Knew What, When
Mayor Harry Tutunjian and PBA president disagree on the history
of investigation rumor
Last week, Police Benevolent Association president Robert
Fitzgerald officially brought to light rumors that an investigation
is underway into a “drug problem or operation within the city
of Troy.” He stated that this alleged investigation could
involve dozens of employees throughout city government, including
ones from “high levels.” Fitzgerald dropped this bombshell
at the meeting of the Troy council’s Public Safety Committee,
in front of a room packed with cops and journalists.
The committee had ostensibly met to discuss the new police
chief’s plan to restructure the force: dissolve the Special
Operations Section, which handles long-term drug investigations,
and move those officers, and the unit’s investigations, under
the control of the Community Services Bureau. It is a plan
Chief John Tedesco outlined nearly two years ago in a confidential
memo to the former chief, Nicholas Kaiser.
are multiple reasons that they want to get rid of this SOS
unit,” Fitzgerald alleged.
One, he said, is an attempt to re-assign a sergeant that has
bid into the unit through seniority, but who the chief would
rather see placed elsewhere. Fitzgerald said that the TPD
has tried “to get rid of him before.”
you don’t like who’s running the SOS unit,” Fitzgerald told
the chief at the committee meeting, “then address the problem
up in SOS with that particular person that you don’t like.”
Tedesco has dismissed the claim that the restructuring has
anything to do with a single officer.
Fitzgerald has also suggested that restructuring could also
be a way to bury the alleged investigation of city employees.
At the committee meeting, Fitzgerald pressed both the chief
and the mayor, Harry Tutunjian, on whether or not they knew
about the alleged investigation, how they knew about it, and
for how long.
The chief would not confirm nor deny an investigation. The
mayor at first denied any knowledge of the supposed investigation,
but eventually stated that he had heard rumors about an investigation.
Rumors, the mayor said, that were started by Fitzgerald himself.
am not aware of any investigation that is being undertaken
to investigate any city . . . I have heard rumors that have
been perpetuated by you,” Tutunjian said. “I’m the mayor.
Why should I know about it? It could be me. It could be my
staff. Why should I know about that? Why would I have the
ability to exert influence if that’s the case? They should
arrest me, or whoever that person is.”
Fitzgerald said that he knows that the mayor and the chief
of police have “definitely” known about the investigation
for at least three months. Further, Fitzgerald said that he
heard about the investigation originally from the mayor’s
deputy, Dan Crawley.
According to Crawley, who spoke with Metroland on the
night of the meeting, he had been hearing the rumors of an
investigation for about six months, at least.
Crawley also stated that he had told Fitzgerald a week earlier
“about the rumors about drugs and gambling that has been going
on all over town. Me and him were discussing grievances, and
that is what came up, but I have no knowledge of an investigation,
other than the rumors.”
So, as Fitzgerald pointed out, it was surprising to see the
mayor on News Channel 13, telling reporter Subrina Dhammi
flatly that Crawley was not the one who told Fitzgerald about
The mayor told Dhammi that Fitzgerald was lying.
When asked by Metroland why the mayor appeared to contradict
his deputy and long-time friend and political ally, Tutunjian’s
spokesman, Jeff Pirro, replied: “Bob [Fitzgerald] has made
many allegations regarding possible, ongoing investigations
so to comment at all would be inappropriate. However, if or
when there’s something to report I will be in touch.”
Last year, the police department’s administration attempted
a restructuring similar to what Tedesco has proposed, placing
SOS under the umbrella of the detective’s bureau. This was
challenged by the union, which argued that it violated the
force’s labor contract.
came into play,” said Chief Tedesco. Currently, seniority
is how officers bid for positions in the SOS.
year ago they eliminated SOS, and put it in the detective
bureau,” Fitzgerald said. “They wanted to bid everybody out
of the detective bureau, so that way there is no seniority.
They wanted to put everybody under one umbrella, and then
they could pick. They tried it last year, it didn’t work.
So, now, this year, to get around seniority, they’re going
to abolish the unit.”
Kaiser tried to do something with this unit,” Tedesco said.
“Chief McAvoy tried to do something. I’m trying. I think that
speaks volumes about needing to get something done there.
The way that we are working now is just not working on behalf
of the benefit of the citizens.”
Tedesco doesn’t shy away from admitting that he believes that
an officer’s skill-set—and not seniority—ought to be what
is considered when making assignments.
is a double-edge sword. You have to respect the people who
have been here the longest, no question. If you have two people
standing side-by-side, the senior employee should get more
benefits, better choice of vacation; I don’t argue any of
that. When you get into specialized issues such as drugs,
technology, you need to be able to pick who’s best for the
job, and we can’t do that,” Tedesco said. “Anybody under this
new scheme, they are going to have to perform.”
Tedesco also dismissed Fitzgerald’s warnings that the restructuring
of the force would weaken long-term drug investigations by
thinning the man-power that could be dedicated to such investigations.
Fitzgerald has said that the chief’s patrol-oriented plan
will just catch small-time drug dealers, and neglect to investigate
high-level dealers who conduct their business indoors and
out of the sight of patrol officers.
Tedesco said that the DEA has promised 17 people from a task
force anytime the force needs it. Not only, Tedesco said,
will any number of the officers in the unit be utilized in
long-term investigations “at the discretion of the captain
in charge of the bureau,” but they will also be able to use
the DEA, the ATF, “depending on the nature of the investigation.
And the reason that I am doing this is because we have not
utilized these agencies to the extent that we should have.”
As far as long-term drug investigations go, Tedesco said,
the police force will continue to dedicate resources when
needed, “certainly if we have to sit on a wire, or there are
buys that need to be done, they are going to have the resources
to do that.”
DEC wants to help you dispose of your pharmaceuticals safely
For decades, people in the United States have disposed of
unused or outdated medications by pouring them down the sink
or into the toilet. The pharmaceutical industry conservatively
estimates that Americans dispose of many tons of prescription
and over-the-counter medications this way each year.
While the flush-and-pour method does keep children, pets and
the neighborhood trash pickers from finding drugs in your
household garbage, it also allows trace amounts of medications
to end up in rivers and lakes. And those trace amounts add
up, especially when you factor in the drugs that humans send
into the wastewater system by an even more direct delivery
system—excreting them in their urine after they’ve taken them
in dose form.
When the U.S. Geological Survey tested rivers and streams
in a national survey in 1999 and 2000, the agency found low
levels of antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives and steroids
in 80 percent of the rivers and streams tested, according
to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Such substances have been found to produce unsettling side
effects in aquatic animals, including the production of eggs
by male fish. And some of these medications are ending up
in the drinking water of New Yorkers, the DEC says.
Two years ago, the DEC launched its “Don’t Flush Your Drugs”
campaign to spread the word about collection programs as an
alternative to dumping medications into the state’s waste
water and—by extension—into rivers, streams and drinking water.
So far, the DEC has held 10 such collections around the state,
most recently a week ago on the concourse of the Empire State
Plaza and at the Harriman State Office Building Campus in
A visit to the concourse collection offered some insight into
why the DEC is trying to increase public awareness not only
about the collection program, but about the way collections
are handled. People, it turns out, are extraordinarily private
about what medications they take. And that may be why, even
on a day when DEC staffers at the concourse collected about
200 pounds of medications, they thought they should have gathered
Dennis Lucia, an engineer and section chief in the DEC’s Pollution
Prevention Unit at the concourse collection, estimates that
less than 1 percent of the hundreds of people who walked by
the collection booth in the five hours it was open stopped
to dispose of medications.
one of the biggest things people are concerned about, is their
own privacy,” Lucia said.
No inventory is taken of the drugs people turn in at the collections,
and when the DEC says “No questions asked,” it means it, Lucia
said. Collection boxes are sealed as soon as they are filled,
and the medications are incinerated in a waste-to-energy plant.
But people are still hesitant about turning in their drugs,
an attitude that the DEC recognizes and hopes to change.
Several people who stopped to dispose of medications declined
to comment, but one woman who was willing to talk—although
not willing to give her name—said she had mistakenly thought
she could turn in unused medications at her local pharmacy
simply by walking in and handing them over the counter. She
had been on the lookout for a collection, and spotted a DEC
poster advertising the program.
had a lot of prescriptions that had expired,” the woman explained.
“What do you do with them? I’m glad (the DEC) had it, so it
doesn’t get into the water.”
The Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America, a major
trade group representing brand-name prescription drugs, agrees
with the concept of keeping medications out of waterways,
but considers collections problematic, said Marjorie Powell,
a lawyer for the group.
The concerns about privacy are difficult to overcome, Powell
said, and some medications pose such a high risk of birth
defects that pregnant women should not even touch the pills.
(Thalidomide, banned decades ago in the United States as a
treatment for morning sickness but now in use again to treat
certain diseases—including certain forms of cancer—is one
such example.) A collection adds an extra layer of people
handling pill bottles and possibly pills, and so increases
the risk of accidental exposure, she said.
The Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers recommends dumping
medications into a container, adding coffee grounds or used
cat litter, sealing the container and sending it out with
the trash to a landfill. The DEC considers this method acceptable,
but not as good as a collection that sends the pills to an
incinerator, Lucia said, because of the risk of medications
leaching out of a landfill.
He hopes that more frequent and visible collections and a
continued public education campaign will address the concerns
about privacy. He’d like the public to view medication collections
as “just another form of recycling,” he said.
Lucia will answer questions from municipalities or retail
pharmacies interested in hosting a collection. He can be reached
at (518) 402-9484. The schedule of the remaining 2010 collections,
as well as additional information about the program, can be
found at dec.ny.gov/chemical.
the Albany Common Council prepares to revisit a controversial
landfill vote, the city’s new treasurer is getting together
The most recent push to expand the landfill stalled last month
when the Common Council surprisingly voted against bonding
for the next phase of the expansion. That ordinance failed
due to a surprise voting bloc made up of veteran progressives
and a majority of the council’s freshmen members. The council
is expected to revisit that vote in May, once supporters of
the bonding are certain that they have convinced at least
one hold-out to flip-flop.
In the meantime, the council is pressing for ways to make
the landfill more efficient, and more profitable. One way
many members of the council have begun to promote is for the
city to place the landfill in an enterprise fund.
It is an idea for which the city’s new treasurer, Kathy Sheehan,
is an advocate. Her office, she said, is currently in the
process of doing a full-cost accounting for the landfill—a
necessary first step in establishing an enterprise fund.
James Wright, the executive director of the Development Authority
of the North Country, said that operating a landfill under
an enterprise fund, “is the only way to operate.”
At DANC, Wright oversees the operations of a landfill that
services multiple counties.
enterprise fund is wholly contained,” Wright said, “so you
know what your costs are and you know what your prices have
to be. You want sufficient transparency, and you want to be
competitive. And you want the rate-payers to understand value
for their dollar.”
For years, critics of the Jennings administration in Albany
have complained that the Rapp Road landfill, which is slated
to be expanded yet again, has been operated without such transparency.
They argue that this has made it easier to use the landfill
as a cash cow to mask shortfalls in the city’s general fund.
Sheehan and her staff, she said, are working closely with
the Department of General Services and its CFO. “We’re still
in the information gathering stages, and we need to sit down
once we have all the information and vet it.”
She said that she believes that her office will have full
profit-loss statements and cash-flow statements prepared for
the council soon.
An example of the complexity of the process can be found in
trying to calculate landfill revenue. When the city sells
landfill space to other governments, that revenue is noted
under inter-governmental services. But when the city sells
landfill space to Waste Management, she said, that revenue
falls under departmental revenue. “So they are not even under
the same budget category.”
It’s a complicated task, made harder by the fact that it’s
the first time it’s been done for the city’s landfill. “But
once we have it,” she said, “once we have agreed that we’ve
got everything that is a cost or is a revenue item, and that
we’re allocating it properly it will become much easier. Then
we can have a debate. And I think that it will help DGS manage
what it does at the landfill over the next seven years, if
it is seven years, or two years, if it’s two years.”
Councilman Dominick Calsolaro, and others, have been arguing
for years that the city needed to undertake a full analysis
of the costs associated with the landfill, to gauge how profitable
it actually is. The mayor is fond of stating that it brings
in a revenue of well-more than $11 million. Sheehan has told
the council that from that revenue, it is estimated that $4
to 5 million is profit.
However, as Calsolaro will argue, if the city were to associate
all of the borrowing that is needed to pay for the landfill’s
expansion—which includes bonding for the Pine Bush restoration—with
the landfill’s costs, it wouldn’t be profitable.
Conti said that the city ought to move toward an enterprise
fund “because there is going to come a time when you are going
to have debt without the surplus revenue coming in.”
If the council passes the bonding ordinance, when the landfill
is capped in roughly seven years, the debt will be an estimated
$40 million. And there will be no more $11 million in revenue
to buffer it. Ideally, everyone seems to agree, the city would
use the landfill’s profits to pay down the debt load.
The other side of the issue, however, Conti pointed out, is
this: Even though the city faces a massive debt burden somewhere
down the line due to the landfill, the city’s operating budget
is still very much dependent on the landfill’s revenues. Think
of it as spending for necessitates with a credit card. The
city budgets for that revenue.
thing with an enterprise fund, it limits what you use the
money for,” pointed out Calsolaro. “The money that you are
taking in is the money that you are going to be used to run
the landfill, plus we’d have to put money aside for post-closure
costs. And anything after that would go to the general fund.
It would work like a business.”
With that money segregated out of the general fund, how does
the city begin to wean itself off this revenue while it is
facing an estimated operating deficit next year of $20 million?
As Councilman John Rosenzweig asked, what services do people
suggest the city cut?
that compounds it, when we are in a state of uncertainty,”
Conti said. “Plus, I think that from the executive’s perspective,
once money goes into an enterprise fund, that’s where it stays,
and if you want to use some for general fund operating expenses,
it gets more to difficult.”
Many of the council members question whether or not the tipping
fee at the landfill needs to be raised, especially for the
Councilman Mike O’Brien even suggested that perhaps Albany
ought to reach out to Colonie, which also operates a landfill
and is the city’s biggest local competitor, and say, “ ‘Hey
guys, we’re working against each other here.’ It would be
to their advantage—and ours—to just say, both of us raise
our rates maybe $10 a ton.”
Sunday, Luke Martland officially announced his bid to unseat
state Sen. Neil Breslin in a Democratic primary, saying, “I
will fight to end these secret second jobs. Breslin is paid
$100,000 a year in taxpayer funded salary, yet the Senate
only meets six months a year. Even worse, like many of his
cronies, Mr. Breslin, has a second job at a large law firm.
Yet he keeps secret who his clients are, secret how much they
pay him, and secret what he supposedly does for their mystery
money. I will be different.” Martland has worked as an assistant
attorney general and for the Department of Criminal Justice
Services. Find out more about him at lukemartlandsenate.com.
loose ends this week-