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Under fire: Christina Mahoney on the witness stand on Tuesday. Photo by Mark Gallucci
Under the Test

Tuesday was the final day of testimony for Rensselaer County personnel director Christina Mahoney, who took the stand in the trial of former County Executive Henry Zwack. Zwack, former County Attorney Daniel Ehring, former Deputy County Executive Joseph Cybulski and former county labor lawyer Bryan Goldberger are facing numerous wrongdoing charges in relation to an alleged attempt to trade favors with a North Greenbush party boss.

Mahoney has said that Zwack and his advisors threatened her job if she did not allow North Greenbush police officer Anthony “T.J.” Germano a chance to retake a physical fitness test he failed in 1998. Germano is the grandson of North Greenbush Democratic party boss James Germano.

During Tuesday’s testimony, defense attorneys attempted to shake her claim that she felt her job was being threatened and attempted to paint a portrait in which she and her coworkers set Zwack up by making numerous tape recordings of her conversations with him and his advisors. During trial yesterday, however, the jury heard tapes in which Zwack—obviously infuriated—cursed about the quandary Mahoney had put him in by refusing the retest; in addition, former county labor department staffer Glenn Kakely testified that Zwack told him that he had made deals with key political players in which he promised to rig Germano’s physical fitness test.

Interestingly, the younger Germano was given a job with New York state just two months before the Zwack trial began. The job offer came just before the elder Germano was offered a plea bargain deal in which he would have had to turn state’s evidence in the trial—possibly against Sen. Joseph Bruno (R-C-I-Brunswick) and his top aide, both of whom have been identified as potential witnesses in the case.

—Erin Sullivan

Back to the Redistricting Board

After months of deliberation, the state Legislature has passed a bill that would redraw new legislative district lines for New York; the bill, which now awaits only the signature of Gov. George Pataki to become law, is being opposed by a coalition of good- government groups who say the proposed new districts deny New York voters choice in elections, break unfairly along racial and ethnic lines, and fail to ensure that campaign-finance and redistricting reforms accompany the final agreement.

Yesterday (Wednesday), Common Cause/NY, the League of Women Voters, and the New York Public Interest Research Group came together for a press conference in Albany to persuade Pataki to veto the proposal.

“We urge the governor to veto the legislation on his desk,” Blair Horner of NYPRIG said.

The new proposed districts are the result of months of debate between Democrat and Republican legislators charged with the contentious task of figuring out how to divide the state’s voting regions. Redistricting is necessary this year because of changes in the census that forced a change in the total number of districts.

NYPIRG, Common Cause and the league said that the proposed voting districts are too limiting. In a press release issued Wednesday, the groups stated that “very few New York State legislative districts would be truly competitive in terms of the number of Republicans and Democrats enrolled in proposed districts.” They said that currently, only 29 of the existing 211 electoral districts can be considered truly competitive (the groups defined “competitive” as districts that have a 10-percent-or-less differential in the number of enrolled Republicans and Democrats). Under the redistricting plan, only 30 of 212 proposed districts can be considered competitive.

The coalition also noted that some observers of the redistricting process are concerned that the proposed Senate lines break up ethnic and racial minorities in communities in Nassau County, which traditionally provide a base of support for the Democratic party. The reform groups say that the proposed districts are not “compact as required by the state constitution.”

The groups requested that the governor veto the bill and set up a bipartisan conference committee to redraft the district lines. In addition, they urged the governor to support a campaign finance reform bill.

“With these two reforms, we could turn around this partisan, dead democracy,” said Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters.

Pataki has not announced a final decision on the bill.

—Mike Greenhaus

Teri Currie

Beyond Words

Students across the nation took a vow of silence last Wednesday (April 10) to commemorate the seventh annual Day of Silence. This year more than 10 local high schools took part in the event.

Students voluntarily remained silent during the day to take a stand against discrimination that many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students face each day in schools. Instead of speaking, participants handed out note cards explaining the reason for their silence. After the school day ended, students gathered at Albany High School for a breaking-the-silence rally. Some students created a banner (pictured) expressing their desire that schools be safe and nondiscriminatory for all students.

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