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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 1, 2005

Three more teens nabbed for auto vandalism spree

By Holly Grosch

Three more teens were arrested by the Bethlehem Police for participating in the vandalism of more than 30 cars between July 15 and Aug. 8. And, the Albany County Sheriff’s Department has made its own arrests for two similar incidents in New Scotland.

Bethlehem Police arrested John R. VanDyke, 16, of Kenwood Avenue in Delmar, and Damon J. Murray, 17, of Murray Road, Oak Hill, N.Y. on Tuesday Aug. 16. Bethlehem police then also arrested Michael Jones, 16, of Cass Hill Road, Voorheesville, on Wednesday, Aug. 17.

All three are charged with criminal mischief, a felony. They joined the list of defendants after their friend Russell Babin, 19, of Feura Bush was arrested on Monday Aug. 8, also for felony criminal mischief. Babin drove during the vandalism of 20 cars the Sunday before his arrest, Bethlehem Detective Mike McMillen told The Enterprise earlier.

Babin confessed, and then named the other teens involved in breaking car windows, pouring orange soda into gas tanks, and writing derogatory comments and offensive images in permanent marker on the outside of the vehicles, said McMillen.

"The only reason we did it is because we were bored and had nothing else to do," Babin told The Enterprise earlier.

All four teens are charged with 17 counts of criminal mischief, resulting in $16,000 worth of damages, Bethlehem police say.

The four defendants are scheduled to appear in Bethlehem Town Court on Sept. 6 at 4 p.m.

Bethlehem’s investigation is ongoing and additional charges and arrests are still expected to account for more than $30,000 in total damages.

The Albany County Sheriff’s Department has closed its investigation into two cases of similar vandalism in New Scotland, Sheriff’s Department Investigator Matt Campbell said.

"Oh yeah, it was the same kids," Campbell told The Enterprise this week.

McMillen said what tied the inter-town cases together was the way in which the car damage was done.

There were only a handful of cars damaged in New Scotland, McMillen previously stated.

A third police investigation for the same type of car vandalism is also being carried out in the town of Coeymans.

Campbell said that the sheriff’s department arrested Babin on Aug. 11 and Murray on Aug. 17. The department also arrested a third juvenile defendant who was 15 at the time; police are not releasing his name because of his age.

These three defendants will have to appear before New Scotland Town Court on separate sheriff department charges beyond the charges they are facing in Bethlehem, Campbell said.

Campbell said that the sheriff’s department arrested these individuals based on his department’s own interviews, and the Bethlehem Police Department’s reports.

Petition investigation — "No crimes were found’

By Holly Grosch

NEW SCOTLAND — The district attorney’s office cleared New Scotland petitioners and the Albany County Board of Elections of fraud allegations raised by Sharon Boehlke, a New Scotland Conservative, and County Conservative Party Chairman Richard Stack.

"No crimes were found," spokesman Richard Arthur stated in an e-mail to The Enterprise. "In this case, we found an honest mistake."

Boehlke had submitted petitions to the board of elections to allow write-in voting in the upcoming primary for the Conservative Party.

When Stack challenged the petitions, noting re-written dates, Boehlke responded, in an Enterprise article, that she hadn’t made the changes; she stated they must have been made after she handed in the petitions to the board of elections.

Copies of the petitions were reviewed and individual signers were interviewed, Arthur told The Enterprise.

"We found time-stamped copies of the petitions, which showed that the change had been made prior to the time when the petitions were submitted to the BOE [Board of Elections]," Arthur wrote.

The signers themselves made changes to the dates, said a member of the district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit who requested that his name be withheld.

The investigator spoke with a few of the signers, with Boehlke who handed in the petition, and with a witness other than Boehlke who watched family members sign, he said. These interviews resulted in a reasonable explanation, he said.

The witness had not signed the petition because he is not enrolled in the Conservative Party, the investigator said.

The witness watched his family members sign and date their lines and then he realized it was the wrong date and he wrote over the date again to put in the correct date, the investigator reported.

"It was a clerical error....no fraud," the investigator said.

But the new date had not been initialed, so the county board of elections had made the right decision to strike those lines from the petitions, the investigator said.

While this one witness explained why a cluster of family members had the wrong date, The Enterprise asked him about the other line, line 7, where the date also appears to have been altered and was struck from the petition by the election commissioners.

The district attorney’s investigator said that he did not interview that signer.. He said that if the Public Integrity Unit had unlimited resources then absolutely he would have interviewed everyone, but, in this case, he didn’t need to.

The date changes were mistakes, he said, nothing devious was going on.

This case was "clear cut," he said.

He appreciated Stack’s objection, because it "did need to be looked into," he said.

"I’m really excited it worked out," the investigator said. "The system worked."

GOP says Conservative line is being "hijacked"; Dems say, we are conservative

By Holly Grosch

NEW SCOTLAND — Candidates running on the Republican line for town offices who were also endorsed by the Conservative Party say the small party is being "hijacked" by the family members of Democratic players in town.

The Democrats who are launching a write-in campaign in the Sept. 13 Conservative Party primary disagree. They say their family members have their own beliefs and that many of their values do match the Conservatives.

Voter enrollment in New Scotland is roughly divided in thirds, with a third of voters enrolled as Democrats, a third as Republicans, and a third enrolled in a small party or not enrolled in a party at all. So, in New Scotland, the small-party lines are an important factor in the overall election outcome.

Conservative primary

While four candidates are listed on the Conservative ballot—Clark for supervisor, Andrea Gleason and Doug LaGrange for council seats, all with GOP endorsement, and Thomas Dolin, a Democrat for judge—write-ins are allowed for all categories of office this year due to opportunity-to-ballot petitions.

A team of enrolled New Scotland Conservatives: Sharon Boehlke, John Reilly, and Michael Cootware handed in 18 signatures to Albany County Board of Elections for the opportunity to ballot for the two council seats and the one supervisor position.

Boehlke said she wanted local New Scotland Conservatives to choose their own candidates by write-in rather than having their candidates dictated to them by county party leaders, who live outside of the town.

The board of elections’ commissioners threw-out four signatures on a page witnessed by Boehlke, because the dates had been altered and then not initialed, making them invalid. However, write-ins are still permitted because, collectively, there were still enough signatures to meet the requirement.

County Conservative Party Chairman Richard Stack challenged the petitions due to the date altering. Stack told The Enterprise that he felt slighted by Democrats who are trying to undermine the Conservative Party.

Of the 18 people who signed the petition requesting the opportunity to ballot for town council and supervisor, more than half of the signers are relatives of candidates running on the Democratic ticket or relatives of individuals currently serving an elected position in town as a Democrat.

Republican and Conservative candidate LaGrange said, "I respect the opportunity to write in...if true Conservatives want to." Democrats, however, are "planning a hijacking of the Conservative line," LaGrange told The Enterprise.

Supervisor Clark made the same comment to The Enterprise, "I think they are hijacking a party line," he said.

Democrats have been planting seeds in all the secondary party lines, Clark said, only now the Conservative Party leaders are starting to fight back.

The Independence Party in New Scotland is already "so loaded up against us" Clark said, that he didn’t bother trying to secure the Independence line since, he said, it is infiltrated with Democrats.

LaGrange said that the Democrats’ planting family members by having them enroll in the Conservative Party, is cheating.

A Democratic candidate being on the Conservative line is disingenuous to New Scotland Conservative voters, LaGrange said.

"It’s not fair to voters who do not take the opportunity to educate themselves" on the town issues and instead rely on their party to determine their vote, LaGrange said.

Stack said that the county executive committee accepts applications and interviews all the candidates who request the party’s support.


The Democrats disagree.

Elizabeth Stewart, running for supervisor, and Peg Neri and Wayne LaChappelle, running for council seats, already have a lock on both the Democratic and Independence lines. All three of them are now pursuing write-in campaigns for the Conservative line.

Stewart told The Enterprise, in response to LaGrange’s comments about being disingenuous, "I do have Conservative beliefs."

"We’re not about high taxes," Stewart said of herself and her two running mates.

Stewart added that LaGrange doesn’t know her; in fact, she has never met him, she said. If she and he are both elected, Stewart said, she is interested to see what kind of working relationship they will have, based on the way he is starting.

Stewart said she supports the least amount of taxes possible. She added that she will be smart in her buying and spending

She would like to combine town and village functions for such items as animal control.

"It’s the same tax dollar," Stewart said. "I’m for sharing."

"With the current administration, there is no communication between the town and village," Stewart said.

As for Stack’s and LaGrange’s comments that the Democrats are stacking the deck by having family members infiltrate the Conservative Party, Stewart said, in her immediate family, with six grown children and a husband, there are three Republicans, two Democrats, one Conservative, and one who never votes at all.

Her 24-year-old daughter, Jessica Stewart, who signed a Conservative Party petition for the opportunity to ballot supports her mother, Stewart said, but Jessica Stewart was enrolled in the Conservative Party "long before I was asked to be a candidate," she said.

LaChappelle said he is lucky to already have the endorsement of the Democrats, and the Independence Party. If he wins the Conservative Party primary on Sept. 13, he said, "Irregardless, you’ll be hearing the same thing from me."

He said the Independence Party typifies him.

"I’m an independent thinker and voice," he said.

LaChappelle, a zoning board member, said he is also a Conservative by nature.

"I’m a Conservative person in all aspects of my life," he said. And, on the political trail, he said, "Zoning is extremely of interest to me," because of the encroachment of urban sprawl. "We cannot be asleep at the switch," he said.

He thinks towns do need zoning regulations, but he agrees with Ronald Reagan about not over-regulating, he said.

In New Scotland, he said, "We need to protect what we have," which includes a long history of agriculture.

Neri said her approach to the write-in campaign is to introduce herself and speak to the Conservative voters in New Scotland and allow them to decide, on an individual basis, who they want to represent them on the ballot come November.

She said that she didn’t have anything to do with the petition for the opportunity to ballot, and that she didn’t know it was circulating or that her son Brian had signed it, until after the fact.

Neri said, as a Democrat, she feels as though she "has much in common" with New Scotland Conservative voters because she believes that "public money should be spent efficiently."

Services should be provided to the resident "without increasing taxes," Neri said.

Republicans’ comments that the Democrats’ write-in campaign is a "hijacking" is an unfair characterization, Neri said. Her son is 18, she said.

Republicans on representing Conservatives

Being a senior citizen on a fixed income, wanting to live in this community that she grew up in, Gleason is aware of people’s concerns about taxes and sprawl.

She said with escalating taxes, it’s up to the town government to balance the taxes against the service that residents receive.

Gleason said she appreciates the high quality of education kids are getting in the community, but also, with that, comes high school taxes.

The town government can help that a little, she said, such as by being responsible and doing the reassessments regularly which they are doing this year; that should re-group things, Gleason said.

Also, Gleason said the new Omni medical building on Route 85, is an "excellent" kind of commercial businesses that brings in taxes but also doesn’t scoop up all the town’s services, she said.

LaGrange said that, as he has grown up as a Republican he has realized that he is on the far right wing of the Republican Party.

"I could easily re-register as a Conservative," he said. But in recent years being politically active and running in elections, he said, he chose not to switch parties because he knows that it may look disingenuous.

He said what he hopes for and what he thinks most conservative voters expect is that, when the voters see a candidate’s name on the Conservative line, they can feel comfortable that county party leaders have picked the candidate that best match their values.

It goes beyond local issues, and touches on what it means to be a Conservative at the national level, he said. New Scotland Conservatives in a town election want to "vote for someone whose mindset is similar" to theirs.

"People rely on that line for matching up candidates with their values," he said. "It bothers me so much" that Democrats who aren’t Conservative could be on the Conservative line.

"I would never go after the Liberal line," La Grange told The Enterprise. "It would be disingenuous to a Liberal person."

As for his Conservative beliefs on local issues, LaGrange said that he wants to control spending. "I’m not saying cut and slash," he said, but spending has to be thoughtful.

"I want to control taxes," LaGrange said.

While he does want to use the word "control" to describe spending and taxes, he said he does not want to use the word "control" with development.

He wants to "focus" development instead, he said.

LaGrange has been a member of the town planning board for four years.

A council member has to keep people’s property rights in mind, and instead of controlling projects, help to steer developers in the right way, he said.

New Scotland definitely needs development to increase the commercial tax base, which is currently a meager 6 percent, LaGrange said. He said he doesn’t want to scare away developers with too many controls. People need local service that businesses provide, he said.

"It’s not all or nothing," LaGrange said. Town government "needs folks who can compromise."

He thinks the Stewart’s on Route 85 is a great example of how the town can compromise with developers on design plans.

Clark said that he matches very closely with New Scotland Conservatives.

"My chief interest is keeping the cost of government low," Clark said.

High taxes, especially school taxes, can eventually force people to have to leave a community, Clark said. it is particularly the elderly and young people, who can’t afford to stay, he added.

Town government can play an important role in controlling school taxes by watching development, he said.

He said he has to make sure not to flood the schools with students, which would be the outcome if a large housing development was built.

Commercial development would be the best economic situation, Clark said. He will continue to encourage commercial growth in certain areas, he said.

Also, senior housing developments are appealing, because these residents won’t have children to send to school, but will increase the tax base, he said.

Another one of Clark’s values, which he says matches up with Conservatives, is, "I believe strongly in property rights although I do want the town to plan for the future."

He said he will safeguard property rights by not adopting any policies that would limit a person’s ability to sell their land. "I want to avoid anything representing a moratorium," he said. "I want people to sell their land if they choose to."

Independence party — Choice between judges

By Holly Grosch

NEW SCOTLAND — Independence voters on Sept. 13 will be able to cast their ballot for the incumbent town justice, Thomas Dolin, a Democrat, or his challenger, Susan Aron-DeFronzo, a Republican.

Paul Caputo, the chair of the county’s Independence Party, said that his party has endorsed a full slate for New Scotland. The Independence Party has endorsed Elizabeth Stewart for town supervisor, and Margaret Neri and Wayne LaChappelle for council seats — all Democrats.

Independence voters won’t see these three names on the primary ballot, however, because they are already locked into the Independence line.

The county’s Independence Party picks have not been challenged by petitions for the opportunity to ballot.

Supervisor Ed Clark and Councilwoman Andrea Gleason, who are not enrolled as Republicans but have both run successfully on the GOP line, said that they did not pursue an opportunity to ballot, because the Independence Party is overrun with Democrats.

If a candidate is not a member of the Independence Party then he or she "needs permission to run on our line," Caputo said. "The exception to this is town justices."

Candidates for judge don’t need the party’s permission. They can collect signatures on what is called a nominated petition, Caputo said.

Caputo said that his party endorsed Dolin for justice, but Aron-DeFronzo forced a primary in the judge’s race by collecting signatures from 5 percent of New Scotland’s enrolled Independence Party members.

Both their names will be on the ballot, for voters to choose between, with a lever.

All the candidates who ask for Independence Party support are interviewed, Caputo said.

The county Independence committee was fully impressed with Dolin, he said. Dolin has had the party’s endorsement in the past and has "really proven to be a reasonable judge," Caputo said.

Aron-DeFronzo told The Enterprise that she was too late in requesting Conservative Party support, so she is running a write-in campaign to win over the Conservative voters support.

As judges, Dolin said, "We don’t take positions on most local issues." Judges are not supposed to express any opinions on political maters, he said. So, in terms of a judge representing a political party in an election it doesn’t really work out or mean the same things as the other elected posts, he said.

"They don’t ask us to endorse their party," Dolin said. "We don’t take positions on water rates," he said, giving an example.
When asked, then, what it means for a judge to be on the ballot under the Democratic, Independence and Conservative lines at the same time, Dolin responded, since Democratic and Republican enrollment is fairly equal in New Scotland, "It’s generally recognized the minor party lines are crucial for who wins."

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