that at the closing
of the reporting period neither the total receipts nor the
total expenditures for the committee have exceeded a thousand
dollars in the aggregate,” said John Conklin, information
officer for the state BOE. This statement exempts Mannarino’s
campaign from filing an itemized report detailing all transactions
since the beginning of the campaign.
Although Mannarino himself could not be reached for comment,
Metroland contacted his spokesperson, Ang Morris, who
said she had no information on how much money Mannarino’s
campaign has raised.
Mannarino is out campaigning, going door-to-door in the First
Ward just listening to the voters’ issues and concerns that
they have and is campaigning hard to make sure that the voters
have an option in this next primary,” said Morris. “Anything
else is a non-issue, except for making sure that the voters
have an option.”
As Metroland first reported in May, Mannarino was not
registered to vote in the First Ward. Instead, he was last
registered at 7 Barclay St., a property owned by Albany County
Legislator Brian Scavo. Morris countered that Mannarino is
a lifelong resident of the ward and is very active in the
main platform is basically being an effective leader,” said
Morris. “We’re not about a negative campaign. We’re all about
a positive campaign and getting rid of negative, petty politics.”
However, Calsolaro said that he goes to almost every neighborhood
meeting in his ward and has yet to see Mannarino at one of
don’t really know if he really knows the concerns of the people
of the First Ward,” said Calsolaro. “He’s not a participant
in the community.”
Calsolaro said that he’s been going door-to-door for the last
month and making calls to voters in the First Ward; he feels
comfortable with the progressives’ presence on the common
council. “I think the residents of Albany want people speaking
out,” he said. “We’re listening to and doing what the citizens
of Albany want us to do.”
Calsolaro said that while it’s nice when there is no opponent,
he is optimistic about his chances of keeping his seat. The
residents of his ward know him, he said, and what he’s done
in the First Ward.
don’t think I’m going to lose,” said Calsolaro. “I’m looking
for a big night on September 15th.”
loose ends this week-