Thursday, August 23, 2012

On the Scent

Sam Pratt takes up the question of Fifth Ward alderman Cappy Pierro's reported change of residence on his blog: "Hudson alderman buys Taghkanic house." One little bit of additional information: At last night's Common Council Legal Committee meeting, while Pierro was complaining about Council president Don Moore's decision to suspend the process of recalculating the weighted vote to give the Council a chance to consider "a few very consequential questions," thus betraying his interest in preserving the disproportionately heavy weight of the Fifth Ward vote, it was revealed that Pierro recently changed his email address.


  1. When his Hudson houses sell - and if he continues to vote on Hudson issues - will he be committing voter fraud - not unlike what Mitt Romney did when he left Massachusettes yet continued to vote there - having a cellar hole as his legal address?

  2. So long as Cappy owns or rents a home in Hudson -- regardless of how much time he spends there -- he can legally retain his seat on the Common Council due to the way the City Charter sets forth the requirements for being seated. This is the rule of Fingar v. Taghkanic from 2010. Like most legal "blades," it cuts both ways.

  3. Nice tie-in to Romney. (And just when we were warming to one another!)

    Or rather, nice try. Unfortunately neither example you give constitutes "fraud."

    Is the real objection about someone having multiple residences?

    But I'll freely admit that the following story constitutes fraud:

    During Theodore Roosevelt's gubernatorial campaign, he narrowly escaped scandal when it was found out that he had given his residence as Washington D.C. in a tax return. A brilliant lawyer named Elihu Root got him out of the scrape, even though the information clearly disqualified Roosevelt as a candidate. I can't recall Root's argument, but it was the usual lawyerly prevarication and they got away with it.

    Just to be accurate, there's no comparison between Roosevelt's story and what you mistakenly call "fraud."

  4. John, your knowledge of the City Charter is appreciated. So while we're on the topic of the 5th Ward, what can be done about the fact that Rick Scalera has a conflict of interest because he works for Galvin as well as holding a political office? He cannot vote on issues that present such conflict, which leaves the 5th Ward without representation, particularly at a time when our voices and votes count so much with the proposal to establish a Homeless Shelter in our Ward (State and 7th Street). Since the Federal Government has very specifically addressed (under Ethics Violations) how a conflict of interest must be rectified when a person is holding a political office and working for a private, conflicting entity (to resign from either post), one would think that there would be a similar version for NY State. Any suggestions on how we could immediately address this issue and apply it here?

    Cheryl Stuart

  5. Even DISCUSSING the Galvan-related issue constituted a conflict of interest for Supervisor Scalera. (See the Columbia County Code of Ethics.)

    Not that the ethics code gave Mr. Scalera much pause. At one point at a CC meeting I even thought I heard him say he didn't care about those rules, or something to that effect.

    There should be consequences for exhibiting such contempt for the county's ethics code. People who were aware of the extent of the rules he was breaking would like to know how to prosecute some action, penalty or discipline against his actions.

  6. Cheryl, you're not without representation, just without representation on this one issue. But if you think about it, how would Rick vote? So -- are you better served with or without his vote on this particular project? As for what the 5th Ward can do -- run a credible candidate against him in 2013. That's about it as far as I know. Unfortunately, under the County's ethics law, citizens don't have standing to bring a complaint to them, only elected officials at the county level or those from municipalities within the county that either don't have their own ethics laws or whose ethics laws specifically defer to the County's Board of Ethics.

  7. What's the old saw about everything looking like a nail to a hammer? Lawyers tend to see things strictly through the lens of the law, which is understandable. But what is legally possible and what is ethically appropriate or politically viable are another matter.

    Thus while an Alderman could of couse be able to maintain a tenuous fiction about where they live (others, like Mr. Keith, have done so in the past for far longer than they should)... or even identify a narrow legal right to serve... voters may see things differently.

    Voters tend to like their representatives to have a more sustained and current presence in their community, rather than a legal figleaf justifying retaining a position (and its associated benefits).

    For instance, while the City Democratic Committee’s nomination last year of a 1st Ward candidate who hadn't yet secured a place to live in Hudson was (as I wrote about in detail) legally legit, as a practical political matter it was not a winning choice, and the situation careened out of the hapless chair’s control. There was a 1st Ward insurrection; an alternative was suggested by an independent meeting of voters; and the candidate had to be replaced. Even though legally, he could still run.

    Likewise on a political level, voters might make some distinctions, even if lawyers do not, between one dual-home voter among countless others making a personal decision about where they prefer to cast their single vote, and an elected representative casting deciding votes on Citywide legislation if all s/he has to show as local resident is a cot in a cousin's attic.

  8. So there's an answer: it's the elected officials at the county level who have standing to discipline Supervisor Scalera.

    Now we know that we must support those supervisors who are offended by those breaches of the ethics code already committed.

    I know of at least two County Supervisors in Hudson who were appalled, but what about the others?

    Every customary insolence towards the people and against the rules is a test. These are the people who continuously push to see how far they can go the next time. There may even be a thrill element.

    Let's do something about this. Not for the thrill, but because it is right to push back.