North Greenbush Democrats

North Greenbush Democrats
Fighting For You!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Happy faces pose after profitable concrete pour! Posted by Hello

Another truck heads for a payday! Posted by Hello

Ashe's company caught cashing in at water tower. Posted by Hello

Ashley demands full disclosure of water district sales to Ashe’s employers

"I had no knowledge the concrete was being poured", Councilman Bob Ashe told the Times Union. They next day they were caught live on CH 6 hauling fill in private unmarked trucks to avoid being detected. Where will it stop, asked North Greenbush Democratic Chairman Dan Ashley as he renewed calls for a full disclosure of all sales to the family of companies which employ Councilman Robert Ashe which are related to Water District construction in North Greenbush. First he votes to hire his boss’s wife as town attorney, then votes to give her a $25,000 lump sum raise. Now his company is racking in big bucks from his votes to award millions in water contracts from town funds. This includes black top, concrete and related products produced by Ashe’s employers. Ashley made the request after disclosures that Councilman Ashe’s company poured the concrete for the foundation of the town’s new 2 million dollar water tower despite REPEATED public assurances that he and the town attorney had taken extraordinary steps to ensure their companies would in no way benefit financially from their positions in town government. For months Ashe and the town attorney had assured us that there were no business dealings involving the town and at last weeks board meeting they told us it was “none of our business” how much business they did with the town!Ashe and his favored contractors have for months, refused to directly answer questions as to whether these back door sales had been taking place. Perhaps these sales explain why the majority board members discharged the previous low bidder in Water District 14, re-bid the contract and caused taxpayers to pay an additional $300,000.00 more than the previous low bidder’s price. Both Ashe and the town attorney have repeatedly stated they have taken steps to ensure that his employers are not benefiting from their positions in town government by securing sales related to their products. Ashe is a salesman for Bonded Concrete and the town attorney is his boss’s wife. Now he says he didn’t know they poured the concrete at the water tower. Didn’t Bob and his boss’s wife, the town attorney bother to tell the boss not to bid on any town work? These sales not only violate the long ignored ethics law, but violate a common sense principle that an elected official should not be voting on contracts which in any way benefit his employer and potentially himself with benefits from a grateful employer , stated Ashley. This adds insult to injury because we are paying $300,000 extra for Water District 14 and now Ashe’s companies have been caught benefiting from town contracts.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Police appointments violate residency laws and jeopardize taxpayers

North Greenbush Councilman Richard Fennelly expressed concern that the town board majority has acted in violation of the law, this time to appoint two individuals to the police force. He called their actions a “reckless disregard for law which invites disaster by placing the officers and the taxpayers in a game of legal jeopardy”.

As it was in the case of their votes to appoint a non resident to the Comptroller and Engineer during the past three years, they are now playing politics with the Police Department by appointing two individuals as lateral transfers from other towns who have failed to established residency in North Greenbush at the time of their employment. This is required in the Town Code Section 35-2. Last year, the majority was forced to change the town code to legally appoint a non resident comptroller and engineer by gutting the residency requirements for the positions. Result, we have a Comptroller from Grafton and an Engineer from Troy instead of a town resident receiving these incomes.

The ramifications of this latest action have far reaching consequences for taxpayers and the legal system as Ashe, a current police office and the town attorney knows. Appointing a police officer illegally subjects his every action to legal challenge from tickets to arrests exposing the taxpayers of North Greenbush to a legal game of jeopardy. This will serve neither taxpayers, the officers or the Police Department as a whole. Fennelly noted that the majority admitted to holding meetings, discussions and interviews on these appointments while selectively excluding Councilmen Fennelly and Mihalko.

Years ago, it was Ashe as a candidate charging politics in the police department and appointments made in violation of civil service law. Then Ashe was fighting Jim Germano, the former town chairman for getting his grandson on the police department. Now that Ashe is elected to a four year term, he practices the same actions himself, violating the laws and asking the County Civil Service Commission to approve two lateral transfers that cannot legally be accomplished until the appointees have established residency in this town.

How can the majority forget the actions of Rensselaer County officials in refusing to certify the police department’s payroll because of alleged violations of civil service laws by the town? They based a large part of his campaign on this game of politics and now openly violates the Residency Code that every other police officer has dutifully complied with in order to hire two non residents. Unfortunately, they did not consider any of the 5 town residents certified on an existing county civil service list and eligible for immediate appointment.
“It’s unfortunate that the majority would place the department in legal jeopardy by appointing them in violation of the town’s laws”. They are trained and capable individuals and the majority should have had enough respect for them and taxpayers to require compliance with all laws before appointment.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Councilmen to appeal ethics ruling and pay raise

North Greenbush Councilmen Richard Fennelly and James Mihalko will appeal a court decision establishing a dangerous precedent diminishing ethical standards and public treasuries throughout the state. Upon review of the decision with counsel, we believe the court erred when it found no obligation by an elected official to abstain from enriching a family member of his employer. We are guided by our strong belief that one should abstain from such votes when ever there is even an appearance of a conflict of interest. Voting to appoint and give raises to an employer’s family member is a conflict of interest.

The act of voting clearly benefits the councilman’s standing with his employer and therefore he should refrain from participating in any such votes. It is clear that voting against such an appointment and raise places the elected officer at risk with his employer. The Town Code of Ethics requires recusal under these circumstances. If this ruling stands, an elected official will be permitted to vote to enrich his employer’s family without restrictions or pay limits.

As elected officials, we believe that an important public policy issue arising from this decision continues to expose town taxpayers State wide to last minute lump sum retroactive pay raises from board majorities to their political appointees as their terms of office expire. We believe this to be a significant error in the ruling which a five judge panel is more likely to consider as an ominous threat to public treasuries in every town in this state.

The Councilmen also expressed concern that the decision failed to address the issue of a lump sum bonus being an unlawful gift prohibited under the State Constitution. No where is this question addressed by the lower court.

They concluded by reasserting the need to enforce the long ignored Town Ethics Law by appointing a bi-partisan Ethics Board so that neither the public nor elected officials must go to court to resolve ethical issues. Such boards provide guidance to elected officials and we now have at least one complaint on file from a town resident which has been ignored because the Majority on the Town Board has refused to either appoint an Ethics Board under existing Town Law or revamp the Ethics Law with proposals they have allowed to languish for more than a year without a vote. We doubt that a truly bi-partisan Ethics Board would endorse the standards for recusal accepted by this Majority or the lower court. North Greenbush residents expect a higher standard from their elected officials than they are being allowed, stated the Councilmen.