GOP: 2 HATS, NO PROBLEMS

Three Rensselaer County legislators have town posts; Democrats upset

BOB GARDINIER STAFF WRITER
Section: Capital Region,  Page: D7

Date: Thursday, December 17, 2009

TROY -- A lawyer representing Democrats formally requested Wednesday that three Republicans elected to the Rensselaer County Legislature be removed from town councils on which they already serve.


Michael P. Cristo Jr. and Philip J. Danaher were elected to the Legislature last month but are also members of the East Greenbush Town Council. Louis Desso was elected to the Legislature and serves on the North Greenbush Town Council.


The three lawmakers-elect intend to keep their positions.


Lawyer James E. Long, in a letter Wednesday to East Greenbush Town Clerk Linda Kennedy, said that under County Law 411 no one elected to a county post may simultaneously serve in a elective town post.


"The two town council positions are vacant as a matter of law upon the taking of the oath of office for County Legislature," Long wrote.


The same letter was sent to North Greenbush Town Clerk Kathryn Connolly regarding Desso's position, saying the position would become vacant and open to appointment after Desso takes the oath for county office Jan. 1


"They can't do both," said County Democratic Chairman Thomas Wade. "We are on solid footing with the law."


The charge has been unsuccessfully made at least twice before in the county -- and Democrats were the targets both times.


In 2003, New York's Department of State issued a ruling in a case involving complaints against Democrat Keith Hammond who served for several years as a County Legislator and Poestenkill town councilman.


The Department of State at the time said an opinion from the attorney general's office notes that a county can pass a local law that will supersede it and that Rensselaer County did just that in 1969.


From the late 1980s into the 1990s, Democrat Ginny O'Brien served on the county Legislature and on the East Greenbush town board.


The Republican majority in the Legislature gave her a tough time for a while and even tried to change the day of the legislative meetings to the same day the town met to make it difficult for her to do both.


"This is a blatant attempt by Democrats to ignore the will of the people and overturn legally conducted elections," Desso said.


Bob Gardinier can be reached at 454-5696 or by e-mail at bgardinier@timesunion.com.


BOX:


Other dual offices cases over the years in Rensselaer County include:


Art Dell -- Democrat appointed to the County Legislature in the 1980s when he was a member of the North Greenbush Town Board.


Jane Doughney -- Member of the Democratic caucus who in the 1980s was on the Brunswick Town Board and elected to the County Legislature.


Phil Herrington -- Republican Brunswick Town Board when he was appointed to the County Legislature in the 1990s.