officer leadership vote up in air after lost votes found
The vote was tied 107-107. That is, until an unopened envelope
was found in the trash.
And so, it seemed, the hard-fought campaign to oust the Albany
Police Officers Union—a local chapter of statewide law enforcement
union Council 82 that has represented Albany officers for
36 years—and join a newly organized union called the Albany
Police Benevolent Association had failed . . . by only one
Disappointed, organizers of the insurgent union began reaching
out to some of the officers who seemingly had not voted, but
who had expressed their support in the weeks and months leading
up to the election. “All of the envelopes are uniquely numbered,”
said Ronald Dunn, attorney for the PBA. “So we know who wasn’t
counted. Everyone knows that.”
What they found has caused the PBA to challenge the results
of the election on grounds that not all of the legitimate
votes were counted. The challenges fall into three categories.
Several officers claim to have sent in their ballots before
the Dec. 21 deadline, but those envelopes were not present
or counted on the day of the tally. At least one other officer
called in to receive his ballot, but did not get it until
after the election was over. Another happened to be out of
town on military leave during key dates and was unable to
request a ballot, something Dunn called a procedural problem.
is clearly not a conspiracy,” said Dunn. “And I’m not picking
on the postal service, but it should not have taken as long
as it did for some of those votes to come in. This is not
like a general election. We must use the postal service.”
Dunn said that the holidays likely contributed to the tardiness
of the mail, but also remarked that those envelopes did not
have very far to travel to reach the state Public Employment
Relations Board on Wolf Road in Colonie.
While both sides have made an effort to keep the reasons for
the schism out of the public arena, Officer Michael Delano,
president of the PBA, has been quoted as saying that high
costs associated with membership fees were a concern and that
dissatisfaction with Council 82’s leadership was also a significant
factor. He has also claimed that the incumbent union misled
voters during the election process.
Christian Mesley, current president of both Council 82 and
the APOU, and James Lyman, executive director of Council 82,
have both raised eyebrows within the department and throughout
the community over the last year, due to lawsuits and worker’s
compensation claims that many perceive as frivolous or disingenuous.
Both men brought a personal injury lawsuit against Albany
County District Attorney David Soares in late 2009, claiming
that they suffered “mental anguish” due to comments that Soares
made about them during his 2008 campaign. Seeking damages
for libel and slander, the lawsuit centers on a statement
Soares made to a local television station where he claimed
that the officers—who had openly opposed the DA for years—were
“perpetrating what is essentially a lie.” Claiming humiliation,
damaged reputations and, in Mesley’s case, stress-induced
vertigo, the two men used Ennio Corsi—legal counsel paid for
by the union—for 6 months until retaining their own attorney.
Additionally, both men have filed claims for workers’ compensation.
Lyman, who worked for the department from 1988 until his retirement
two years ago, has filed at least three, including one for
an injury incurred when he tripped over a stereo speaker and
another for hearing loss due to loud noises from sirens and
gunfire. Mesley also recently filed a workers’ compensation
claim, claiming to have lower back problems due to years of
patrolling and wearing a gun belt.
Mesley also came under public scrutiny last February when
he was quoted by the New York Post in response to a
suggestion that, in consideration of statewide economic problems,
the union may have to accept a new no-raise contract. “I’m
not running a popularity contest here,” he told the Post.
“If I’m the bad guy to the average citizen . . . and their
taxes have to go up to cover my raise, I’m very sorry about
that, but I have to look out for myself and my membership.”
Mesley had no comment for Metroland. He said that he
would wait until Jan. 20, when PERB Director, Monte Klein,
will meet with both parties to consider the challenges and
decide on a course of action.
Dunn said that, if the challenges are upheld, “anything is
possible.” A rerun election could occur, or open ballots,
or even just a general recount. When asked if he thought Council
82 would fight their efforts, he said, “I expect that they
will act in their own best interest, but I would hope that
they want the greatest amount of officers represented. I don’t
know if that will be their position.”
results indicate high levels of mercury in Ravena population,
as plans move forward on an expansion at cement plant that
may be to blame
Time is running out for public comment before the State Department
of Environmental Conservation decides whether to approve a
proposed multimillion-dollar plant expansion that would enable
French-owned Lafarge North America to produce more cement
at its Ravena plant.
Members of the community have until Feb. 22 to comment in
writing on the draft environmental impact statement that will
become Lafarge’s operating permit. People can also comment
in person during a 6 PM Legislative hearing on Feb. 20 in
the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School auditorium.
The draft permit is based on the assumption that the first-ever
federal restrictions on cement plant mercury emissions will
take effect by the time the plant upgrade is expected to be
finished in 2014. Mercury—a potent neurotoxin—is linked with
health risks ranging from lowered IQ to autism.
EPA scientists have estimated that the new regulations would
prevent 2,500 premature deaths and thousands of heart attacks
and respiratory incidents, and save billions of dollars in
annual health costs.
However, Republicans are trying to shoot down this new U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency law, which is expected to
reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent. Two days after the
new GOP majority took over in the U.S. House of Representatives,
congressmen started pushing for a resolution to overturn the
these important EPA rules, our families will continue to be
exposed to mercury and other toxic pollution from the Lafarge
plant in Ravena, New York,” said Susan Falzon, spokeswoman
for the environmental watchdog group Friends of Hudson. “It
sickens me that some of our elected leaders are trying to
remove these protections.”
Former state wildlife pathologist Ward Stone found elevated
mercury levels in soil, plants and animals on the western
shore of the Hudson last year.
have found [elevated mercury levels in the schoolyard, among
other places,” he said. “We found it in farm fields north
of the plant and in rock from the quarry.”
Recently, Stone has turned his attention to the wildlife and
soils on the eastern shore of the Hudson. So far he has taken
20 samples of soils and animals, including a woodchuck, in
The latest tests are showing higher heavy metal concentrations
than he anticipated, he said. Stone plans to release preliminary
results about his latest findings at the Jan. 20 hearing.
Last week, Michael Bank, a researcher from the Harvard School
of Public Health, came to the high school across Route 9W
from the cement plant to release results of his human mercury
exposure study. It found elevated levels of the neurotoxin
in people who live near the Lafarge Ravena cement plant on
both sides of the river.
Nine percent of test subjects—all of whom live within 10 miles
of the Route 9W facility—had blood mercury levels outside
of New York state’s official comfort zone. Blood samples drawn
from 13 out of 172 people tested exceeded the state mercury
threshold of 5 parts per billion.
Individuals will not get their results until the study has
undergone peer review and been published in a scholarly journal,
said Bank. Those with high levels will be advised to seek
medical attention, he said.
have provided multiple lines of evidence that, at least for
mercury in blood, Ravena is higher than the national average,
with the exception of childbearing women,” he said.
Usually, fish are the major source of mercury contamination.
But in this study, only 16 percent of adult mercury levels
and half of the children’s mercury levels could be explained
by their fish consumption habits.
is a high mercury exposure group that doesn’t appear to be
eating a lot of fish,” Bank said. “There’s a potential other
source and that source has not been identified.”
Mercury wasn’t the only heavy metal Bank looked for. About
20 individuals—or roughly 12 percent of those tested—showed
elevated levels of mercury, lead, aluminum or combinations
of these. Such a cocktail of metals can have synergistic effects,
percent is not trivial,” Bank said. “Twelve percent of the
population here had metal levels that were above the individual
guidelines. There were people who had all three . . . You
have to consider the chemical mixture, both in the environment
and in (their systems.)”
This study is just a “standard first pass,” said Bank, who
hopes to conduct “a more fine-scale analysis” in the future.
will definitely be looking at spatial patterns in the community—if
there are clumps of people . . . who stand out,” he said.
Bank also wants “to examine the interrelationship among metals”
and use mercury and lead isotopes—which serve as tracers or
fingerprints—to find out where the metals originated.
Currently, Bank is exploring funding sources for follow-up
research over a period of years. He would like to test the
urine of a larger sample of people. “A systems level study
that looks at vegetation and soils” may also be in the cards,
Because coal-burning industry, including cement manufacture,
emits inorganic mercury, he said, “a study of inorganic mercury
in urine would be a very important test to look at a better
approach for monitoring short-term local impacts.”
Asked whether the Ravena Coeymans-Selkirk school district
would condone a study of students, Superintendent Daniel Teplesky
said it would be up to the school board. He also said he’d
like to see a breakdown of which test subjects live within
the school district.
RCS Board of Education President Scott Hughes said he “wouldn’t
be opposed to” a more in-depth study. There may be legal issues
with conducting it on school grounds, he said.
Although Lafarge Ravena is one of the state’s top mercury
polluters, nobody has proven whether that pollution is any
worse near the smokestack than it is globally. The question
of whether the cement plant is responsible for local health
problems has divided the community.
Mary Driscoll, whose late husband worked at Lafarge Ravena,
was among some 100 people who came to hear Bank announce his
study results last week. She has lived in the village for
feel the pollution that is coming out of their mouths is more
harmful to the community than anything the cement plant can
do,” Driscoll said. “When these people give up their cars,
their washing machines and everything else, then they can
talk about pollution.”
Selkirk resident Marcia McCoy and her 6-year-old daughter
both participated in Bank’s study. They live down the road
from the cement plant on Route 9W. McCoy plans to move out
of range of Lafarge. She believes the plant is behind the
health problems she and her children suffer from, including
asthma, seizures, respiratory failure and bipolar disorder.
should be a stage two,” she said. “I’d like to see the urine
testing and see testing at a different time of year. I think
if they could get more people in the study, the results would
be even higher.”
need to go further,” agreed Michael Carey, who ran unsuccessfully
for state Senate this fall. Carey said he is interested in
public policy regarding mercury poisoning, because it has
been linked with autism. He got his start in politics lobbying
for legislation to protect the handicapped after his institutionalized
son, who suffered from autism, died after being strapped down
in a van and left alone by caregivers.
Lafarge public relations specialist Saleem Cheeks also came
to hear the study results. Asked to comment, he handed over
a prepared statement from Lafarge environmental manager John
our neighbors, we look forward to a complete understanding
of Dr. Bank’s study, including the testing protocols he used
and his detailed results,” it said.
loose ends this week-