Recently, Gordon Boyd, the former treasurer of the now defunct Charter Review Commission, appeared on LookTV to advise the public that their proposal for charter change would be back on the ballot in the coming November election.
In the February 22nd edition of Saratoga Today, Mr. Boyd announced:
“Our core leadership group is investigating the legal, procedural and campaign dynamics of getting a petition drive going as allowed under the law, and how we can put the same exact proposal (as 2017) on the petition and placed on the ballot this coming November.”
The famous Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, spoke of permanent revolution. It seems this city is living through permanent attempted charter change.
During this last week alone there have already been two instances of charter change proponents publicly resuming their advocacy for a change in city government: a Readers View in the Saratogian written by the former Charter Review Commission Chair Bob Turner, and a radio interview with the former Charter Review Commission Vice Chair Pat Kane. Bear in mind that their next bite at the apple is some nine months away.
The Apparent Decline Of Political Science At Skidmore College
Traditionally political science was a discipline that among other things, taught students how to critically assess the kind of manipulation that today’s professional campaign consultants produce to sway the electorate. It appears, at least as regards Skidmore Professor Robert Turner, that he has embraced the techniques of modern campaigning rather than expose its abuses. Some of us had hoped that having endured a year of this kind of campaigning that we would be granted some respite. But in the February 18th edition of the Saratogian Turner published yet another of his ubiquitous exercises in spin.
Turner’s Saratogian Readers View concerns Supreme Court Judge Thomas Nolan’s recent ruling on Gordon Boyd’s petition regarding the November charter change vote. In his ruling Judge Nolan addressed two distinct issues. I have discussed these in a previous post but it is helpful to review some background on them before looking at Turner’s remarks. Here they are again briefly.
- Judge Nolan first addressed Boyd’s request to have the Board of Elections release documents he had requested through a FOIL. The Freedom of Information Law procedures are quite clear and specific regarding the responsibilities of the person seeking documents and the institution holding them. The petitioner is required to send a request for documents to a particular employee responsible for addressing requests. This is important because the receipt of the request starts a “clock” that in turn requires that within a specific number of business days that the documents be provided or that the person seeking the documents be advised as to when a determination will be made regarding their availability. This then starts another clock which requires at the end of a fixed number of business days either the documents be provided or an explanation given as to why they are not available. If the documents are not available, the law then sets out an appeal process to a different employee at the institution. It is only after this internal appeal process has been exhausted that an appeal for the release of the documents can go to a court. So there is a reason for the procedures. They are to insure that the petitioner gets a response in a timely manner. In the case of the request made by Gordon Boyd on behalf of Mr. Turner and other charter change advocates, the FOIL was not sent to the appropriate employee originally and therefore no subsequent appeal was ever executed.
2. The second issue Judge Nolan addressed was Boyd’s request for a recount or re-canvassing of the votes cast in the November charter referendum. State law requires that a recount of ballots can only be imposed if the petitioner can document that there was a problem in the voting process that placed the accuracy of the results in doubt. There are a number of types of evidence that can meet this requirement. For instance a report of a mechanical failure at a polling place, perhaps a power outage or other interruption, might be reported by the inspectors at a polling place or by a voter or other observer, or evidence that persons not actually eligible had voted might be presented.
Mr. Turner’s Readers View repeatedly waffles back and forth between these two issues.
After a long tutorial about the voting machine technology ending in the fact that the machines produce backup images of every ballot, Turner then tells his readers, “However, the Saratoga County Board of Elections has decided not to provide these to the public, nor have they provided any explanation as to why.”
This attack is rather a stunner. The Board of Elections had nothing to do with denying him the images. The request for the images was done as a Freedom of Information request by Gordon Boyd. The petition to Judge Nolan included the request that the county be impelled to honor Mr. Boyd’s FOIL for the ballot images. Judge Nolan denied this request noting that Mr. Boyd did not submit his FOIL to the correct officer and that in addition he never of course pursued the internal appeal process.
Rather than acknowledge that the original denial was due to his own group’s ineptitude, Turner blames the Board of Elections. As if this were not enough he has the chutzpah to proudly tell his readers: “This is why I have filed a FOIL request with Therese Connolly, Deputy Clerk of the Board for copies of the TIF files. The TIF files of our ballots are public property.” Ms. Connolly is in fact the FOIL officer and the person who was supposed to be sent the FOIL application in the first place.
Curiously when the election results before the opening of the absentee ballots showed a modest majority in his group’s favor Turner had a very different attitude towards the Board of Elections. At that point he told the Times Union, “It [the Board of Elections] is a bipartisan institution that is mandated by law and their oath to conduct the elections according to law. I do not understand why the three city councilors don’t trust the Board of Election to handle the counting of absentee ballots.”
At another point in his piece Mr. Turner briefly acknowledges the law requires proof of “voting machine malfunction or irregularity” in order to order a recount. He then makes the leap to the assertion “…However, in order to show a malfunction or irregularity, you need copies of the ballots, which can only be provided by the Board of Elections.” This is an incorrect statement but he takes it further:
“It’s a Catch-22. In order to get a recount, we need to show the Board of Elections has made a mistake, and the ONLY WAY [emphasis added]to do that is to have the Board of Elections provide the TIF files of those ballots, which they have declined to do. When Judge Nolan’s decision stated that the ‘petitioner presents no facts to support or justify his request,’ it is because the Board of Elections Commissioners would not show us copies of the ballots.”
Mr. Turner chooses to ignore the fact that copies of the ballots are not the only evidence that can show the Board of Elections may have made a mistake and refuses to acknowledge that they were unable to produce any evidence of any kind of irregularity occurring in the election.
Now Mr. Turner may fairly feel that the requirements for a recount in New York State are excessively restrictive. Unfortunately, this is not enough for Mr. Turner. Instead he chooses to portray as villains those who are charged with following and administering these laws, namely the Board of Elections and Judge Nolan. The problem is that to merely criticize existing laws does not allow for the drama that portrays him and his group as victims of an odiously entrenched malevolent establishment and thus stir his supporters to righteous indignation.
The full speaking out piece is here: http://www.saratogian.com/opinion/20180217/readers-view-win-or-lose-transparency-should-always-be-at-top
More Crazy Stuff From Another Direction
Rick Thompson, who is an avid supporter of charter change , has a talk show on WSPN. I do not listen to it. I don’t expect it enjoys a large following given it is on Skidmore Radio on a Saturday morning. Someone sent me a recording of the show from February 17th, though. Pat Kane was the guest. Mr. Kane was the vice-chair of the Charter Review Commission.
If the reader finds some of this less than coherent or logical it is because the program had a sort of stream of consciousness character to it and I transcribed it as I heard it. Here is the full recording:
The following is a transcript of some of the discussion that occurred at the end of the show. I think it needs no analysis.
Mr. Thompson, after indicating that they will be discussing the charter change legal case offers the following:
“Judge Nolan is a Republican. The County Republican Party donated money to see that this proposal did not pass. Republican people that were running for office donated from their campaign funds…and some Democrats to see that this charter change didn’t happen. So the political input of this is huge…and you are talking about county funds being used when this was a city issue so right there I am thinking Judge Nolan is kind of impartial…”
“There were some irregularities we heard. If you wrote in a name it kicked the ballot out. Blah, blubba blah. Machines break down but you always expect your day in court. It’s not required in New York but you expect your right. And I was there when we filed with the court. At that time the Republican Commissioner I drove to his house. First we met with Judge Nolan on Friday after Thanksgiving. So he told us to submit that to one of the Republicans Commissioners for the county. I went to his house. I think his words and I can’t say them on the radio but to get off his bluh bla, bluh bla property. We did supply him with the information. For whatever reason I may be wrong. I hope I am.
None of the six [machines] were in Saratoga Springs. We do somewhat of a clearing of the machines were there any irregularities. They’re saying there is no discrepancy in six of the election districts in the county. None of them were in Saratoga Springs and this is what this law suit is about…Saratoga Springs. They tested six machines and none of them were in Saratoga Springs and I don’t buy that. But here again, let’s take the high road I don’t begrudge anybody but it smells. So far I have had one hundred and forty-seven email from people who are just angry about what’s wrong with asking for a recount? I mean we’re citizens of Saratoga County. It does smell of something. I don’t want to get into some conspiracy thing because that’s not relevant but to think this is going to go away is just wrong.”
“Well, I think number one there should be something placed against Judge Nolan. That right about there is totally insane. He’s behooved to the Republican Committee. They endorsed him and they are paying money to the group opposed to the charter.”
“I’m a Republican and I’m not defending Judge Nolan. Obviously we filed with the county. We did as instructed in January 8 and we were under the impression that we were going to wait for oral arguments which number one never took place. Number 2 we were going to wait for the Appellate Division which is a higher court which was handling a very similar issue in Essex County [ he goes on about attending that case in Albany] We thought we were all waiting for that because it is a higher court. Whether it comes or not we don’t know which is fine ‘cause as I said one hundred and forty-seven people have wrote to me already and I am sure there’ll be more who will participate in getting this back on the ballot. I think its going to pass so overwhelmingly let it run in November it’s no big deal.”