North Greenbush Democrats

North Greenbush Democrats
Fighting For You!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Democrats use cartoon to focus ethically challenged acts

It’s eleven months away from town elections and North Greenbush Democrats are using targeted direct mail to drive home the ethically challenged behavior of Councilman Robert Ashe to town residents.

Chairman Dan Ashley released a copy of the “Councilman who stole Christmas” flier which features Councilman Ashe as the “Grinch who stole Christmas” from town taxpayers. The flier features Councilman Ashe stuffing the stockings of special people while taxpayers get shortchanged. It uses the seasonal spirit and humor to remind taxpayers that their wallets are a little lighter this year because Councilman Ashe violated the Ethics Law of the Town by voting to both appoint and enrich his employer’s wife in a job as Town Attorney.

“The flier reminds taxpayers that they could have had twice as much of a tax break as was approved if Ashe had not voted to give his boss’s wife a $25,000 lump sum pay raise of $62%”, stated Ashley. The raise when combined with the needless salary of his media consultant who writes press releases for him could have DOUBLED the recent tax cut from 2.5 to 5.5%. Minority Democrats proposed these cuts but were rebuffed by Ashe and his Majority anxious to help him curry favor with his private sector employer.

“Democrats are focused on putting an end to the Corporate Nepotism that guides Councilman Ashe’s ethically challenged voting behavior”, stated Ashley. A councilman should not use his public office to curry favor with his private sector employer. Rather he should show good judgment and recuse himself from such matters.

“We will field a slate of town board candidates who are committed to passing and enforcing a new tough town ethics law and we are letting town residents know a year ahead of time to hold us accountable next fall”. The cartoon can be viewed at http://ngbdems.blogspot.com

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Dems deplore mystery billboard

Who is “Why”?…

North Greenbush Democratic Committee Chairman Dan Ashley and Charles B. Smith have jointly deplored the false and malicious message put forth by unknown persons on a Main Avenue paid billboard. “Who ever is behind the malicious billboard message is obviously afraid to accept responsibility for the misleading attack on the town Democratic Committee and Mr. Smith”, stated Ashley. “They also oppose the right to vote on the expenditure”.

According to the billboard company. a group called “Why” is registered as the purchaser of the board. The message reads “Why is a Democratic Committeeman, and CB Smith trying to prolong Water District 14?” The message is similar to a flier recently distributed in mailboxes in violation of Federal Law which read “Why is Dan Ashley and CB Smith trying to stop Water District 14?”
“Once again I must reiterate that the Democratic Party is neither campaigning for or against the expenditure questions in Water District 14. Our only position was and remains that VOTERS should be given the right to decide whether to incur the expense at the ballot box”, stated Ashley.

The irony of this message is that the Republican administration, not the Democratic Party, delayed the construction of WD 14 by dragging their feet for more than a year in putting the project out to bid. When they finally did so, the two bids received exceeded the maximum approved expenditure of 5.6 million dollars. Those bids were $600,000 and 1.2 million over the cap and consequently the town board approved increasing the cap by 1.6 million dollars. This raised the potential cost of the district from 5.6 to 7.1 million dollars.

Those responsible for this attack are obviously opposed to the right to vote guaranteed by the democratic process created for the bonding of public funds. Next month, VOTERS will make this decision, not those behind the disinformation campaign. The Democratic Party will continue to give the public the latest information on this district to be helpful as they reach their decision on how to vote. We will also continue to urge every eligible voter to vote. Finally we hope that if approved by voters, a local contractor will win the contract and keep any jobs created in this community.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Councilmen sue to stop illegal raise to Councilman’s Ashe’s employer spouse

11/11/04
North Greenbush Councilmen Richard Fennelly and James Mihalko have filed suit in State Supreme Court to nullify a 62%, $25,000 LUMP SUM pay raise given to the Town Attorney who is the spouse of Councilman Robert Ashe’s private sector employer, the President of Bonded Concrete.

“We believe this raise is a gross violation of General Municipal Law, Town Law as well the Town Ethics Law which the board majority has ignored since taking power three years ago. If left unchallenged, this majority or a future majority could dole out tens of thousands of dollars in lump sum pay raises to the politically connected in the final weeks of their term and empty the public treasury”.

Town Law §27 provides, in relevant part, "Salaries shall be in lieu of all fees, charges or compensation for all services rendered to the town". At the time that the town attorney performed the work for which she was authorized the additional $25,000 lump sum, she was receiving her salary. As such, we believe this additional pay raise is a violation of laws governing the compensation of salaried town employees. There was also no prior Board approval for additional compensation for this work. At most this money could have been pro rated and then only when subject to a Local Law to increase the salary of this official.

The Town Ethics Code §13-5(G) similarly prohibits Councilman Ashe from pursuing a course of conduct that will raise suspicion among the public that he is likely to be engaged in acts that are in violation of the public trust. Again, Councilman Ashe’s failure to recuse himself from consideration of questions regarding the Town Attorney’s employment and compensation, raises suspicion among the public that there is wrongdoing going on. Because the provision of the $25,000 lump-sum bonus was illegal for the reasons set forth in the litigation, all of the respondents’ violated the Town’s Standard of Conduct prohibiting the "use of [one’s] official position to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for himself or others". North Greenbush Town Code §13-5(C).

Councilman Ashe has a prohibited conflict of interest when it comes to questions regarding the retention and compensation for the wife of his boss by the Town of North Greenbush. The possibility that the provision of employment and additional compensation of Linda Mandel Clemente will result in a direct benefit to Councilman Ashe is a conflict of interest as defined by the Town of North Greenbush Town Code §13-4. The only way for Councilman Ashe to avoid the prohibited conflict of interest is to recuse himself from consideration of matters pertaining to the employment and compensation of Linda Mandel Clemente. See Opinion of the Attorney General No. 97-5 (If the interests of a Council members employer are affected by matters before the council, recusal is the appropriate course of action).

Councilman Ashe’s vote in favor of the resolution providing a $25,000 lump-sum bonus to Linda Mandel Clemente should be rescinded by Order of the Court. Without Councilman Ashe’s vote in favor, the Resolution fails by a vote of 2-2. The resolution should therefore be declared null and void.

This briefly sets forth the reasons we have acted to protect the taxpayers of North Greenbush from what is an on-going effort by Councilman Ashe to curry favor with his employer by the enrichment of the employer’s spouse. We regret that the majority has been a party to this effort and will act to reverse and end this practice.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Councilmen would reduce property tax cut further to 5.5%

October 22,2004

North Greenbush Councilmen Richard Fennelly and James Mihalko expressed support for changes to the proposed 2005 town budget that would more than double the GOP plan to cut property taxes 2%.

They announced their proposal after a budget meeting (Oct 21st)with town officials in which it was revealed that the town’s surplus is approximately $960,000. The GOP announced plans to use an unlimited amount of this surplus, much of which could wind up in the pocket of the politically connected town attorney who has spent most of her time suing town residents.

“Recently, the GOP Board members voted to award this attorney a 62% lump sum pay raise of $25,000. Applying this unjustified raise to the reduction of property taxes would reduce the tax rate another 2.7%”, stated Fennelly. Both councilmen also expressed opposition to the majority’s vote to further enrich this attorney by refusing to cap the salary she can draw from their soon to be created “litigation fund”. They forced a vote on their proposal to cap the town attorney’s salary which was defeated by Councilmen Ashe, Styczynski, and Supervisor Tazbir.

“We cannot escape the irony of holding town employees to a 2% pay hike while giving the town attorney a 62% lump sum raise and the potential to drawn down a $336,000 litigation fund without limits”, stated Mihalko. I must also note that this was the latest in a series of votes involving the town attorney from which Councilman Ashe should have recused himself. Since the town attorney is the wife of Councilman Ashe’s private sector employer, he is using his position as a Councilman to curry favor with his employer by giving her a huge raise and unlimited access to even more public money, stated Mihalko. “Taxpayers should not have to pay 2.7% more in property taxes so the town attorney can enjoy a 62% lump sum raise”, concluded Mihalko. He repeated his call for action on a proposed Ethics Law which the majority has ignored for months.

“Every $9,000 we save cuts 1% off the property tax rate. A 2% cut is simply inadequate when we continue to dispense public funds to “special people” which offends standards of sensibility” stated Fennelly. The Councilmen also expressed opposition to continued funding for a paid “spin doctor” who writes press releases exclusively for the 3 GOP board members. “Here is someone who has a full time job with the County that pays him more than $60,000 annually and yet he too receives another 2% in his part time capacity writing spin for 3 of 5 board members. That’s another $6,400 salary that could be applied to property tax reduction”. These two raises alone would more than double the proposed tax cut from 2% to 5.5%, concluded the Councilmen.
($25,000 + $6,400= $31,400 divide by $9,000=3.5%…2% + 3.5% = 5.5%)
(We note again that this press release was not paid for with public funds.)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Ashley calls budget misplaced priorities:Lawyers vs Leaves

Ashley calls GOP budget “Leaves vs Lawyers, misplaced priorities”

10/5/04 North Greenbush Democratic Chairman Dan Ashley criticized the tentative town budget as an example of misplaced priorities that places the needs of a well connected lawyer ahead of the critical services town residents depend on. “When it comes to leaves verses lawyers, the boss’s wife seems to win every way possible in this budget”, stated Ashley.

Town Republicans are effusive in their praise for the need to give the town attorney a virtual blank pay check while criticizing proposals by the Highway Superintendent to rectify years of neglect under his predecessor. Ashley criticized the plan to give Councilman Ashe’s boss’s wife a virtual blank check by opening a door to pay her unending bonuses in addition to her salary. “Once again, Councilman Ashe is blind to the needs of town residents while bowing to the financial wish list of his boss’s wife”. The plan would make the town attorney “the highest paid town employee in history” by giving her incentives to litigate everything imaginable.

“The irony here is that most of the increased litigation has resulted from the misconduct and bad legal advice of the town attorney evidenced most recently by a judge’s scolding threatening to sanction her for misleading the court”. The town attorney concocted the plan to refuse to return petitions to town residents in an effort to deny voting rights. These actions are now costing taxpayers up to $80,000 by hiring an outside law firm to appeal the decision, plus the potential of thousands more in court costs. “I can’t understand why it’s more important to give an attorney more money to fight the people of this town than to pave their roads and pick up their leaves. Her salary bonus alone could have paved 1562 linear feet of road!”

Most recently, Councilman Ashe voted to give his boss’s wife a 64%, $25,000 retroactive lump sum pay raise which I believe is an illegal disbursement. As a county legislator for 20 years, I’ve watch legislators Kelleher, Reid, Brearton, Doran and myself, who worked at HVCC, recuse themselves from voting on the school budget to avoid the appearance of favoritism for their employer. Yet Councilman Ashe repeatedly votes to appoint his employer’s wife to a town job and to give her a raise, all the while ignoring appearances and the Ethics Law. I am certain he will vote yet again to give her a blank check pay raise while saying NO to the purchase of new equipment, NO to $24,000 in additional repairs to town equipment, $10,000 to fix drainage problems plaguing town residents; $4,000 to buy additional salt for the winter roads, NO to $1,500 for rising fuel costs, $4000 for state mandated sign replacements long neglected in prior budgets and NO to $100,000 to pave roads in new developments like Pond Hill and the Tech Park.

Ashley noted that the Highway Superintendent did not ask for not one penny more for himself, freezing his salary for the next two years. “The GOP jumps for joy at lining the pockets of their town attorney and paid spin doctor while criticizing the Highway Superintendent for asking for funds to provide services to town residents. Maybe the town attorney and Mr. Crist should go around and pick up leaves because their salaries are far more important than highway department services”. The salaries in the Supervisor’s office find the “tax and spenders” adding 15% or $11,000 which could pave 687 linear feet of roads. “It speaks volumes that this administration would rather spend $7,200 a year for a non resident to write their press releases than find money to pick up leaves and plow roads”. For now we have accept as necessary, spending tax dollars to write budget press releases which attack other town officials.

10/15/04 GOP moves to creates “Bottomless Slush Fund” for “Boss’s Wife”

News Release of October 15, 2004
North Greenbush Democratic Chairman Dan Ashley called a move by the GOP Majority of the Town Board to establish a litigation budget code for the exclusive use of the town attorney a “bottomless slush fund for the exclusive use of Councilman Ashe’s boss’s wife”.

“Last night the town GOP majority took the first step to giving Councilman Ashe’s boss’s wife a virtual blank check pay raise by “introducing” legislation to create a “litigation fund” from which the town attorney will be able to draw down in addition to her salary. This is on top of an August $25,000 lump sum 64% pay raise which I believe is illegal. The move gives the town attorney an incentive to litigate she would not otherwise have as a salaried employee.

At the same time Councilman Ashe is lining the pockets of his boss’s wife, he wants elected officials to give up a 3% raise "I'd like people in this town to have enough money in their pocket to enjoy it with their family" Ashe told a reporter. With that litmus test, he must want his boss’s wife to take her family to Disney World for a month while town taxpayers get the equivalent of a meal on the dollar menu at McDonald’s.

Ashley noted once again the total disregard for the town’s long ignored Ethics Law by Ashe refusing to recuse himself from efforts to reward his boss’s wife with public funds. “He has now voted twice to appoint her to a town job and once to increase her salary, perhaps illegally and now supports the creation of this bottomless slush fund from which the town attorney will likely become the highest paid employee in town history!”

I believe his votes have violated the spirit and intent of S-13-4 Conflicts of Interest and 14-5 Standards of Conduct sections C,D,E.
C)No town employee shall use or attempt to use his official position to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for himself or others.
(D)No town employee shall engage in any transaction as a representative or agent of the town with any business entity in which he has a direct or indirect financial interest that might reasonably tend to conflict with the proper discharge of his official duties.
(E)A town employee shall not by his conduct give reasonable basis for the impression that any person can improperly influence him or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties or that he is affected by the kinship, rank, position or influence of any party or person.

Wouldn’t every resident of this town love to be in a position to give their employer’s spouse a public job and a big pay raise, asked Ashley. Well, Bob has used his elected office to do just that! And for 3 years there has been no Ethics Board appointed under Ashe and his majority to tell him he was wrong.

A Message from the Chairman


The North Greenbush Democratic Committee is committeed to providing open, accountable government that is responsive to the needs our our citizens. It is no secret that the pace and type of development supported by the current administration has become a source of great division within our community.

Town Democrats are committed to development policies that put people before politics. Our chief goal will be to put town residents back in charge of development decisions through the re-establishment of a Master Plan Committee which was disbanded by the current Republcan administration.
Many feel and I agree, that development interests are in control of the current town board majority. Hence a policy of "blank check development"has divided our citizens as well as our town board. The move by DeFreestville residents to form an independent village is a direct result of the majority's refusal to listen to their concerns with regard to developent issues and instead give developers every consideration from density exemptions to unwarrented tax breaks.
Other issues which have come to the forefront of the differences between the two major partys include ethics in government and the current administration's refusal to either enforce the existing Ethics Law or adopt long overdue revisions to that law which would stop the conflicts of interest that have dominated the current board's agenda.
All town residents are invited to keep on top of events affecting our community by browsing this site and offering your comments. Our elected officials and candidates will also have access to this site to keep you posted on their activities.
Dan Ashley,Chairman North Greenbush Democratic Committee