Items tagged with 'state workers'

New parking system for state employees in downtown Albany

state parking lots downtown Albany

Lots and garages in downtown Albany in which the state controls parking spaces. There's a clickable version of the map over on the state's parking portal.

The state Office of General Services has announced the rollout of a new system for allocating parking spaces to state employees who work in downtown Albany.

The new system starts today with open enrollment via a website: parking.ogs.ny.gov.

OGS is touting the new system as "clear and understandable," something that couldn't be said for the previous system. From the press release:

Historically there has been a confluence of parking systems meshed together. In the past, each agency controlled the majority of its employees' spaces through "agency allocations" using a variety of methods for granting parking, while the remaining spaces were allocated by OGS through a complex waiting list system. Conversely, the new OGS Parking System puts the vast majority of parking spaces into a single, transparent, and equitable general pool, with a small number of spaces being provided to agencies for distribution to executive staffs and for unique operational needs.
Under the new system, State employees who currently have parking will be "grandfathered", meaning they will be able to keep their current space (except for those who obtained their spaces through the TPAI program) or they can choose to compete for a new space based on their State service. Those who do not currently have parking, or who hold a TPAI permit, will also be able to compete for parking based on the length of their State service.

About 1,800 spots in various garages and lots will be up grabs (based on seniority) under the new system.

And a heads up: The system will be using a "parking service date" to determine a state employees seniority. The date will be available by logging into the parking portal -- and if you'd like to contest that date, you must do so by July 25. (OGS says the system includes a field for service date discrepancies.)

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Tedisco, McLaughlin: no frequent flyer miles for state politicians and employees

united airplane landing at ALB

State Assemblymen Steve McLaughlin, Jim Tedisco, and Michael Fitzpatrick announced today that they're drafting legislation that would prohibit state politicians, as well as state employees, from keeping frequent flyer miles and hotel/car rental points they accumulate while on official travel.

From the press release:

"Frequent flier miles for state travel should be banked to lower costs for taxpayers, not pocketed by politicians for personal travel clubs," said Tedisco. "In these challenging economic times, when state government is supposed to be reining-in unnecessary spending and asking people to do more with less, taxpayer-funded air travel should be rare. When air travel is absolutely necessary and when it passes the smell test of good and ethical government, the only ones who should benefit from accrued frequent flier miles, hotel discounts and other perks are the taxpayers who are paying the tab for the trips in the form of reduced costs for future state travel related to official taxpayer business," said Tedisco.

Here are the current state rules for employees and travel rewards.

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New York's highest court on GPS, and who can share tips at a Starbucks

Thumbnail image for nys court of appeals exteriorTwo decisions this week by the New York Court of Appeals -- the state's highest court -- caught our eye.

One decision is about the use of a modern technology that's becoming ubiquitous -- GPS -- and governmental employees and their personal cars. The other is about an everyday thing that people might not think much about: tips at Starbucks.

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More (temporary) parking spaces for downtown Albany state employees

Thumbnail image for empire state plaza agency buildings from elm streetThe state Office of General Services announced that it will be making available 1,000 parking spots to state employees in downtown Albany as part of a temporary program. From the press release:

This Temporary Parking Assistance Initiative will allocate these spaces based on state service to PEF and CSEA members who presently do not have spaces in state lots.
OGS initiated this one-time, single purpose allocation for downtown state parking after consultation with PEF and CSEA to provide timely relief to state employees who may be impacted by the City of Albany's Residential Parking Permit System.

Update: OGS spokesperson Heather Groll tells us the spaces are in most of the downtown state operated lots.

The agency has posted a form for members of CSEA and PEF who'd like to apply for spots (they'll be assigned by state seniority). The deadline is February 13.

OGS says it's aiming to complete a "comprehensive restructuring of the state's downtown Albany parking system" by sometime this spring. The state has been working on this restructuring since at least fall. It was prompted in part by the "re-stacking" of state office space, which an OGS spokesperson told us last September had moved about 2,000 state employees to downtown Albany. (We had emailed OGS back then for an answer to a reader question about how many parking spaces the state has for downtown employees -- it was still being sorted out as part of the parking restructuring.)

Last September irisira posted a very good comment about the state of downtown state employee parking.

It's been about two weeks since the Albany residential parking permit system started. We're curious about how things have shaken out so far state employees around the ESP. Longer walks? More bus riding? Complete mayhem?

Well, it is really hard to find parking by the ESP

corning tower the egg esp looking upThe state Inspector General's Office announced today that a state Department of Health employee has been arrested for allegedly scoring a handicapped parking pass for the Empire State Plaza by using a forged doctor's note.

From the press release:

The Inspector General's investigation determined that in May of 2011, Witt obtained special parking privileges at his work location at Empire State Plaza based on a forged doctor's note. In addition, Defendant admitted that on three separate occasions in January and February of 2012, he submitted certified time records indicating that he had worked full days when he had not reported to work at all.
"New Yorkers have every right to expect that state employees will comport themselves with the highest degree of honesty and integrity," said Acting Inspector General [Catherine Leahy] Scott. "Fraudulently obtaining handicapped parking not only is unlawful, but potentially inhibits the rights of New Yorkers with disabilities in need of accessible parking. Further, any fraudulent abuse of time and attendance records undermines public trust. Such conduct is not tolerable."

The IG's office says Witt has been charged with four felony counts -- and faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

Full release after the jump.

By the way: Does anyone know how long the waiting list is now for a parking spot at the ESP?

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State inspector general: Ward Stone "engaged in improper conduct with virtual impunity"

The state Inspector's General office released a report today accusing former state wildlife pathologist -- and local media figure -- Ward Stone of serial misconduct. Among the allegations the report:

state IG ward stone report cover+ Stone admitted living at the DEC facility in Delmar "half to as much as 75 percent" of the time from 2001 until 2009.

+ DEC employees alleged that Stone made them help him prepare course materials for classes he taught at SUNY-Cobleskill, and chauffeur him to WAMC in a state vehicle so he could record his radio program. "Stone also conceded that when he first appeared on the WAMC radio program, he had staff drive him to the station because he had not been provided a parking spot." [We add: Having parked at WAMC thousands of times, parking is not that hard to find there.]

+ Employees alleged that Stone kept personal chickens, ducks, turkeys, and a puppy at the Delmar facility and used state employees and money to care for the animals. Said one employee: "He tells everyone that the domestic animals are used for research and training needs, but there have been no tests run on these animals, nor does he have the proper certification to use live animals for research purposes."

+ Stone frequently brought his kids to the office and asked state employees to watch them.

+ Stone allegedly did not properly train staff about proper lab and safety protocols. The IG's office says two employees of Stone's office contracted West Nile -- one of them by cutting himself on an improperly disposed scalpel, the other in an undetermined manner. "For such a small staff, two instances of exposure to potentially deadly disease are clearly unacceptable."

+ Following an affirmative action complaint against Stone, the state's Division of Human Rights concluded that "Stone treated everybody poorly, regardless of sex or race."

For what it's worth, the report does credit Stone for his work on PCBs, pesticides, the dangers of mercury and lead in the environment.

The IG's report also faults DEC management for not reigning in Stone, and "while Stone's direct supervisors and other mid-level managers at DEC made serious and persistent efforts to address his conduct through established disciplinary procedures, their efforts at times were deliberately thwarted by DEC's executive management." The report alleges that DEC management was reluctant to discipline Stone because of his profile in the media and public support.

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Pensions taking big slice of Albany's pie

albany city hallMunicipal budget fact of the day: pension costs eat 22 percent of the city of Albany's budget tax levy.

The Jennings administration released a letter today it says Jerry Jennings has sent to state comptroller Tom DiNapoli "urging real pension reform." Yep, that sounds like a big bowl of boiled vegetables, but this part caught our eye:

The rising cost of pensions has been one of the greatest burdens on our city's finances and taxpayers.
This problem has evolved into a crisis as you have mandated increases in pension contributions over the last several years which have devastated our city budgets. Over the last decade pension costs have ballooned from roughly $700,000 to over $12 million. In 2001, only 1% of the Albany taxpayers property taxes went to pension costs, as of last year they are paying 22% of their taxes to cover pension costs.
This means that ten years ago Albany residents were contributing approximately $7.50 per person to cover pension costs, today they are paying almost $130.

The full letter is after the jump. Not in the letter: criticism of the leaders and administrations who agreed to the contracts with the unions in the first place.

The larger political soap opera context...

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A quick scan of Andrew Cuomo's 2012 budget

cuomo budget 2012 screengrab

Let me show you some PowerPoints...

Updated Tuesday at 6:30 pm.

Andrew Cuomo and his administration presented their proposed 2012-2013 budget this afternoon. The budget is a big deal for the state, because it's the Cuomo administration putting its money (actually, all our money) where its mouth is.

This year's presentation was less dramatic than last year -- there was no declaration of the state being "functionally bankrupt." Cuomo touted the measures taken in last year's budget for helping to make things easier this year. "We regained the public trust," he said, "That is a great gift and an awesome responsibility. Let's build on it this year, even higher, together." (pause for applause)

So, we watched the address and skimmed through the budget briefing docs so you don't have to. Here's a quick overview of Cuomo's proposed budget...

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Revised PEF contract approved, layoffs averted

Thumbnail image for ESP from libraryPEF announced this afternoon that its members had approved its revised contract with the state. As a result, about 3,500 state employees -- many of them in the Capital Region -- will not be laid off.

The vote was roughly 70-30 in favor of the contract.

The revised contract includes no pay increases for 2011, 2012, and 2013 (with a 2 percent raise in 2014). It increases the share employees will have to pay for healthcare. And there are 9 furlough days that will be paid back at the end of the contract.

The contract is a year shorter than the original five-year contract. The union's leadership argued shorter length would allow the union to negotiate the next deal "in an economic environment that may be significantly better than the current one." The leadership also said the new deal included stronger layoff protections, deferred payments for the furlough days (as opposed to "retention bonuses"), and more flexibility in using vacation time to offset an employee's share of healthcare costs.

The PEF membership had voted down the first offer, which was very similar to the deal taken by CSEA, in late September. Andrew Cuomo had been threatening to go ahead with the layoffs if the revised contract wasn't approved.

PEF is the second largest state employee union, after CSEA.

PEF votes down contract offer

ESP from libraryUpdated Tuesday night

The Public Employees Federation, one of the two largest state employee unions, announced today that its membership voted down the Cuomo administration's contract offer 54-46. [PEF]

A Cuomo admin official says "approximately 3,500 layoffs" will start today. [State of Politics]

Andrew Cuomo says he's urging PEF's members to reconsider because "in this economic reality, rising state workforce costs are unsustainable" (full statement pasted after the jump).

The contract offer included a three-year hold on raises, increased employee contributions to healthcare, and furloughs. It also included a no-layoffs pledge. CSEA, the other big state employee union, approved a similar contract. [Cuomo admin] [NYT]

Said PEF president Ken Brynien in a statement: "The decision to reject the tentative agreement was made by our rank-and-file members who clearly feel they are being asked to sacrifice more than others, particularly in light of the pending expiration of the state's millionaire's tax." He calls for the Cuomo admin to continue bargaining and "resist laying off thousands of our members as he has threatened."

The Cuomo admin has been warning that a rejection of the contract could lead to layoffs -- notices had gone out to 700 PEF members ahead of the tentative contract. [TU]

PEF represents 56,000 public employees.

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The Albany residential parking permit task force recommendations

A totally unofficial estimate of the area to be covered by the parking permit system.

The task force developing the Albany residential parking permit system released its report and recommendations last week. The file that we received from Common Councilman Richard Conti, the task force's chair, is embedded after the jump.

The report includes many of the provisions Conti mentioned when we talked with him about the system in June. But there are few bits that caught our eye -- we've highlighted those.

If you live/work/visit the area around the Empire State Plaza, it's worth taking a look at this report. There will be a public comment period after an ordinance is introduced. There's also lobbying/emailing/stopping your council person on the street to talk about suggestions or changes. (And based on the comments from June, it sounds like people will have suggestions.)

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NYCLU sues over alleged GPS tracking of state worker's private car

The New York Civil Liberties Union announced today that it has filed suit in Albany County today against the state Department of Labor for allegedly planting a GPS tracking device on an employee's personal car without a warrant. From the NYCLU press release:

"Your boss can't sit in the backseat of your car and watch you, your wife and your children 24 hours a day, but that's exactly what the Department of Labor did to [Michael] Cunningham," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. "The courts have already prohibited police from using GPS devices to track people without a warrant. We're confident they will hold the government agencies to the same standard. The only thing scarier than having a police officer secretly track you is having your boss secretly track you."

The NYCLU alleges that Cunningham's car was tracked 24/7 in June and July 2008 -- including a family vacation in Massachusetts. It says DOL used the GPS data against Cunningham in its attempt to fire him this past August.

You might recognize Cunningham's name from the story this past spring in the Times Union detailing how he had been put on "house arrest" by the DOL for allegedly filing false time sheets. He was recalled to work in the DOL's offices in May -- but then went out on sick leave because he allegedly suffered depression from being assigned to an isolated office. [TU] [TU]

The NYCLU says Cunningham received a notice on termination on August 24. According to the SeeThroughNY database, Cunningham's salary was $114,961 in 2009 -- though he ended up getting paid a little more than half that.

Paterson says "hand is forced," considering layoffs this year

David Paterson in profileAppearing on the Capitol Pressroom today, David Paterson said he's considering state worker layoffs this year:

... what bothers me is, it's gnawing me, I don't think I should be setting up a layoff plan for the next governor to do. I think if you're going to layoffs, you do them yourself. And so I'm really considering altering [the layoff plan for next year] and starting the layoffs sooner... [in] 2010.
We need $250 million in workforce reductions and we have not come close to that. That's why we tried to do the furloughs, the court told us we couldn't do it. That's why we tried to get five days extra lag pay in negotiation, and the workers wouldn't do it. And so I think our hand is forced here.

Paterson said his administration is "still calculating" how many layoffs might be involved -- the number of early retirees would play a role in the number.

I don't want to lay people off ... This is just the unfortunate situation that I turned up in going back to a little over two years ago when I became governor that it's the worst economic times in the state's history and I've had to do things that go against what I have felt in my heart, the same way those Republican senators had to vote against how they feel about the extenders. But what I'm doing and what I think they're doing and other are doing here at the Capitol is we're trying to adjust to a crisis.

If Paterson tries to layoff state workers, the public employee unions will almost certainly sue because of the no-layoffs agreement they have with him.

Also: The state Senate passed a bill today that would institute a "Question Time with the Prime Minister" style session between the governor and the legislature each month. We'd watch that. [TU Cap Con]

Yep, the Capitol Pressroom advertises on AOA. That's where the the governor said it.

file photo via Paterson press images

Poll: New Yorkers against state worker layoffs and their state senators

NYS Capitol from ESPA few bits from the Siena Poll out today:

+ Sixty-five percent of respondents said they're against David Paterson's plan to lay off 10,000 state workers at the start of next year. A majority of every demographic opposes the layoffs (the closest split: 53 percent of men oppose).

+ When asked if they would like to see their current state senator re-elected, or have someone else get the spot, 50 percent of respondents said "someone else." (Tough talk, New York. Let's see how that turns out in November.)

+ Andrew Cuomo's favorability is down to 59 percent -- but he still crushes the rest of the field.

+ People still seem unsure about Kirsten Gillibrand (40 percent say they'd prefer "someone else" vs. 34 percent who say they'd like to see her elected) -- but check out the don't know/no opinions for her three potential Republican challengers: David Malpass (81), Bruce Blakeman (80), Joe DioGuardi (75).

+ Chuck Schumer's favorability is at 54 percent -- its lowest point ever.

The margin of error was +/- 3.4 percent. Here's a breakdown of the full results.

Judges orders preliminary injunction against state worker furloughs

Updated Friday at 3:09

Federal judge Lawrence Kahn today granted a preliminary injunction against the state worker furloughs and the withholding of the four percent pay raises. The Paterson administration was also blocked from including the furloughs and pay freeze in a future emergency budget extenders.

From the decision (the plaintiffs are the state worker unions and the defendants are the Paterson administration):

Plaintiffs have met their burden of showing that the permanent 20% loss in salary and wages that the furlough plan effects constitutes irreparable harm and that irreparable harm flows from Defendants' failure to pay the contracted-for increases in salaries and wages, which were negotiated years prior to the challenged extender bill, and upon wihch the affected employees have surely relied.

The unions had argued the furloughs and withheld raises violated the Contract Clause of the US Constitution. Among the evidence cited by the judge that the unions have a good case on that account is the state Senate's resolution criticizing the furloughs. From the decision:

To uphold self-interested impairments of contractual rights from suit under the Contract Clause, the Court must see that the impairments are reasonable and necessary, as established by real and demonstrable consideration of needs and alternatives. Instead, the Court observes both a complete repudiation by the Senate of such a judgment and an argument by Defendants that fails to show sufficient consideration and analysis of the kind required by the Contract Clause.

(The Senate grudgingly passed the budget extender that included the furloughs because not doing so would have shut down the government. Neil Breslin was one of the senators who proposed the resolution.)

In a statement, David Paterson says he's "disappointed" by the decision:

Today's ruling was determined in part by evidence submitted by the Legislature in opposition to the extraordinary action I took in proposing furloughs and withholding pay increases. However, both houses of the Legislature agree with my assertion that New York's public employee unions must contribute, along with all other New Yorkers, to solving this extraordinary fiscal crisis. This agreement is reflected in each of its individual budget resolutions, which count $250 million or more in workforce savings in the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Said CSEA's president in a statement: "Today's decision is a victory for the rule of law in New York and should make it clear that no governor can run roughshod over people's rights." Said the president of PEF in a statement: "It is in the best interest of state taxpayers the governor accepts the court's ruling and avoids wasting more time and money needlessly appealing this decision."

The judge's decision is embedded after the jump.

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State worker furloughs blocked

state worker furlough rallyA federal judge has granted a restraining order against the state worker furloughs.

WTEN has posted a copy of the order. Among the orders:

  • It temporarily blocks the Paterson administration from furloughing state employees
  • It also blocks the admin from including another furlough measure in upcoming budget extenders.
  • And, if we're reading it correctly (if), it also blocks the administration from holding back the four percent raises that are part of the union contracts.

A hearing on the issue is scheduled for later this month.

Also: Jack McEneny apparently led some sort of sit-in this afternoon outside Paterson's office to protest inaction on the budget. [State of Politics]

Update: The temporary restraining order is embedded after the jump.

photo from anti-furlough rally earlier this week: Rob Gierthy

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State worker furlough protest

Rob sent along a handful of photos from the bit anti-furlough rally at the Capitol today. The giant inflatable rat made an appearance.

The Troy Record reports there were estimated to be about 3,500 in the crowd. Kaitlyn Ross reports Jack McEneny told the crowd that Assembly is trying to take the furlough measure out of the emergency budget extender. But Erin Billups reports that Ron Canestrari says that's not legally possible.

photo: Rob Gierthy

Ward Stone responds

State wildlife pathologist Ward Stone responded in multiple outlets today to the allegations in last weekend's TU story. From a long Metroland piece, featuring his response and that of many supporters:

Stone said that it was likely that the article was designed, he said, to cause his reputation damage. Each criticism, he said, seemed aimed to injure him personally, and wouldn't hold up under scrutiny. Yet, Stone didn't comment on the allegations that he lives in his office. And, as one of his supporters points out, "I am angry that he gave them so much ammunition to attack him with."

Chet Hardin reports that many of Stone's supporters think the story was a "hit job" arranged because of Stone's work for an environmental group concerned about pollution from the LaFarge cement plant in Ravena.

James Odato, the TU reporter who wrote the Sunday piece, talked about about how the story came about today on The Capitol Pressroom.* Odato said "it came to his attention that there had been allegations" about Stone. He said there were "an awful lot of people out there" who were ready to confirm the allegations. (the segment starts at the 14:30 mark)

Odato also said there was "no indication at all" that the people who tipped him off are related to the LaFarge situation.

Stone also appeared on the show.

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Paterson: furloughs will be in next budget extender

David Paterson in profileDavid Paterson announced that he will include furloughs for state workers in the next emergency budget extender. From the release:

"I have repeatedly called upon the State public employee unions to work with me to achieve critical workforce savings. Because unions have not accepted any proposals to achieve necessary savings, I am left with no other choice but to move forward with this plan. I do not take this action lightly, but it is necessary given the unions' unwillingness to make any sacrifices and I will do whatever is necessary to protect New York's finances."

The Paterson admin says agency heads will be given the discretion to schedule "one furlough day for each of their employees during the week of May 17." Positions in "essential" fields such as health and safety won't be included. Management/confidential employees also won't be subject to the furlough because their annual raises were canceled.

The furloughs are being framed as a cost-saving measure by the administration, but it's likely Paterson is using them to squeeze the legislature. By tacking the furloughs on to the budget extender, he's forcing the legislature to pick between the furloughs (which will irk the powerful state worker unions extraordinarily) and shutting the down government. Or, of course, there's option three: passing a budget.

Paterson is also floating an early retirement incentive. Details after the jump.

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Allegations against Ward Stone

From a story in the TU this weekend about state wildlife pathologist Ward Stone:

During his 41 years as New York's wildlife pathologist, Ward B. Stone has built a statewide reputation as an environmental hero, popular with the media and a rare public servant willing to thumb his nose at authority to defend nature.
What is less known about the 71-year-old scientist at the state's Wildlife Resources Center in southern Albany County, except among co-workers and state investigators, is that he has a long history of allegations of abusive, unethical and inappropriate behavior, ranging from berating colleagues to shooting animals, and has been repeatedly faulted by his frustrated superiors, according to interviews and records.

Read the whole thing. The list of allegations is long. (Also, "Dr. Stone" doesn't have a PhD.)

Stone told Fox23 this weekend that he's had problems with his accusers "Because they aren't good enough to be in pathology." And he told WTEN that he's been "a bargain for the state."

It'll be interesting to see how these allegations play out in the local media -- Stone is a real media fave. He has a rep as a crusader for the public interest -- recently on topics such as concerns about emissions from the Lafarge cement plant in Ravena, and lead in children's toys.

Stone's lab is at the Five Rivers Environmental Center in Delmar.

Updated at 1:20 pm WAMC says it's suspending production of the show that featured Stone, "In Our Backyard." The statement is after the jump.

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Paterson says he never promised to not lay off state workers, Paladino into the pool for governor, police officers suspended, local family going to White House for Easter egg roll

David Paterson on the deal he struck with the state worker unions last year to trade the new, cheaper pension tier for a no-layoffs pledge: "I never promised I would not lay anyone off." Appearing at an Easter egg hunt in Albany Sunday, the governor said: "it's time for everyone to make a sacrifice." [TU] [WNYT]

Buffalo-area real estate developer Carl Paladino is scheduled to announce this afternoon that he's running for governor as a Republican. He says he's willing to spend $10 million of his own money on the campaign. If he elected, he said: "I will chop and I will chop their budget until they stop their nonsense." The Buffalo news describes Paladino as "outspoken" and "a man of contradictions." [YNN] [AP/Troy Record] [AP/Troy Record] [Buffalo News]

An employee of the state Department of Labor has apparently been assigned to sit at home and call into the office twice a day -- at a salary of $115k/year. [TU]

A Rotterdam family has reached a $5.2 million settlement with two obstetricians and Albany Med over a mother's death following a Caesarean section. The family's attorney said the death was caused by a "cascade of errors." As part of the settlement, Albany Med is funding a 20-year lecture series on patient safety and is investing in equipment for additional training. More than a third of births in New York State are via C-section. [Daily Gazette $] [WTEN] [TU] [TU]

The 12-year-old girl authorities said was forced by her mother to climb through pet doors to assist in robberies, in her victim impact statement: "Tell my mom that I will never forgive her." [TU]

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Ford takes shot at Gillibrand and Schumer, TU Center turns profit, second ESP man caver sentenced, Phillip Livingston school up for sale

Harold Ford was in Albany yesterday to make the rounds at the Capitol and ESP -- and take shots at both Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer. Ford said on Talk 1300 that both senators were elected to be independent and not act like a "parakeet" for for the Democratic Party. A Gillibrand spokesman shot back: "The notion that [Ford] is independent is completely contrived." Said one legislative intern to the TU after meeting Ford on the ESP concourse: "He should really look into getting a New York accent." [AP/Troy Record] [NYO] [NYDN] [NYT] [TU]

David Paterson said yesterday that his potential gubernatorial campaign opponents shouldn't be hiding in the "candidate protection program." [NYDN]

Annoyed that the governor keeps calling them back for special sessions, the legislature has decided to just not adjourn -- basically blocking more special sessions. [Daily Politics]

Albany County announced that the Times Union Center, which it owns, turned a profit of almost $1.8 million last year -- up from about $900k the year before. That's the second-highest profit in the facility's 20-year history (not adjusted for inflation). [Albany County] [TU]

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Suspended Schenectady cop arrested again, Cuomo to declare in March?, man arrested for 65th time, local pilot flies supply missions to Haiti

Suspended Schenectady police officer John Lewis has been arrested. Again. It's his sixth arrest in the last two years. In this most recent case, he's accused of causing a car accident in the Ellis Hospital parking lot after he allegedly left the emergency department drunk. The SPD first tried to fire Lewis in 1998 for allegedly using a racial slur. The department's waiting for a decision on its most recent attempt to terminate him. [WNYT] [Daily Gazette $] [TU] [Fox23] [CBS6]

A "source close to [Andrew] Cuomo" tells the Daily News that Andrew Cuomo will officially announce he's running for governor in March. David Paterson's campaign manager says "it's clear Mr. Cuomo is running for governor." [NYDN] [NYDN]

David Paterson is apparently going to try again to get the state worker unions to give up their raises this year. [TU]

Colonie assemblyman -- and outspoken MMA critic -- Bob Reilly says he's willing to support a compromise bill that would legalize ultimate fighting in the state if certain restrictions were placed on the sport. [TU]

UAlbany cancelled a cage fighting match scheduled for the SEFCU Arena this past weekend after a state commission said the event appeared to violate state law. [@albstudentpress] [Daily Gazette $]

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Investigation finds fraud at state forensics lab, Paterson talking about layoffs again, homeless shelters jammed, another bank robbery attempt

A investigation by the state inspector general concludes that Gary Veeder, a former state police forensic scientist, "routinely" failed to conduct a required test on fiber evidence and then lied about performing the test in case records. Twenty-six of the cases were from the Capital Region. State police say it does not appear the fraudulent testing affected any convictions. The IG's report also concludes that Veeder was able to get away with the fraudulent work for years because "laboratory staff's technical, or peer, reviews of Veeder's fiber examinations were substandard, overlooking obvious indications that Veeder had omitted the required fiber test." State police say they're bringing in an outside consultant to address the problem. Veeder is now dead -- he committed suicide at his home in Vorheesville last year. [NYS IG] [Fox23] [WNYT] [NYT] [TU]

The Saratoga County sheriff's deputy accused of forcing an acquaintance to perform a sex act on him while he was on duty has been indicted on 11 new charges. Saratoga County DA James Murphy says three more women have stepped forward to accuse the deputy of similar crimes. [TU] [Saratogian]

Federal prosecutors are predicting jail time for Joe Bruno. [NYDN]

David Paterson says state worker layoffs will be back on the table if state revenues continue to drop. [NYP]

Steven Raucci will stay in jail after a state appeals court affirmed a lower court's decision to deny him bail. The TU and the Daily Gazette are now suing the Schenectady school district for access to its investigation of Raucci. The district has already released a version of the report -- but it was heavily redacted. [Daily Gazette $] [TU] [Daily Gazette $] [TU]

State DEC scientists report that bat populations are down 90 percent in caves where they're studying "white nose syndrome." "We don't have a lot of years to figure this out," says a DEC scientist. [NYS DEC] [TU]

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State school aid cuts detailed, state police report on I-90 shootout, town's bond rating downgraded to junk, the $40,000 tree

The state Division of Budget released a breakdown of how much funding would be held back from each school district as part of David Paterson's cut-for-solvency. Among the Capital Region districts, Albany took the largest hit (in absolute terms) -- $744,643. Albany's interim superintendent says the district had been anticipating the cuts and had already started trimming its budget. David Paterson said this week that the districts could eventually receive the delayed money if the state's fiscal condition improves. NYSUT is leading a coalition that plans to file suit over the delays/cuts. [Daily Politics] [CapCon] [TU] [NYT] [WTEN]

The state Board of Elections has finally approved new voting machines. [TU]

David Paterson is expected to extend anti-discrimination protections to transgender state employees today. [NYT]

A State Police investigation reports that the man at the center of January's shoot-out on I-90 was probably high on PCP and yelled for police to shoot him (which they eventually did -- he later died). They also released video of the incident from a camera in a state trooper's car. State Police say it appears the man was on the run from crimes in Connecticut. One effect of the shoot-out: the state police troop based in Loudonville is now equipped with 48 patrol semi-automatic rifles. [Daily Gazette $] [Troy Record] [Fox23] [WTEN] [CapNews9] [TU]

(there's more)

Pension system for new state workers adjusted, NYRA aims to stop horse slaughter, another bank robbery, Albany Institute scraping financially, dog rescued with help of plumbing camera

David Paterson signed legislation that creates a new tier -- "Tier V" -- for the state employee pension system raises the retirement age and requires workers to contribute more. It's being touted as the biggest change to the pension system in 25 years. Paterson says the change will save New York State $35 billion over the next 30 years. [TU] [Fox23] [Paterson op-ed in TU]

The federal officials who handled the investigation and prosecution of Joe Bruno say they will continue to focus on ethics violations at the state capitol. [TU]

The state is no longer limiting distribution of the H1N1 flu vaccine to people in priority groups. Albany County has scheduled times next week for residents to get the jab. [AP/TU] [Albany County]

According to court documents obtained by the TU, the three teens accused of murdering Richard Bailey allegedly gave police detailed -- and different -- accounts of the night of the murder. [TU]

NYRA announced yesterday that any horse owner who sells their horses to slaughter -- "either knowingly or for lack of due diligence" -- will have their stalls revoked at Saratoga and the other NYRA tracks. [Saratogian] [CapNews9] [Post-Star]

(there's more)

Joe Bruno convicted, state managers upset they're not getting a raise, another bank robbery, cash for clunker appliances, crackdown on deer jacking

A federal jury convicted Joe Bruno on two felony counts of mail fraud. (here's a breakdown of the counts). "It was very hard to convict him when he's done so much for the area," said the juryforewoman to the TU. As he exited the courthouse, Bruno said to reporters: "It's not over till it's over and I think it's far from over." It sounds like Bruno is already planning an appeal. He faces up to 40 years in jail and $500k in fines -- though the judge has broad sentencing discretion. [TU] [Troy Record] [TU] [Troy Record] [Buffalo News] [NYT]

The Albany County legislature has approved a budget that includes a 5.9 percent tax increase* -- and keeps 100 jobs that were slated to be cut. (*The Record says the legislature approved a budget with a 5.4 percent tax increase, as opposed to county exec Mike Breslin's proposed 5.9 percent.) [TU] [CapNews9] [Troy Record]

Schenectady police say a man was shot on Hamburg street early this morning (map). [TU]

State management and confidential employees are upset that they're not getting raises -- even though the unionized people they supervise are. [TU]

(there's more)

State Senate votes down same-sex marriage bill, Bruno trial still deliberating, alleged elderly safe robber arrested, Albany school district considers mid-year job cuts

The state Senate voted down the same-sex marriage bill 38-24. Supporters of the bill apparently thought the vote would be closer. Eight Democrats joined every Republican in the chamber in voting "no." Here's a listing of how each senator voted. [TU] [NYT] [NYDN] [CapCon]

The state Senate passed the $2.7 billion deficit reduction bill. David Paterson criticized the legislature's cuts for falling "well short" of what's actually necessary to cover the budget gap. The Senate also passed bills that reform the state's public authorities (such as the Thruway Authority) and change the pension rules for new state employees. [TU] [Daily Politics] [NYT] [NYT]

Joe Bruno Trial: the jury is still deliberating. The jury asked to have testimony read back yesterday from Jared Abbruzzese, the Loudonville businessman who bought an overvalued horse from Bruno apparently to make up for a canceled consulting contract. Oh, no: the trial seems to be affecting Uncle Joe's perma-tan (if not his loquaciousness). [TU] [Troy Record] [NYT]

After the Saratoga Springs' police and fire chiefs announced their retirements this week, Ron Kim -- the outgoing Saratoga Springs public safety commissioner -- says he's moving to hire their replacements. That's not going over well with Richard Wirth, who become public safety commissioner on January 1. [TU] [Saratogian]

(there's more)

Legislature goes home with no budget deal, state worker buyout extended, all sorts of rumors about Rudy, student accused of lighting firecrackers in school cafeteria

The state legislature has gone home -- and there's no deal to fix the budget gap. David Paterson said he and the state Senate are still stuck on proposed cuts for health care and education funding. Some senators are floating a plan that would "spin up" money for this year's budget, which is apparently just another way of saying borrowing from next year's budget. It looks like the legislature will be back on Monday. [NYO] [TU] [Daily Politics] [Susan Arbetter] [NYO]

The Paterson Administration is extending the $20,000 state worker buyout. [TU]

Joe Bruno Trial: A Senate aide testified yesterday that Bruno allocated "member items" (you know, pork) to other senators based on political considerations (this was apparently something akin to actually acknowledging the elephant in the room). NYT has strung together bits of info from the trial that it argues provide "vivid and sometimes captivating detail how easily official duties and private business can overlap for lawmakers in Albany." [TU] [NYT]

One side effect of the Bruno trial: the Senate is apparently now short on computers. [NYO]

The Albany Convention Center Authority released plans and renderings for the facility this morning. [TU]

(there's more)

Paterson's proposed budget cuts

paterson budget cut presserUpdated Friday morning

David Paterson released his slate of proposed cuts today aimed at closing the $2 $3 $4 billion (it seems to just keep going up) budget gap.

The Paterson Administration says the plan would cut $5 billion over the next two years (including $3 billion this year).

(there's more)

Paterson order state agencies to cut back, proposed Saratoga budget includes paid parking, natural gas prices down, teachers say they were secretly videotaped

David Paterson has ordered state agencies to cut their non-personnel expenses (travel, equipment, office supplies) by about 11 percent -- a move that his administration says will save the state $500 million. Paterson has been projecting that the state will face a $3 billion budget gap this year. He's been criticized for not setting an overarching lists of cuts -- but the governor says he's letting the legislature "participate in formulating that menu." [NYS DoB] [NYT] [AP/Troy Record] [TU]

The witness lists for both the prosecution and defense in the Joe Bruno trial include more than 100 names (with a lot of overlap). The lists include current state senators, current and former state officials, legislative staffers and two journalists. [Troy Record] [TU] [NYT]

The budget proposed by Saratoga Springs' finance commissioner includes a 7.8 percent tax increase, 50 job cuts and a plan for paid parking on city streets and lots. [Saratoga Springs] [Fox23] [TU] [Saratogian]

The first batch of H1N1 vaccine arrived in the Capital Region yesterday. Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties have all received limited quantities (in the hundreds of doses). Albany Med received 1000 doses. The focus on flu this year has apparently prompted a lot of interest in flu shots -- and local doctors' offices report that they they're having trouble getting shipments of the regular seasonal flu vaccine. [Daily Gazette $] [Fox23] [Saratogian] [Schenectady County] [CapNews9] [WTEN] [WNYT]

(there's more)

Special prosecutor appointed for Troy absentee ballot case, Breslin reportedly calls Espada a crook, healthcare workers protest flu shot requirement, brown bats threatened by fungus

A special prosecutor has been appointed to look into the allegations of absentee ballot fraud in Troy. The city housing authority has also locked down the office an employee accused of participating in the alleged scheme, which would have benefited Democrats. Democratic city councilman Clem Campana said yesterday he's "done nothing wrong." And the Rensselaer County Democratic chairman struck back at Republican Bob Mirch, who brought the alleged to scheme light, saying, "Mirch wrote the book on absentee ballot corruption." [Troy Record] [TU] [CapNews9] [WTEN]

Neil Breslin reportedly told a church crowd in Bethlehem this past weekend that Pedro Espada is a "crook" who "should be in jail." He also apparently told the crowd that Espada doesn't actually live in his Bronx district. Breslin has been talking recently about organizing a reform group in the state Senate because he's "embarrassed" by what's gone on in the chamber. [PolitickerNY] [Jay Gallagher] [Daily Politics]

De Von Callicutt, the 19-year-old accused of firing that shot that killed UAlbany student Richard Bailey, showed up in court yesterday without a lawyer. That's the second time his arraignment has been delayed for that reason. Callicutt is already in state prison for a different crime. [TU] [WTEN] [CapNews9]

Schenectady police have arrested a man for last September's Albany St. murder. [TU]

Personal information for 300,000 state and local employees could be at risk because of a security breach at Express Scripts, the company that manages pharmacy benefits for the Empire Plan. Hackers apparently stole the information last year and have been trying to extort the company. Letters notifying people of the breach went out to some local state workers during the past two weeks. [TU] [CNET] [Fox23] [CBS6]

Saratoga Springs' school superintendent says the district may reconsider its ban on elementary and middle school students biking or walking to school. [TU]

(there's more)

Fight over funds for homeless in Troy, Ellis to continue mayoral run, attempted abduction reported in Schenectady, Cohoes goes flashy

A spokesman for Harry Tutunjian says the Troy mayor's move to turn down $845k in federal money aimed at helping the homeless was "politically courageous." The mayor's administration has said the city doesn't have the money necessary to hire someone to administer the funding -- though critics have suggested the move is political payback. [TU] [Troy Record]

It appears that Corey Ellis will continue his Albany mayoral campaign on the Working Families in the general election. Ellis lost the Democratic primary to Jerry Jennings 56-44. [TU]

Leif Engstrom has come out as the winner the Democratic primary for the newly created job of Albany city auditor. There's no general election opponent, so the job is his. [TU]

A Marist poll reports that a majority of New Yorkers don't want David Paterson to run for governor -- but they also would rather not have Barack Obama be the one to push Paterson out. [Marist] [Daily Politics] [PolitickerNY]

In a radio interview yesterday David Paterson basically said that Andrew Cuomo would have bad poll numbers, too, if he were governor right now. [PolitickerNY]

PEF -- one of the two biggest state worker unions -- says it will be lobbying David Paterson to approve more $20k buyouts for its members. [TU]

RPI says it now appears five students have come down with the H1N1 influenza. The school has set up 90 isolation rooms to handle a potential flu outbreak. In an email, the school's medical director said "the number of cases could change very quickly." Sage also reported this week that two of its students have H1N1. [CapNews9] [Troy Record] [RPInsider] [CBS6]

(there's more)

Rumors of Obama visit to the area, Paterson says layoffs on the table, more complaints about student behavior, a big garage sale mistake

It's primary day. Polls are open from noon to 9 pm. If you're not sure where to vote, you can look it up at the State Board of Elections site.

Rumors are swirling that President Obama will make an appearance the site of the GlobalFoundries chip fab project in Malta. A source tells the TU that the Obama Administration is "considering" it. WNYT reports that the Secret Service has been doing advance work. A source tells CBS6 that the White House has been interested in the chip fab and how community colleges are involved in training workers. A spokesman for GloFo told the Post-Star that he didn't know "anything definite." [TU] [WNYT] [CBS6] [Post-Star]

Troy Police say they're still trying to piece together the details of the incident that led to a man getting shot in the head. Neighbors say the man had told the group of teenagers in the street to quiet down before the shooting. One neighbor says the shooting "could have been prevented" because residents called police before it happened. Six teens have been arrested for fighting outside the house. [Troy Record] [TU] [WTEN] [WNYT]

The man police say was the shooter in the Second Street murder last month in Albany says he heard shots at the party and ran away. [TU]

David Paterson said yesterday that "everything is on the table" -- including state worker layoffs and furloughs -- in the discussion about how to close the $2.1 billion midyear budget gap. He's called a leaders meeting to work on the cuts. [PolitickerNY] [Daily Politics]

(there's more)

Friend says man killed by police suffered from mental illness, unease over state worker buyouts, judge pleads guilty to DWAI, big year for apples

A family friend says the man shot and killed by Schenectady police this past weekend suffered from mental illness. The man's brother says the SPD should have used non-lethal force. [Daily Gazette $] [CapNews9]

Workers at GE Energy in Schenectady approved a new contract with the company that includes no layoffs for two years -- and clears the way for a new battery factory that could add 350 jobs. In return, the union is forgoing cost of living raises for the next two years. [WNYT] [CapNews9] [TU]

The Hudson River dredging project has started up again after tests indicated that PCB levels in the water had dropped below the set limit. The EPA is blaming fast-moving currents for the spike. Officials from some downstream communities say the EPA was slow to notify them of the test results. [Troy Record] [TU] [Post-Star]

New York State has finally paid the property taxes it owed on The Track -- almost $478k. The payment was six months late. Apparently the state is exempt from having to pay late fees. The state started paying property taxes on The Track after it took ownership of the property from NYRA. [Daily Gazette $] [Saratogian] [TU] [Post-Star]

Lack of information about the $20k retirement buyout is upsetting state workers. [TU]

(there's more)

Arrest in Saratoga kidnapping case, suit alleges Raucci cut off heat to classroom, assemblyman says four day week a "no-brainer," Union disputes party school tag

Saratoga Springs police say they have arrested the man whom they allege is responsible for the kidnapping and attempted rape of a woman last Thursday night (map). The man -- who's an illegal immigrant -- has been charged with felony kidnapping and felony robbery (he's accused of taking off with $500). Police continued to praise the woman for her moxie in being able to escape from the attack. Authorities say they're investigating whether the man was involved with another similar crime in Lake George. [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette] [CapNews9] [Post-Star] [TU]

Yet another lawsuit filed over the alleged conduct of Steven Raucci accuses the former Schenectady school district employee of cutting off the heat to a teacher's classroom after her husband -- who worked for Raucci -- indicated he might challenge Raucci for a union leadership position. [Daily Gazette]

David Paterson has requested that the USDA declare 17 counties, including the Capital Region, agricultural disaster areas. The damp, cloudy summer has been miserable for farmers. [CBS6] [Daily Gazette]

New York State's new education commissioner is David Steiner, who was a dean at Hunter College in NYC. He said yesterday that he will focus on improving teacher performance. [NYT] [TU]

(there's more)

Report: ambulance delay a result of "human error," state AG's office takes up ESP man cave case, GE reportedly building new plant in Schenectady, it's huuuuuge

The city report on the delayed ambulance response to the scene of a fatal crash between a car and a child on a bike in Albany in May concludes that "a single human error" was responsible for the delay. The dispatch error held up the city from calling another service, said the chair of the report task force. The report also concluded that a faster response would not have saved the child. [TU] [Fox23] [CapNews9]

Police are looking for a man who allegedly kidnapped a woman in Saratoga Springs Thursday night and attempted to sexually assault her. The woman, who had been forced at gunpoint to strip, escaped. Police credited her with being "brave and resourceful." The SSPD says it will release a statement about the case today. [TU] [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian]

The ESP Man Cave case has been turned over to the state attorney general's office -- and felony charges are possible. [TU]

It seems that David Paterson's gubernatorial campaign is something less than fiscally disciplined, spending lavishly on consultants, hotels and -- in one case -- joke writers. That largesse apparently did not extend to reimbursing the state for airfare, though. [NYT] [TU]

(there's more)

Attorney calls ESP man cave allegations overblown, SPAC ticket surchage floated, Tedisco proposes "Madoff Bill," DEC building urinals criticized for backsplash

An attorney for one of the men accused of setting up a "man cave" in the ESP for smoking pot instead described the space as "a break room" and called the allegations "overblown." One of the accused men has a criminal record -- and there are some questions about whether the state knew that before hiring him. [TU] [CBS6]

The Albany Common Council has passed a resolution that calls on public agencies to not ask a person about his/her immigration status if that person is "not posing a threat." The resolution is non-binding. [TU] [CBS6] [Fox23]

Saratoga Springs' finance commissioner has floated the idea of tacking on a $2 surcharge to rock and pop concert tickets at SPAC. The fee could bring in as much as $500k. SPAC's executive director said the venue is "firmly opposed" to the proposed fee and called it "an onerous tax." [Daily Gazette] [TU] [Saratogian]

The Troy Fire Department says mayor Harry Tutunjian has asked it to tour the RPI campus -- EMPAC in particular -- to get a better sense of the layout of campus buildings. The TFD has been lobbying for RPI to pay a public safety fee to fund additional fire coverage of the campus. [TU]

(there's more)

The ESP is smokin'!

smokin ESP

Duuuude.

This is the kind of story you just can't make up. From a press release from the state Inspector General's office:

A state janitor was arrested and his boss suspended this week amid allegations that they created a hidden party lounge at an Empire State Plaza garage to sell drugs, smoke pot and sleep for hours during work shifts.

This hidden lounge allegedly contained "couches, TV and scales to weigh marijuana." The press release actually uses the term "man cave."

The janitor is also accused of using his Office of General Services truck to make pot deliveries to other state workers during his shifts. Both he and his supervisor have been suspended without pay.

(Thanks, CB!)

No progress in state Senate, mid-year budget change could be necessary, alleged pharmacy robber nabbed, stimulating the sign economy, hunting for what's left of Henry Hudson

The state Senate had two more in-and-out sessions this past weekend. Negotiations are apparently going on behind the scenes. The big sticking point remains leadership of the chamber -- specifically Pedro Espada's role as president pro tem. David Paterson is reportedly telling Democrats they may just have to get over it. [Newsday] [Daily Politics] [Buffalo News] [NYDN]

State comptroller Tom DiNapoli says it's looking like the state will be short on money later this year -- and a mid-year budget adjustment will probably be necessary. Of course, the would be virtually impossible with the state Senate locked in its current mess. [NYDN]

A state audit of the Schenectady Metroplex Authority reports that the org isn't tracking whether its investment projects are meeting job creation targets and that it's leaving parking money on the table. The authority disputed many of the findings -- and said it's purposefully not charging for parking. [Daily Gazette] [TU]

Is it a coincidence that the owner of the construction company with a virtual lock on big projects in the City of Albany is BFF with the mayor and police chief? [TU]

(there's more)

Paterson threatens state Senate, landfill expansion needs another permit, Troy dog park controversy, another pizza person mugged, gourmet market coming to Latham

The state Senate was in session for all of five minutes yesterday -- and the Republicans weren't even there. [Daily Politics]

David Paterson has called another "extraordinary" session for today. If senators don't show, he says he'll move to withhold their pay. He's also threatening to send the State Police after missing senators. A Brooklyn senator responded to Paterson's threats by calling him a "coward" who "will not be returning as governor." Leaders of both caucuses say their memberships will be at the Capitol today. [TU] [Daily Politics] [NYT] [Buffalo News]

A business run by Pedro Espada, one of the senators who set this whole circus in motion, owes almost $350k in back taxes. In 2007, Espada made almost $460k at the org, which gets funding from the state. [TU]

Even if the DEC approves the Albany landfill expansion, the project will still have to get the OK from the Army Corps of Engineers (though it won't stop the landfill from being piled higher). [TU]

(there's more)

State worker layoffs averted

ESP from libraryFrom the Paterson Administration press release, hot off the web (emphasis added):

This agreement when fully adopted will save taxpayers approximately $440 million over the next two years, which is approximately the amount that was projected to be saved through the proposed workforce reduction plan announced in March. In addition, the unions will support the imposition of a new Tier V in the Retirement System, a proposal the Governor has championed since last year.

The agreement will also reduce the state workforce by approximately 7,000 positions through a targeted separation incentive, aggressive attrition and the elimination of positions that are funded but are currently vacant. In addition, a voluntary reduction in work schedule will be implemented to achieve cost reductions.

According to the release, the "targeted separation incentive" is a "one-time $20,000 retirement incentive payment [that] will be offered to approximately 4,500 employees." The incentives will only be given to people who are in jobs scheduled to be eliminated. About 2,500 jobs that are currently unfilled are also scheduled to be permanently eliminated.

There's also this part, of which we're not really sure the meaning:

Voluntary Reduction in Work Schedule (Net Two-year Savings: $156 million). Each union will be provided with a proportional savings target in line with the size of their respective portion of the workforce, which they will work in concert with their membership to achieve through a voluntary reduction in work schedule.

Anyone know what that part means? In a comment, Brian says this part of the deal means the unions will be asking members to take voluntary unpaid leave. Chrisck says it's more along the lines of part-time scheduling.

Update: Statement from CSEA and PEF (short story: they're claiming victory)

Update II: Here are guidelines from 2000 for the "Voluntary Reduction in Work Schedule." Quick quote:

Voluntary Reduction in Work Schedule (VRWS) is a program that allows employees to voluntarily trade income for time off. The VRWS program continues to be available to eligible annual-salaried employees in the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services Unit (PS&T) and to eligible annual-salaried employees designated Management/Confidential (M/C).

(Thanks, Emma!)

Deal to avoid state worker layoffs "expected" today, Albany landfill expansion approval could come soon, Rensselaer County computers being de-wormed, UAlbany getting new building

The announcement of a deal between the state worker unions and the Paterson administration to avoid layoffs is "expected" to come today. The deal will reportedly include $20k buyouts for employees eligible for retirement -- which has some observers asking where the money is going to come from. The deal also apparently includes a new, less generous tier in the state pension system. [NYDN] [TU]

It's looking like the state DEC could approve the expansion of the Albany landfill soon. The dump is projected to be full before the end of this year -- six years sooner than originally planned. [TU]

The search has been called off for the man who went missing in the Mohawk on Sunday. A friend who accompanied the man that day said strong currents tipped their canoe. Rains earlier that week had increased the Mohawk's flow that weekend. [Troy Record] [TU] [USGS]

Among Scott Murphy's first slate of requested Congressional earmarks (pork): $2 million for a new Saratoga Springs public safety building. Murphy has posted his full list of requested earmarks online. [Saratogian] [Post-Star]

Another potential 2010 primary challenger to Kirsten Gillibrand has announced she won't be running against KG. [NYDN]

David Paterson's new top advisor described himself as being "like the 300-pound offensive tackle blocking for the quarterback called Governor David Paterson." [NYT]

(there's more)

Deal to avoid state worker layoffs reportedly coming together, police say men posed as cops, questions about Alive at Five alcohol testing, McCafe coming soon

"People briefed on details" tell the TU that the state worker unions and the Paterson administration are working on a deal that would avoid the planned layoffs -- by offering $20k buyouts to employees near retirement and adding a new tier to the state pension system. [TU]

A bill that would legalize mixed martial arts fighting in New York State made it of Assembly committee yesterday, despite the opposition of local Assemblymen Bob Reilly and Jack McEneny. "Violence begets violence," said Reilly. A vote in the full Assembly is expected this session. [TU] [Fox23] [CapNews9]

The "project labor agreement" that will guarantee union wages on the Luther Forest chip fab construction was officially announced yesterday. The agreement includes a no-strike pledge from local unions. GlobalFoundries has said it was waiting for such an agreement to be in place before starting construction. The project could include as many as 1,900 construction jobs. [Daily Gazette] [Biz Review] [Post-Star]

Troy police say two men posed as cops and used a starter's pistol to briefly kidnap two teenagers yesterday. The incident might have had something do with the men having their supply of free coffee at a Dunkin Donuts cut off. One of alleged kidnappers once posed as a cop back in the 90s -- for altruistic reasons. [Troy Record] [Fox23] [CBS6] [TU]

(there's more)

Chip fab construction could start soon, bottle bill postponed, new principal for Albany High, fee going up for flying out of ALB

GlobalFoundries and labor unions have reportedly worked out a deal that includes the payment of union wages at the construction site of the Luther Forest chip fab -- whether workers are union or not. GloFo has been waiting to close on the land for the fab until it had such a deal in place. The agreement is apparently not officially a done deal -- though both the company and the unions say they're "very close." If the agreement does comes together, the initial stages of construction at the site could begin in a few weeks. [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Post-Star] [Biz Review]

The emergency preparedness drill involving that low-flying helicopter started yesterday in Albany County. The drill's scenario includes the "detonation" of two radioactive "dirty bombs" in downtown Albany. About 600 people from local, state and federal governments are involved in the training. [TU] [Troy Record] [Daily Gazette] [Fox23]

A federal judge has postponed the start of New York's "better bottle bill" (which adds bottled water to list of beverages that require a 5 cent deposit) until next April. The judge also tossed the bill's New York State-specific bar code provision. [AP/TU] [NYT]

It sounds ethics reform for the state legislature is going to stall because Sheldon Silver is not on board. [NYT]

The two largest state worker unions say they're in "discussions" with the Paterson administration about the planned layoffs. [CBS6]

(there's more)

More criticism of ambulance response times, Tuffey's credentials quesitoned, fewer state worker layoffs predicted, students not allowed to ride bikes to school, bear sightings in Troy

The head of the Albany firefighters' union says his members have complained "several times" about slow response times for Mohawk Ambulance. The service is under scrutiny after it took 25 minutes for an ambulance to show up at the scene of a fatal crash between a kid on a bike and a car last week. [TU]

A TU review of records indicates that Albany police chief James Tuffey is not actually licensed to be a police officer -- though, by law, the doesn't preclude him from being chief. Common Council president Shawn Morris -- who's also running for mayor -- says there's "a strong expectation across the board that the police chief is a police officer" and has called for Tuffey to go on leave while the matter is investigated. That TU investigation also turned up questions about whether Tuffey has a permit to carry a gun. [TU] [Fox23] [TU]

"Experts" say only a few hundred state workers will actually be laid off as part of the state budget cuts. The state Department of Budget reports that 1,200 of the 8,700 planned job cuts have already happened because of the hiring freeze and retirements. [Newsday]

A Greenfield landlord has been charged with murder after police say he stabbed a tenant last week. [Saratogian]

(there's more)

Assembly passes same-sex marriage bill, GE battery plant coming to Capital Region, NY's top court says no police GPS without warrant, condo slump in Saratoga, the $500 wedding

The state Assembly passed a bill that would allow same-sex marriage. The vote was 89-52 -- that's four more "yes" votes than in 2007. Five members who had voted "no" two year ago voted "yes" this time around. The lobbying focus now shifts to the state Senate, where there's currently no vote scheduled on the bill. The Senate sponsor of the bill said last night the he thinks he has enough votes to pass the measure. [TU] [Daily Politics] [NYT] [Planet Albany]

GE announced that it will build a plant to manufacture special rechargeable batteries somewhere in the Capital Region. The plant will employ 350 people and will cost $100 million -- $15 million of which the state is chipping in. The exact location of the plant has yet to be determined. Saratoga County officials are hoping the plant will land at the Luther Forest tech campus or NYSERDA's Saratoga Technology & Energy Park. [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian]

Former state health commissioner Antonia Novello was arraigned yesterday in Albany County Court on 20 count indictment that alleges she took advantage of her staffers while she headed up the health department. She could get as many 12 years in prison. An earlier state inspector general report concluded that Novello had run up almost $50k in staff overtime for things such as driving her to the mall, watering her plants and arranging her furniture. Novello's case is being compared to former state comptroller Alan Hevesi, who resigned after it came out he had been using state employees to chauffeur his wife. Novello's lawyer she's being targeted for political reasons. [TU] [AP/Daily Gazette] [NYP] [NYDN]

(there's more)

Officials expect statewide spread of swine flu, Murphy to be sworn in, Vick offer "a big mistake," paid parking proposal for Saratoga, ice cream truck pulls crazy U-ee

State health commissioner Richard Daines says he expects swine flu to eventually spread to every part of the state -- and DoH is already testing suspected cases in a handful of upstate counties. There have been 45 confirmed cases in New York State so far -- all of them in NYC. Said David Paterson yesterday: "This not time for alarm, but it's time to be alert." [WXXI] [TU]

State budget director Laura Anglin says this year's budget is on track to stay even -- if the planned state worker job cuts go through. The next few years aren't looking good, though. [NYS DoB] [TU] [NYT]

About 8,700 state worker job cuts, the Division of the Budget says it's still reviewing plans submitted by various agencies. [TU]

Scott Murphy is scheduled to be sworn in today at the US Capitol. [Daily Gazette]

The Albany Firebirds say the team's contract offer to Michael Vick was a marketing ploy -- and, in the words of the team's owner, "a big mistake."

(there's more)

State worker unions confront Paterson at Gideon Putnam, Murphy lead over Tedisco widens, why the Dalai Lama reconsidered, bank knocked over with electric drill, Saratoga grid could get smart, Dr. Wow

The state worker unions protested the planned job cuts outside the state Democratic Rural Conference Friday evening at the Gideon Putnam. David Paterson stopped outside the meetings to talk with the protesters -- though one union rep called the impromptu session "absolutely unproductive." Paterson later told a news conference that the unions haven't been willing to "any sort of effort that would help us balance our budget." The unions say the state save money by cutting the use of outside contractors. [Post-Star] [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian]

Police say the gunman in the Union St. shooting last week was the boyfriend of the murdered man's estranged wife. Police say the shooter shot himself in Niskayuna after he saw police at his apartment. They say they're not sure what motivated the incident. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

The unofficial count from the New York State Board of Elections has Scott Murphy up 273 votes on Jim Tedisco in the NY20 special election. [NYS BoE]

A rep for the Dalai Lama says the Buddhist spiritual leader has decided to come to Albany because he "feels committed to supporting the expression of worthy ideals." The Dalai Lama had cancelled an earlier appearance because of the negative publicity associated with the Ethical Humanitarian Foundation, the sponsoring organization. EHF is connected to a Clifton Park executive leadership program that's been accused of cult-like tactics. [TU] [Forbes]

A plant that processes hazardous waste in Cohoes was grossly under reporting its emissions for years, according to an analysis of EPA numbers by the TU. [TU]

Police say the human skeleton found in Rotterdam near the Mohawk last week belonged to a man who was reported missing in 2005. They say they're not sure what caused the man's death. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

State police say the guy who robbed the Key Bank on Hoosick St in Troy on Friday might have used to an electric drill for the stick-up.

New York State's unemployment benefits are not indexed to inflation -- and have not been raised by the state legislature for more than a decade. [NYT]

An Albany police commander says a small group of young people are responsible for about 75 percent of gun violence in the city. [TU]

(there's more)

State worker unions say they're trying to make Paterson unpopular, texting while driving ban passed, Saratoga Rec center moving forward, man accused of stuffing video games into stroller

The state worker unions say they're trying to use condemnation and negative ads to push David Paterson's approval numbers down so that he changes his mind about the layoffs. Note to the unions: Paterson's approval ratings are already about as low as they can go. [YouTube] [NYT] [Q Poll]

The Paterson administration is looking to extend the time people in the state can receive unemployment checks. The "first wave" of people seeing their unemployment benefits expire is scheduled to arrive next month. [TU] [Troy Record]

Scott Murphy is up 25 votes on Jim Tedisco in the 20th Congressional District special election, according to the latest unofficial numbers from the New York State Board of Elections. The Tedisco is campaign is asking the state to extend the deadline for military ballots another 15 days (the deadline was yesterday) -- 205 of the 998 military ballots mailed out have been returned so far. The special election saga took another turn yesterday when the state Supreme Court judge who will rule on disputed absentee ballots was out yesterday for medical reasons. [NYS BoE] [Planet Albany] [Daily Gazette] [TU]

The Albany County legislature passed a ban on texting while driving by a vote of 31-1. The bill won't take effect until six months after it's signed by Albany County exec Mike Breslin. The fine for violating the ban is $150. [TU] [CBS6]

(there's more)

State worker union says it rejected another no-layoff deal, horse breeder charged with animal cruelty, whupping charges lessened, bakery's sales up with help of cupcakes and Facebook

Note: the TU's site was loading erratically, if at all, for us this morning.

One of the state worker unions says it rejected a deal offered by the Paterson administration in which the creation of a new pension tier would guarantee no layoffs. According to many reports last week, the Paterson administration has offered a handful of deals involving cuts in raises or other concessions in return for a no-layoffs guarantee. The unions have rejected these deals. [TU]

As of Friday afternoon the unofficial count from the New York State Board of Elections has Scott Murphy up 35 votes on Jim Tedisco in the 20th Congressional District special election. The counting of absentee ballots continues this week. Democrats in Columbia County accused Republicans participating in the count there of "acting in bad faith." What happens if the election ends up in a tie at the end of all this counting? You guessed it: we get to do it all over again. [NYS BoE] [TU] [Troy Record]

The horse breeder accused of not providing proper nourishment to horses on a farm in Coxsackie was formally charged with animal cruelty on Friday. A human society official described the farm as a "puppy mill" for horses. [AP/Saratogian] [TU]

The four Schenectady teens who recently committed suicide were linked by a common leader of sorts who was the the first to kill herself. [Daily Gazette]

(there's more)

State worker union turns down no-layoff deal, Paterson pushes for same-sex marriage bill, Hearst cancels guild contract at TU, rescued animals pack humane society shelter

CSEA says it has rejected a deal offered by the Paterson administration in which state workers would give up this year's scheduled three percent raise in return for a no-layoffs guarantee. Liz Benjamin reports there may be a "pay lag" agreement coming together behind the scenes, though. Also: as promised, David Paterson has sent 10 percent of his salary ($18k) back to the state. [AP/TU] [Daily Politics] [TU]

David Paterson said yesterday he thinks the public will accept same-sex marriage and he wants to see a same-sex marriage bill come up for a vote in the state Senate -- whether it's guaranteed to pass or not. That call didn't go over all that well with same-sex marriage advocates. [NYT] [Daily Politics]

The state budget has lead to cuts in open hours at state parks this season. The local regional state park director calls the cutbacks "fairly unprecedented." Among the local consequences: the Peerless Pool will be closed on Tuesdays (the day it gets the smallest number of visitors, according to officials) and the beach at Grafton Lakes will be closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays. [TU] [Troy Record] [Saratogian] [Post-Star] [Daily Gazette]

As of this morning, the New York State Board of Elections was reporting that Scott Murphy had an eight vote lead over Jim Tedisco in the 20th Congressional District special election. The count of absentee ballots will continue today. The NY 20th may be missing out on federal stimulus money because it doesn't have a House member right now. [NYSBoE] [AP/TU]

(there's more)

State worker unions talk trash about Paterson, special election absentee ballot count starts, big new contract for Siena basketball coach, Troy dog park become partisan issue

The heads of the two biggest state worker unions, CSEA and PEF, met with David Paterson yesterday about the planned layoffs and it appears not much happened -- except for some trash talking. CSEA president Danny Donohue said the governor "needs a good psychiatrist or at least he should share the drugs that he's on because he's not making any sense to any of our members." Paterson's people called Donohue's remarks "inappropriate" and said they "reflect a lack of respect for the taxpayers of New York." The two unions are also upset that Paterson tried to go over their heads by sending a letter directly to state workers. [TU] [Troy Record] [Fox23] [Biz Review]

The "long, tedious" count of the absentee ballots in the 20th Congressional District special election has started. Every ballot is being examined by an election worker and observers from both campaigns. An elections commissioner says the process could take as long as three weeks. [Daily Gazette] [TU] [Post-Star]

State police and animal protection groups raided a horse farm in Coxsackie yesterday and found 177 malnourished horses. The animals belong to trainer Ernie Paragallo, whose horses have won more than $20 million in purse money over the last 12 years. The condition of Paragallo's horses has been a concern of animal groups since at least 2007. [TU] [NYT] [NYT]

David Paterson says he's planning to introduce legislation that would make same-sex marriages legal in New York. Previous bills have passed in the Assembly, but stalled in the state Senate. [Gannett/TU]

(there's more)

Paterson administration details state worker layoffs, two banks robbed, popular track coach officially fired, common council urges census recognition of same-sex marriages

The Paterson administration released a list detailing how many jobs are to be cut at which state agencies as part of the state worker layoffs -- the biggest cuts are at Corrections and OMRDD. The governor also announced that no management/confidential employees will be cut because they're raises have been canceled, thus saving the state money. Paterson sent a letter to unionized state workers yesterday calling on them to urge their unions to accept wage concessions as a way to avoid layoffs. [TU] [AP/Troy Record] [WNYT]

The Tedisco and Murphy campaigns have been calling absentee voters in the 20th Congressional District in an attempt to find out how they voted in the special election. The count in the race is currently at Tedisco +17. The counting of absentee ballots will start today. [TU] [CapNews9]

A national suicide expert told a community forum in Schenectady last night that kids in the city have told him that they feel anxious and have problems at home. Said one teen who spoke up at the forum, "We need help." Four Schenectady High students have killed themselves during the last five months. [Daily Gazette] [TU]

Two Key Banks in Albany were robbed yesterday, apparently by two different people. Cameras in the Key at Washington and Lark caught a picture of the robber's face. [TU] [Troy Record]

(there's more)

State budget voting held up, Murphy's lead down to 25 votes, TPD split over whether RPI student was murdered, bathtub full of drugs allegedly found in doctor's home

Voting on the state budget bills hit a snag yesterday when Democratic Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson had to return to the hospital because of pneumonia (the Dems need her vote for the required 32 "yes" votes). The Assembly finished passing all the budget bills yesterday morning -- though a handful of Democrats, most of them from upstate, voted "no." State comptroller Tom DiNapoli, also a Democrat, publicly criticized the budget for relying too much on federal stimulus and other temporary money. [TU] [AP/Saratogian] [NYT] [Biz Review]

There still seems to be a lot that's unknown about the 8,900 state worker layoffs David Paterson has ordered. [Saratogian]

Scott Murphy now leads Jim Tedisco by just 25 votes in the 20th Congressional District special election after a re-check of some voting machines. Counting of absentee ballots won't be begin until Monday at the earliest -- Republican hold an enrollment edge in the pool of absentee ballots. About 165,000 people voted in Tuesday's election, the largest turnout in a US special election in two decades according to a Skidmore prof. Both campaigns are saying publicly that they'll come out on top. [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian] [Post-Star] [TU]

Albany Common Councilman -- and mayoral candidate -- Corey Ellis has called for the council to issue subpoenas as part of its ghost ticket investigation. [CapNews9]

(there's more)

State worker layoffs planned as budget gap grows, Tedisco-Murphy debate, Wellington demolition begins, converting ounces to grams

There were two (gulp!) developments yesterday regarding the state budget. First, state leaders announced the projected budget gap for the next fiscal year is now $16.2 billion -- $2 billion more than earlier projections. And then the Paterson administration announced it plans to cut nearly 9,000 state jobs in an effort to save almost $500 million over two years. [TU] [TU]

A state Inspector General's investigation has concluded that a group of Pataki political appointees in the state Department of Taxation and Finance got themselves into protected civil service jobs by tailoring tests and job requirements specially for their own resumes. [TU]

Andrew Cuomo says he's planning to run for re-election as state Attorney General next year -- not governor. "I'm very happy being the attorney general," Cuomo told the crowd last night at a public forum in Schenectady. [Daily Gazette] [TU]

Jim Tedisco and Scott Murphy argued about the definition of pork during their debate last night (full video). (Debate analysis from Bob Conner at Planet Albany.) Earlier in the day they were talking up voters in Saratoga County. And in an email that went out this morning, Barack Obama endorsed Murphy. [TU] [WNYT] [Saratogian] [HuffPo]

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The $94,000 secretary

typewriter closeup

Secretaries do a lot more than typing. Or, at least, the $94,000 ones do.

We have to admit our eyebrows went up a bit when we read this morning that Elizabeth Sweeney, John Sweeney's first wife, is making almost $94,000 a year as a secretary at the State Insurance Fund. As the TU reported today, the state inspector general has announced an investigation of the agency after a whistleblower reported it was a haven of political patronage.

As B pointed out in a comment, secretaries do a lot of things -- and sometimes the title can be misleading. And we've often thought that secretaries pretty much run the world behind the scenes. So we acknowledge that they're important people.

But the former wife of a Congressman has a $94k/year state job as a secretary that she got during the administration of a governor with whom her former husband was (politically) close?

This seemed a little weird -- not necessarily wrong, but unusual. And the payroll data indicates that it is unusual.

(there's more)

Tedisco and Murphy debate, Raucci charged with terrorism, Schenectady school district struggles with teen suicides, chip fab company gets new name, UAlbany student sues Facebook

Jim Tedisco and Scott Murphy found a lot to agree about during their debate yesterday in Saratoga Springs. One point of departure: the federal stimulus bill, which Murphy said he supports and Tedisco said had enough pork to "create trichinosis for most of us in this room." They also disagreed on union "card check" -- Murphy supports it, Tedisco doesn't. The debate drew an overflow crowd of more than 250 people to the Saratoga Springs Public Library. [Daily Gazette] [Post-Star] [Saratogian] [TU]

Police say a woman walking her dogs in Spa State Park yesterday morning found a partially frozen body (it seems her dog was the first to find it in the tree line). There are conflicting reports on whether authorities consider the situation suspicious -- "unusual" seems to be the word being used. The man was found fully clothed and dressed for winter. Witnesses says the body was covered in vomit. An autopsy is scheduled for today. [Saratogian] [Fox 23] [Post-Star] [Daily Gazette] [TU]

Steven Raucci, the Schenectady school district employee accused of arson, was charged with terrorism yesterday -- the state's highest felony. Officials say they've been filing charges against Raucci sequentially so they can keep him in jail. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

The state's inspector general has ordered an investigation of the State Insurance Fund because of accusations of mismanagement by a whistleblower. The whistleblower came forward after the story of the guy making $94k/year to do nothing came to light in the TU. Noted: John Sweeney's first wife, Elizabeth, works at the Insurance Fund as a secretary and makes $94,000 a year. [TU] [SeeThroughNY]

(there's more)

State agency commissioner's husband fired for fraud, RPI professor helping Olympic swimmers, more roundabouts planned, infamous bed and breakfast going to auction


The husband of a state agency head has been fired from his state job after investigators reported that he took almost $20,000 in pay for work he didn't actually do. Larry Ritter had been an equal employment opportunity and affirmative action officer at the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. His, wife, Diana Jones Ritter, is the commissioner for the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. Investigators say they didn't find any wrongdoing on her part. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

The Saratoga Springs School Board has officially fired the English teacher who had been found by state ed officials to be having a platonic, but inappropriate, relationship with a student outside of school. [Daily Gazette]

An RPI engineering professor has been working with the US Olympic swimming team to refine swimmers' techniques. Timothy Wei's research has been credited with helping a US swimmer set a world record in the backstroke earlier this year. [TU]

Malta and Colonie are among the towns planning new traffic roundabouts. [CBS6]

The Schenectady bed and breakfast infamous for its swingers parties is going up for auction and everything -- yes, even the, um, equipment in the basement -- is up for sale. [TU]

The Scoop

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