Friday, October 28, 2005

Loose Ends

SECRET LAWSUIT FOLLOW-UP. Tuesday’s blog about the Dushane v. School Board case prompted lively responses. Read them by going back to that installment and clicking Comment spot at the bottom. Unfortunately, you’ll encounter some ostensible responses that in fact are advertisements from cyber-polluting scum who are not readers at all.In addition: *The school trustees did not break their silence at Wednesday night’s meeting (10/26). *The settlement, we hear from a good source, calls for paying Mr Dushane the sum of $35,000. How will it be paid, without public explanation? *In settling, we hear, the Board went against advice of counsel. *Mr Dushane did return our call—Tuesday evening, after That blog was posted (but not after having read it). He declined to comment for publication on his feelings about the settlement.

IMMINENT. Today (10/28): Night of 100 Pumpkins. Downtown Catskill celebration. Pumpkins available for carving (especially by Halloween-costumed kids) at Hose Co. 5 on Main Street from 5:30 pm., followed by parade down Main Street, with creativity applied to modes of non-motorized transport of carved creations…. Sponsored by Begnal Motors and HOCA. *Saturday (10/29). Race for Rayann. Fund-raising foot races ($15 entry fee) of 19 kilometers and of 5 kilometers, from Creekside Farm, 1235 High Falls Road, Catskill, through Cauterskill Creek-side roads, up to a country dirt road and back. Information, from Michael & Sandra Smith: 678-5875. *Saturday. Halloween party and art show opening at Athens Cultural Center, from 7 pm. *Saturday. Wolf Fly Festival. Strings trio concert by Among Friends, from 7:30 pm. at Greenville Cultural Arts Center, sponsored by All Arts Matter. 966-4038. *Sunday (10/30). Halloween party for kids, at Hose # 5 station, Main St, Catskill, sponsored by Police Benevolent Association, from 1 pm. *Sunday. Auction (65 lots) +dinner sponsored by Kiwanis Club, at Catskill Golf Club, from 5 pm. All welcome. 943-3100. *Next Friday (11/4). Flu shots available at the senior center in Athens; from our Health Department; free for senior. Also available Nov. 18th at Acra's senior center. *Next Saturday (11/5). Railroad archaeology trek along path of the late Canojaharie & Catskill Railroad (1837-42), led by Ulster & Delaware Railroad Historical Society, from 8 am. at Park-n-Ride lot at Thruway Exit 21’s toll booth. Check it out at *Soon, in Tannersville: Tavern called O’Neill’s Public House, in former PJ Larkin building on Route 23A. They are hiring. The man to call (589-5568) is Tim Ohle.

PREMATURE DEATH STORY?  Maybe the Daily Mail is not on brink of extinction after all.  The company is
advertising for two reporters to replace departed Chris Smith and Deborah Travers.  But one successor, 
Andrea Macko, already is working. And another new by-line, Alvaro E. Alarcon, appeared under a local story
in today’s paper (10/28).  Editor Raymond Pignone invites submissions to
or 943-2100 ext 3326.  
MAUL NOTES.  Inserted in all organs of Hudson Valley Newspapers last Thursday (10/20) was a supplement
entitled, in big bold letters, “Fall Care [sic.] Car [sic.] 2005.” One of the headlines says “Check Engine Light
Nothing to Ignore.”  The publication was an advertising supplement not only in the sense that it contained display
ads from local companies, but also in the sense that its editorial matter, offering advice on vehicle maintenance,
was chock full of explicit product-touting. The standard pejorative label for this odious practice is advertorial.  
    *And on pages A3 (“News”) and again on A8 (“Business”) of the same issue, the same story (from
Associated Press, on Republican gubernatorial hopefuls) appeared.
    *According to a picture caption on page A1 of Monday’s DM (10/24), “Town of Catskill Democratic [sic.]
Party Chairman Dan Howard, left, presents the Greene County Republican [sic.] Committee’s 2005 Man of
the Year Award to Greene County Judge George J. Pulver Jr….”  Howard is Republican town chairman.
They actually published a Correction of that bungle.
     *Not corrected so far was yesterday’s mutation of Margo Muller into Margo Mullen.
     *Read it and ponder (from Tuesday’s Maul):  “The basis for the project is to enforce a clean-up strategy
for residential properties within the village that meet property, maintenance, or building violations.”  “Among
the assessed problems include two or more motor vehicles, weeds or garbage in the year and general lack of
GOV POLITICS.  Who will be Republican candidate for governor of New York in 2006?If GreeneLand’s
Republican chairman, Brent Bogardus, gets his way, it will be John Faso.  That near-neighbor, former State
Asemblyman and former candidate for State Controller, was keynote speaker at last Saturday night’s GOP
dinner-dance at Hunter Mountain. Support for Faso means non-support for other hopefuls or possibilities, such
as William Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts (New York-born and –resident); Tom Golisano of
Rochester, former Independence Party bankroller and gubernatorial candidate, now registered as a Republican;
Patrick Manning, Republican assemblyman from Dutchess County; Randy Daniels, Secretary of New York
State; and our Congressman, John Sweeney.   We mention Sweeney because he once touted himself, and
was touted by some news people (using the “widely discussed” formula) as a likely candidate.  He too spoke
at the function, and was hailed by Bogardus as “one of the true shining stars in Washington.”  Not mentioned
was the fact, trumpeted by the Democrats in Washington, that Sweeney was the recipient of political largesse,
to the tune of  $4915), dispensed by his disgraced House leader, Tom DeLay.
Faso depicted himself as a “reform” candidate who would do something about Albany taxing and spending.
According to the report by Jim Planck in The Daily Mail, 10/23), Faso also characterized Eliot Spitzer, that
scourge of corporate crime who is the likely Democratic candidate, as one who “stands for the status quo” and
for “all the special interests who will endorse him.”   As for Randy Daniels, he’s a Republican odd duck in that
he’s black and that he has ingratiated himself with some upstate liberals.  As secretary of state he refused to
give St. Lawrence Cement Company a Certificate of Coastal Consistency for its proposal to build a giant plant
in Greenport and along the east bank of the Hudson River.  Thanks to that crucial decision, he’ll be featured
speaker at a meeting Sunday (10/30) of the South Bay Coalition (Basilica Industria, 110 Front St, Hudson,
from 2 pm.).  At the same time, Daniels is being touted to Republican stalwarts (including some who have
been dead for 10 years) as the man who can beat Spitzer.  And that victory is urgent.  According to Patrick
B. Donohue, Esq., in a fund-raising letter for Daniels, “Spitzer has waged a cynical one-man campaign
against businesses big and small and entrepreneurs whose only sin has been the pursuit of the American Dream.”
Spitzer and the diabolical liberals “want to raise taxes, increase spending and the size of government, and
impose regulations to a level that have [sic.] never been seen before in America.”   “I’ll guarantee you that if
Eliot Spitzer is elected Governor, you will be shocked and appalled by the assault that will inevitably occur on
the taxpayers, business community and the economy in [sic.] New York.”  What is more, and perhaps worse,
is that “The Governor’s Mansion is the key piece in Hillary Clinton’s Master Plan of becoming President of the
United States.” 
 METAPHYSICAL GAMING.  In a September issue of Seeing Greene we twitted
ace Saugerties writer John Thorn for opining that art, like play, “may
have no purpose but itself or it becomes no longer itself.” To that blather
we responded with piercing acuity that “Activities do not have purposes.
They may serve various purposes, and art and play serve many.” To
which John offered (via the Commentary key) the limp rejoinder that “Your
inner grammarian has stifled your reason. Play and art may be compelled to
serve purposes only when they are in thrall to a utilitarian power (Nazi
art, Organized Baseball, and kindred oxymorons). But art and play do not
serve willingly, for when they are yoked into service they are no longer
marked by the very thing that defines them,independence: art for art's
sake, play to no purpose.” This he boldly calls an “uncontroversial notion”
that is adumbrated by Johan Huizinga in Homo Ludens (1938). To which, with
devastating insight, we respond that Thorn has unwisely espoused the
notorious Pathetic Fallacy. He endows inanimate objects with animate
qualities. Play and art become not just activities but mobile, willful
creatures who (yes: who) can be “compelled” to “serve” a “utilitarian
power” (=master?) albeit unwillingly. But he asseverates contrarily that
they can’t be so compelled because if they are, then they are not—alive,
that is. In the meantime, John obfuscates the nature of oxymorons. Nazi
art is not a contradiction in terms. Neither is Soviet art or New Masses
art or commercial art. Your turn, J.T

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Secret Lawsuit

COMPLAINT On June 25, 2003, a GreeneLand school janitor filed a lawsuit against his employer. The plaintiff, Stanley Dushane, accused the Catskill Central School District’s trustees of subjecting him to fraudulent, politically vindictive loss of position and of job-related benefits. Mr Dushane asked Supreme Court Judge Leslie Stein to compel the trustees to restore him to his previous office--Head Custodian--and to pay him various costs including “money illegally removed from his compensation package.” The school trustees, according to the terms of the complaint filed by attorney Mark Goichman of New Paltz, had “denied the plaintiff his rights of speech and assembly…by abolishing his position…. Abolishment…was done in retaliation for plaintiff’s involvement in the political activity between local fire hose companies” and in village elections. The plaintiff had “made good faith negotiation attempts with the defendant to resolve the matter” but had been treated only “harshly and indifferently.” RESPONSE Acting through another out-of-town attorney, Mark E. Rushfield of Highland NY, the trustees moved for dismissal of Mr Dushane’s civil action. No basis for treating this administrative shuffle as a free speech violation, they argued, had been laid by the plaintiff. The claim about fraudulent treatment was void of needed specificity. As for plaintiff’s contentions concerning loss of benefits, they do not fit under relevant State labor law (Article 6), because the post of Head Custodian(along with those of school lunch manager, business office manager and superintendent’s secretary), was administrative. CONTEXT Mr Dushane’s complaint came in the wake of furious quarreling among Catskill’s volunteer firefighters. At issue was consolidation of companies, and involved in that were questions about equipment ownership, leadership, headquarters and more. Mr Dushane took part in the conflict, not only as a veteran member of one hose company, but also as a member of the Village’s governing five-person board of trustees and, for part of his term (3/2000-3/2003) as Fire Commissioner. While the fire company controversy was raging, major changes, physical and managerial, were occurring in the school district. A new elementary school was constructed; when it opened, two old schools were closed. On the management side, the incumbent superintendent, Geraldine Wolfe, proposed a package of changes. One of them was that of establishing a Director of Facilities. This Civil Service-tested officer would absorb the Head Custodian's duties and much more. The educational and technical requirements exceeded whatMr Dushane could meet at the time. Mr Dushane was offered, and accepted, a rank-and-file janitorial job. AMENDED COMPLAINT On August 10th of last year, Judge Stein ruled against the defendant's motion for dismissal, holding that with acceptable amendments, the complaint could proceed to adjudication. Mr Dushane might have an enforceable contract right under State labor law. If that line of argument falls short, the plaintiff can try to sustain the claim for relief from loss due to fraud. Plaintiff could go ahead contending--as Judge Stein phrased it--that defendant “fraudulently induced him to take the position offered to him by promising certain wages and benefits, which it had no intention of providing.” The parties could now proceed to the discovery stage (seeing each other's evidence and reasoning) and then trial. RESOLUTION? Those steps were not taken. Instead, last month, the parties reached an out-of-court settlement. Consequently, there would be no airing in court of the Dushane charges (rephrased in a March 2004 filing) that the Catskill Central School District engaged in "intentionally misleading or deceiving the plaintiff for 13 years," in "failing to fulfill their contractual obligations," and in "retaliating against an employee for taking part in the political life of the town and village"--as well as "intimidation and spying." No word of this event, or of any part of the proceeding, appeared in the news media. Earlier this year, however, a tip about the case did come this way. It prompted recent attempts to elicit information from the new Superintendent of Schools, and from the school board’s president. Those attempts were met with stonewalling, accompanied by insinuations that the inquiry itself was illicit. It also led to a review of papers filed in the county Records office, papers containing the information cited above. REFUSALS In quest of confirmation of and comment on the settlement, we made another bid for information. We called the attorneys, Richman and Goichman; the School Board Chairman, James Garafalo; the office of Superintendent of Schools Kathleen P. Farrell; and the home of Mr Dushane. Mr Goichman confirmed that a settlement had indeed been reached, adding that he and his client are barred from disclosing the terms. Mr Richman said he would not talk about the case until authorized to do so by his client(s). Mr Garafalo refused to discuss the matter, and took umbrage at the inquiry: “You’ve called me at my place of business; I resent that. I never discuss school matters at my place of business” (namely, Catskill Florist Inc.). Dr Farrell did not return our call. Neither did Mr Dushane. We also called Morris Darling, who had been President of the school board when the actions complained of by Mr Dushane took place. While expressing uncertainty about the propriety of commenting on the case, he denied, emphatically, that any administrative changes that were adopted during his tenure were aimed at punishing Stanley Dushane. COSTS OF SILENCE Stonewalling does not seem to be required by law or by the public interest. Although litigation is a subject for executive sessions rather than for public School Board deliberations, the trustees are not precluded from acknowledging the existence of lawsuits. Neither are they barred from announcing or acknowledging settlements. In civil disputes between private parties, the terms of out-of-court settlements often are by mutual agreement kept confidential. But where one party is a public company, such arrangements cannot be sustained. The taxpayers are entitled to know, through court filings if not through voluntary announcements, whether a school board has agreed to pay money to a litigator. By its silence on the case and its agreement to settle, the present school board lends credence to the Vendetta thesis. It seems to be accepting Mr Dushane’s claim that the preceding board, chaired by Morris Darling, did take part in a deliberate scheme, masked by spurious administrative pretexts, to punish Mr Dushane for his fire company politics. But the settlement’s terms could be such that Mr Dushane withdrew his charges of fraud and political retaliation, while the Board recognized his monetary claims, or some portion thereof, as a contract employee. In that event, the Vendetta charge—a smear against the previous school board and Dr Wolfe—is nullified or moot. By settling the case in secret, moreover, the present school board lends credence to suspicions about cronyism. The settlement was reached after the school board elections of 2003. Those elections brought into office, among others, Mr Garafalo and Michael Battaglino, who are close friends indeed of Mr Dushane. That sequence, coupled with the aura of secrecy, can all too readily nourish doubts about whether the board treated the case on its merits. Skepticism could be dissipated, however, by assurances that Mr Dushane’s friends distanced themselves from deliberations on the case, and that the board's decision to settle was unanimous. To give such assurances, the board must first admit the existence of the case.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Media Notes Plus

MAIL TALES. Contrary to what we said in recent blog, Terez Limer is still at the Daily Mail, and is still listed as Assistant Editor; but she evidently is working afield as reporter (of Catskill government doings), and doing it well. Meanwhile, Chris Smith and Deborah Travers are gone. Heavy lifting now is done by Jim Planck (up and down the mountain) and Antonio D’Arcangelis ( north end scribe). In Wednesday’s Daily Mail pages 2, 3, 6 & 7 were wholly occupied by canned stuff, as was Thursday’s issue (except for page 3 obituaries). On Wednesday and on Thursday, the “Greene County” page contained a Columbia County story. MEDIA FUTUROLOGY. Let’s suppose that GreeneLand’s only daily newspaper gets folded into Columbia County’s Register-Star. What then? Speculations: *The merged daily bears a new name, such as Hudson.Valley News. Coverage of GreeneLand gets thinner than ever, since Columbia County is more populous and affluent. *The Daily Freeman, based in Kingston, expands GreeneLand coverage fractionally. *Alternatively, publisher Ira Fusfeld ventures to establish in GreeneLand a sibling of his Columbia County semi-weekly, The Independent. *Linda Fenoff, publisher and editor of what is now marketed as The Greenville Press, pursues ambition to enlarge coverage of county events--even transmuting her weekly into The GreeneLand Press. *The Albany TimesUnion’s publisher discards his policy of shunning the capital region’s southern reaches. To that end, he puts news bureaus into Columbia and Greene counties, with reports being fed into a special southern edition of the TU. Readers would get some local news along with exposure to metropolitan journalism. *The feisty Ulster Publishing group takes a fling at GreeneLand. Publisher Geddy Sveikausas makes bold to add a GreeneLand Times to his five-paper stable (New Paltz Times, Woodstock Times, Saugerties Times…). The experiment could falter but there’d be some good feature stories on the way, as displayed on the company’s ulsterpublishing web site. *One of those enterprisers decides to take a different tack, namely, to establish a free semi-weekly tabloid that is mailed to every GreeneLand address, is available at every counter, and is crammed with local news and features. Its comprehensive, costly backyard coverage is funded by substantial advertising. And the advertising support comes in because all GreeneLanders would receive the paper and--unlike the throwaway Mountain Pennysaver--most of them would read it. NEWS RHETORIC: SPOOKERY. Media coverage of the Hussey drunk-driving case here yielded noteworthy examples of tricks that journalists play. One trick was performed in a lead sentence (by Ariel Zangli, Daily Freeman, 9/29), saying
Greene County Sheriff Richard Hussey is expected to be arraigned this afternoon in a Catskill Town court.
The author of that sentence could have been parsimonious, as journalists are taught to be, by leaving out the “expected.” Instead, she invoked an entrenched journalistic convention, fraught with daunting assumptions, whereby the reporter pretends to disclose, and hence to be able to detect, the contents of mental states that exist independently of host-organisms such as human beings. By means of that device the author, coupled with the publisher of what passes for straight news, recommends without espousing a named mind-set. Prudent respondents will not take such verbiage at face value. When given ostensible information about what is expected, understood, reckoned, estimated, or believed to be the case, they will recognize devious, metaphysically goofy locutions whereby senders disguise recommendation as exposition. SOURCERY. Another trick, or bundle of tricks, was played by video journalist Dan Bazile with these words:
Sources tell News Channel 13 [that] Lipstein was forced to fire the chef. Lipstein denies the charge, but still wants the public to know his former employee acted on his own.
Those two sentences offer a big bowl of food for thought about journalistic rhetoric. Voiced in the context of news-giving, they suggest, without asserting or implying logically, that: *What Bazile was told could not have come from just one person, such as the chef. If the source was the chef, surely the author would have said so directly. *The plural sources did not just make a statement; they told Bazile something; that is to say, they uttered words that were both truth-valuable and true. (If he had wanted to forestall the latter inference--to distance himself from it--Bazile could have done so, with equal brevity, by way of alternative verbs such as say or claim). *What those elusive sources told Bazile truly was in the nature of an accusation; it is a “charge.” *Information about those sources is not urgently needed for getting things right. We know that because when they cite anonymous “sources,” journalists often use modifying terms which allude to position (“legal,” “White House,” “senior official”) or credibility (“usually reliable”). This practice has been deepened lately at The New York Times, with reporters taking pains to indicate why a cited informant cannot be identified by name. Accordingly, when a reporter cites adjective-less “sources,” she suggests that we don’t need more information. Prudent respondents would recognize that Bazile has stacked the deck against the man who denies the “charge” which those multiple “sources” made. MEANWHILE… LIVELY CATSKILL WEEKEND. You could spend a busy day tomorrow and Sunday in Catskill. Start with the Farmers & Artisans Market at Catskill Point, from 9:30 am. to1 pm. Music by Lisa & the Leasebreakers (country/folk). Special feature: bulb, craft & bake sale by Catskill Garden Club. Stroll or drive up to Beattie-Powers House (123 Powers Place) for the Potluck for Friends and prospective Friends of that gracious site; bring an easy-to-serve dish or $10. (For more information: 943-4751 or 943-0246). Then slip down to Main Street for Walk-About, featuring new shows at art galleries: The Wilder at 375 Main, above Townhouse Antiques; The M at 350 Main (“American Tonalism: Poetically Correct”; Verso at 386 Main (20th century American designs); the Arts Council at 398 Main, lighting “Fire” and “An Artist on Fire” downstairs and up; The Open Studio at 402 Main (“Stories”: books+drawings+ collages +assemblages confected by Julie Chase, Dina Bursztyn & Arthur Tieger; and, at the top of Main, next to Brik gallery, still there and still marvelous: is “Celebration of 1000 Families” photographs from all over the world. (If you miss it, fly to Lake Geneva, Switzerland, where same exhibition is being held under United Nations auspices). Stay for dinner and then either a movie (“Wallace & Gromit” or “Elizabethtown” at new owner P J Maisano’s Community Theater. (Alternatively, motor up to Tannersville in time to see, from 8 pm., the Jose Limon Dance Company perform at the high school. For reservations: Catskill Mountain Foundation, 263-4908, ext. 202. Then on Sunday, connect with “Kindred Spirits,” a two-part program organized by trustees of Thomas Cole National Historic Site. It’s based on the title of the1849 painting by Asher B. Durand that Alice Walton bought recently for $30 (ahem) million. The picture shows poet William Cullen Bryant and painter Thomas Cole in foreground of a grand Catskills landscape. The program will illuminate the Bryant/Cole friendship, Cole’s poetry, and the school of painting. Starting at 9 a.m., there’s a guided hike to the several GreeneLand sites that Durand blended into the setting for “Kindred Spirits.” Starting at 2 pm., talks will be given by Harrison Hunt, keeper of Bryant’s home on Long Island, and by Linda Ferber, vice-president of the New York Historical Society and expert on 19th century American art. Those talks will be episodes of the Sunday Salon Series held at Cedar Grove (218 Spring St, Catskill), where Cole lived and worked. 943-7465 or As for Monday (10/17), the big treat could be the open meeting, from 7 pm., at the Senior Center (former Irving School annex), on “Everything you ever wanted to know about Catskill Central School District.” By school trustees, superintendent and staff members, all will be revealed..

Friday, October 07, 2005

Exodus, & Expiration?

Three Daily Mail journalists are almost out the door. Assistant Editor Terez Limer is leaving because her job has been eliminated. Soon to follow (by resignation; out of disgust over recent and foreshadowed changes, we hear) are veteran reporters Deborah Travers and Christopher J. Smith. Those departures revive suspicions that GreeneLand’s only daily newspaper will be folded into Columbia County’s Register-Star. Fortifying that forecast are these other events: the Coxsackie office was closed a few months back; amid growth in population and commerce, D.M. readers and revenues have continued to decline; GreeneLand content has been chopped even more (no Yesteryear column, no Karl Collection photo, no Ray Beecher column last Sunday); the paper’s new Executive Editor (Theresa Hyland) also is Executive Editor of what Hudsonians call the Rag-Star; and that publisher Roger Coleman has not responded to inquiry from Seeing Greene. THE LOSS. If The Daily Mail ceases to exist, we would lose, in addition to valuable information, our home-grown trove of sentences such as * “He [Greg Sager] is also pleased to be working alongside new Police Chief Dave Darling, who both share the same high standards for the police department in the community.” **“Actually, the lack of rain has been the single most complaint of the summer.” ***“Lipstein said Valentin had been repeatedly warned that he wanted to take down someone big in the police department.” **** “’We know first-hand this motivation is undertaking taken completely at the dispense of and without absolute disregard of our neighborhood, our safety, our health and the quality of our lives,’ said Kinneary.” ONGOING: “Lark in the Park,” a ten-day four-county celebration sponsored by the State Dept of Environmental Conservation and by many groups. It’s happening now. Hiking, pedaling, paddling, picture-taking, crafting, fly-casting, harvest-celebrating….. It’s well under way but to learn what’s left to see and/or join, punch IMMINENT: Ginseng & Medicinal Herb Festival, from 10 am. Sunday, at Catskill Point. All you ever wanted to know about buying, cultivating and using gingseng, and about antler velvet & bee stings (arthritis relief) & herbal vinegars and potions & body mists & herbal teas &--get the idea? Sponsored by Cornell Co-operative Extension (Bob Beyfuss, 622-0820 or, Greene County Tourism Promotion, & Heart of Catskill Assn (943-0989). AND THEN, from 5 pm. at the Brik Gallery (473 Main St, Catskill): a concert by Trilogy (Garfield Moore, cello; Richard Gordon, piano; Kathryn Kienko, violin) of works by Beethoven, Loeillet and Lalo. $10 donations (including wine and mixing) go to relief of hurricane victims. [This item is a late (Sunday, 10 am.) addition. It should have been here from the start] HAPPY BIRTHDAY to GreeneLand’s Arts Council, born 30 years ago at a meeting in what then was the home and shop (“Antiques & Eccentricities”) of Kay Stamer: historic Salisbury Manor in Leeds. And that’s where the event was celebrated Saturday night. About 110 “country chic”-clad revelers were given a tour of the stunning 1730-built manor house by the present owners, Hugh and Clementine Butts, assisted by their grown, charming, talented triplet daughters. Then we strolled to the capacious tent to dine (catering by Glen Sanders Mansion), to quaff, to hear short charming speeches, to dance (Glen Miller/Johnny Mercer-era music of the 16-piece Swing Docs—who are indeed doctors, as are their svelte vocalists) and to schmooze. In the words of one guest, referring to the soft light and the warmth of spirit, “It was like Tinker Bell was in the tent.” Many happy returns of the day. SEND-OFF. When dental hygienist Mary Cloke retired after many years of service in a GreeneLand practice, she decided that a good way to start her new life would be to head for a fetid, crime-ridden, poverty-plagued village in Guatemala. She chose to join one of the semi-annual expeditions organized by the Glens Falls Medical Mission. On October 21 she’ll fly south, with 45 volunteers and tons of supplies (medical stuff, book, toys, food), bound for the town of Nueva Santa Rosa. There the physicians, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists, optometrists, translators and all-terrain volunteers will put in a series of 12-hour work days in the eye clinic, women’s health clinic, pediatrics clinic, general medicine clinic, dental clinic, and so on. They are strongly advised to shun the local food and to go out only with armed escort. Many of them are returnees. They pay their own way. Mary’s expenses, though, are being covered by her erstwhile employers: Catalano, Leifer & Bruno of Catskill. That’s her chosen retirement party. RETURN. The historic Catskill building at Bridge & Franklin streets has gone back to the law. Built back in 1813, it was for nearly a century our County courthouse and the nerve center of GreeneLand government. For 80 years thereafter, it was a Masonic Temple and then the headquarters of Community Action. Now it’s the property and main office of Nancy and Ted Hilscher—eminently suitable custodians, since both are lawyers and Ted is a keen student of GreeneLand history. Come June 2006, we understand, the refurbished building will be part of the County Historical Society’s tour of Catskill sites. And Ted will be armed with stories about visits by generals Lafayette and Thumb (as in Tom) and by Martin Van Buren and Teddy Roosevelt, about phrenologists and octagonists and hangings and…. TWOFER. On a Wednesday (9/21), Maceo Jones, 52, was arrested, arraigned, and released on payment of $100 bail. He was charged with making criminal use of a Social Services Benefit card, namely, selling his $100 card for $35 to his sister. Then on Friday (9/23) he was riding in Catskill in a car driven by Victoria Arnold (aka Vicky Roe). The vehicle was stopped by a police officer who recognized Ms Arnold as the recipient of three active suspensions. When Jones was instructed to exit the car, along with Ms Arnold—he too had no valid driver’s license, so the car had to be towed away—he made a fuss about undergoing the customary pat-down. The ensuing proceedings occasioned his second arrest in two days. This time the charges included resisting arrest and being in possession criminally of an illegal substance, namely, crack cocaine. SQUATTERS. Two laborers who’d been working by day on the former Oren’s Furniture warehouse in Catskill decided to take up residence there by night. By means of multiple extension cords, according to police report, they installed a refrigerator, microwave and television set near their mattresses. After failing to heed instructions to vacate, Greg Blair, 39, and John F. Kormaru, 45, were arrested (9/21) on trespass charges. They were given tickets requiring them to appear on October 20th in Village Court. BUSY DAY. On a recent Sunday, GreeneLander Bert Coons won his flight in a club golf tournament, won the Seniors championship as well, and then went home to find his house engulfed in flames.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Sheriff, the Chef, and...

The unfolding, lavishly publicized story of Sheriff Richard Hussey’s drunk driving case has eclipsed the unfolding, unpublicized story of the Daily Mail's disintegration. About the latter, tune in to our next posting. About the former, here are some of the facts—more than you can get from any news source, or all of them—mixed with hunches. BARE BONES Hussey was stopped by State troopers near his home in Jefferson Heights at a bit past one o’clock Sunday morning (9/25), on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. The stoppage occurred in response to a call from a civilian who reported observations he allegedly was making and videotaping of the target vehicle from the time it left a Catskill restaurant. The driver failed some standard sobriety tests, refused to take a Breathalyzer test, was then placed under arrest, taken before Town Justice Peter Margolius, arraigned on the charge of driving while intoxicated (a misdemeanor) and released without bail pending appearance before Margolius on Thursday (9/29). He duly reappeared, flanked by counsel, and applied successfully for a 45-day adjournment of proceedings. THE PUBLICITY. News stories about those events, and some related elements, appeared on the Albany-based television stations that offer local news, on most of capital region’s radio stations (via Associated Press), and in newspapers ranging downward from the Middletown Times-Register, the North Country Gazette and the Albany TimesUnion, through the nearby Register-Star, Daily Mail and Daily Freeman to Long Island’s Newsday. These treatments also have said that Hussey (age 65 or 64) was a military policeman and a State trooper before being elected sheriff in 1999 and re-elected in 2003. Some also recall that earlier this year, a deputy who was involved in a crash outside a bar, and who lied (along with his passengers) about the circumstances, was fired from the sheriff’s department. Some news stories, moreover, have touched on a side story that grew out of the Hussey case. From their treatments, from talks with knowledgeable local sources, and from interviews with most of the principals, we have drawn these notes. THE LAWYERS. Hussey’s prosecution will not be conducted by District Attorney Terry Wilhelm or an assistant. Instead, Wilhelm has recruited a special prosecutor: Robert Winn, district attorney of Washington County. This procedure is a common practice when there is a perceived need to allay suspicions that the prosecution would be feeble, or even would be dropped, on account of friendship. For his defense, meanwhile, Sheriff Hussey recruited Albany attorney Peter Gerstenzang, who wrote the definitive book Handling the DWI Case in New York. THE OFFICE. Hussey’s future does not hinge directly on the trial's verdict. As an elected official, he cannot be fired. He can, however, be advised or urged by influential people to resign. He can, for example, be invited to believe that the immediate case serves to confirm gossip about other bibulous episodes and thus to undermine his credibility. If he were to resign, authority to pick an interim sheriff lies with Governor George Pataki. THE TROOPER. Making the stop on Hussey (under civilian scrutiny), and writing the arrest report,was trooper Mark A. Prestigiacomo (shield 5022). He is the son of County Legislator Dorothy Prest and of former Deputy Sheriff Andy Prest. When he realized that the driver he had been prompted to stop was the sheriff, he radioed for guidance. Sergeant checked with lieutenant, who called captain, who authorized arrest. THE TRAIL. Hussey’s arrival at the Country Club Estates Road stopping point was preceded by a longer stop, in company, at the Creekside restaurant. This was preceded by a stop at Tatiana’s, following attendance at a Saturday night party at the Elks Club. That party, attended by many law enforcement- related people, celebrated the retirement of Roger Masse as chief of Catskill Village police. According to participants, it was a tame affair, which Hussey left at around 10 pm. THE TRACKER. Among guests at the Elks Club party were Owen Lipstein and Koren Kaupas, owner and manager respectively of Stewart House, the historic bed & breakfast and restaurant in Athens. When Lipstein and Kaupas returned and mentioned where they had been, their head chef, Jeff Valentin, immediately drove away, stopped to pick up a companion --Damien C. Lameray of East Durham--and, armed with a video camera, went on the trail of Hussey. The trackers found Hussey at the Creekside where, according to Lameray’s deposition in the arrest report, he consumed, in the course of about an hour, four glasses of white wine. When he left, Valentin followed, called the State police, and took pictures of Hussey’s vehicle’s movements and of the eventual stoppage and arrest. Thus, Valentin was the civilian whose promptings led to the arrest of Hussey. THE SACKING. When Lipstein and Kaupas went back to Stewart House on Sunday morning, Valentin was there and was showing an employee the videotape of his tracking expedition. He was, says Lipstein, “acting like he’d bagged an elk.” That gloating, the character of the deed it celebrated, and questions about the ramifications prompted Lipstein and Kaumas to review the history of their troublesome dealings with their prized chef. To avoid acting rashly, they drove off and spent the day in a shopping mall. Upon their return, at about 6 pm., as dinner was being prepared, Lipstein abruptly made a decision: “You’re out of here.” About that decision, about its causation and justice, there are roughly two schools of thought. THE VALENTIN VERSION. The man who fired him, Jeff Valentin told Seeing Greene, is “a good man, a great man who a lot of people misunderstand.” And although Lipstein was “in utter disagreement with what I did”—with the deliberate stalking—Lipstein gave him the sack because he "feared harassment" by law-enforcement people against Stewart House for the independent act of an employee. And he caved in to "threats." In a television interview, Valentin voiced the epithet “coward.” In the words of his brother, Jim Valentin, Lipstein “folded up like a cheap suit.” As for the merit of his victorious tracking, Jeff Valentin says “I did something for everybody,” namely, bringing a drunk driver to book and striking a blow against the “hypocrisy” whereby cops apply to civilians laws which they do not apply to themselves. That version of events and motives captivated an Albany-based radio talker. According to J.R. Gach (FM 94.5), Valentin “got fired for” blowing the whistle on a drunk cop. That's the plain, odious truth of the matter; denial is rubbish. So listeners should “express extreme outrage.” “Call down there”—here’s the number for Stewart House, down there in hicksville—“and ask if this is the place where the guy got fired for narking on the Greene County sheriff.” Gach fans evidently complied, with epithet-laden phone calls, along with e-mails such as
*"So your local sheriff is driving around piss drunk and you fire the person who reported it? Are you opposed to the law or just people who report those who are breaking it? This is just another example of pigs enforcing one set of rules while playing by another. If you don't want follow the law, then don't be a cop. It's too bad this jerk didn't kill someone, then they could have sued you for supplying the alcohol." *".... Now that this is national news, you won't be able to hide behind you local yocal boys. I will do everything I can to make sure no one I know ever goes near your place.” *"...How dare you fire someone who tells the truth and exposes the hypocrisy of your town. The man that choose to drink and drive should be punished. We are all tired of cronyism and red neck good ole boy mentality." *"...I will be spreading the news of your mental capacity and lack of concern of your very own community… We guess the sheriff must be a friend and does you favors. Maybe this will end your favors."
THE LIPSTEIN VERSION. According to Lipstein and Kaupas, the firing of Jeff Valentin had nothing to do with threats of retaliation against Stewart House. There weren’t any. None. This excellent chef had to be fired because he did a bad thing, and because it came on the heels of previous misdeeds that, among other effects, hurt Stewart House. During past monts, in spite of repeated calls to desist, he had freely voiced crude “bigotry”toward an assortment of groups, including cops. Expressing intense hostility to the police--fueled by a personal run-in over drunk driving--he talked of conducting what amounted to "a vendetta.” Finally, he set out on a stalking expedition. When, gloating, he showed his videotape to Stewart House staff, Valentin crossed the line yet again. And what he boasted about—the deliberate, aggressive stalking of a police target-- amounted to relishing the perpetration of “a hate crime.”