[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]

Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 15, 2007


Suspended: Chief to battle charges head on

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Guilderland’s beleaguered police chief is now suspended from his job without pay as the town pursues a hearing to have him fired.

James Murley will be fighting the charges, said his lawyer, William J. Cade.

"Whoever drafted those charges ought to be given an award for creative writing or the seduction of language," said Cade.

"The charges flow from factual findings," responded Supervisor Kenneth Runion through The Enterprise. "He’s way off base."

Murley had been placed on paid administrative leave on Feb. 8 after a town department head lodged a complaint with the supervisor’s office on Feb. 5.

The town then hired Claudia Ryan, an attorney specializing in employee relations, to investigate the charge, which led to other allegations, said Runion.

While Runion outlined three charges against Murley at a press conference last Friday, none of them were based on the original complaint.

Runion told The Enterprise yesterday that he had received a report from Ryan late Tuesday about the initial complaint.

The town board will meet in executive session today to determine if a further charge is warranted, said Runion.

He declined to discuss the nature of that original complaint.

While Cade declined to give any specific responses to the charges, he said of Murley, "He’s a particularly good guy. He has helped too many people, too many times, for too long a period to be treated the way he has."

Cade said he had not yet figured out the genesis of the charges but said, "Qualified privilege goes down the drain if there’s malice"If I can prove malice, I will go after anybody and everybody who started this damn thing."

He compared the process to peeling an onion. "I’m taking it layer by layer," said Cade, adding, "It’s odd that, if all this were going on for such a period of time, then you have to wonder if other people in the town are guilty of dereliction of duty."

"There’s a process," Runion responded, "and we have to follow the process. I think the town board has done a great job of looking at it and getting independent evaluations."

Runion also said, "I’ve known Jim for 25 years. This is a very difficult process for me. The whole thing has been very stressful."

None of the charges are criminal, Runion said, but the town has contacted the Albany County District Attorney’s Office and the State Police.

Asked if the district attorney has found any grounds for criminal charges, Heather Orth, spokeswoman for the office, said yesterday, "The case is currently under review and we are working with town Supervisor Ken Runion and the New York State Police to review the case."

"All of our charges are administrative disciplinary matters," said Runion on Friday, adding, "I do think the charges are serious enough that termination is warranted."

With administrative charges, Runion said, retirement is an option. Murley is 60, and has been with the Guilderland Police Department since 1972.

By retiring, Murley could avoid the hearing, Runion said, but he added there could be penalties after retirement. The town’s ethics law, he said, "has some penalties built into it." He named fines, forfeiture of health insurance benefits, or accrual.

Runion said he has not asked Murley to resign.

Cade said that Murley has no plans to retire.

"Tough time"

Deborah Murley told The Enterprise this week that she and her husband have had a difficult time since the allegations arose.

"Our attorney has advised him not to speak," she said.

Cade told The Enterprise, "I have specifically indicated to Jim that he should say nothing at all to anyone." Asked why, Cade replied, "Because only a lawyer or a painter can change black into white."

"He’s very direct," Mrs. Murley said of her husband. "He likes to address things head-on." Keeping silent has been difficult for him, she said.

Runion told The Enterprise earlier that Murley is not allowed to go to his office or have any contact with town-hall or police employees.

"He cares about everybody there; they were like a family to him," said Mrs. Murley. "It’s been tough."

Murley, she said, has lived in Guilderland for 50 years; he was one of the original officers when the police department was formed 35 years ago.

"This has been his life," she said; his identity, even his name — he is frequently called "Chief" — are tied in with the police department. "Its been tough," Mrs. Murley said again.

Because of the ban on entering town property, Murley has even given up walking his dog in the town park across the street from their house, she said.

Mrs. Murley said it was particularly hurtful the way her husband’s relationship with reporters has been misconstrued. "I was a reporter years ago at the Knickerbocker News," she said. "I’m in the public relations field. I’m in the media business....Jim always said the media has a job to do...They’re not there to destroy anyone," she said.

She concluded of the last month, "It’s been hard, especially the isolation. We were very active in the community, very involved....It feels like a lot of rights were taken away."

She also said the lack of specific charges had made it hard. "It’s very vague. We were really held in the darkness...Jim kept saying he understood...He figured he’d be exonerated."

Three charges

At a town hall press conference on Friday, Runion outlined disciplinary charges against Murley in three areas:

— Misconduct in connection with interaction with a vendor;

— Alleged violations of the town’s ethics law, involving interactions with other town employees. The town’s ethics law says that an employee "shall not engage in conduct that presents an appearance of impropriety," said Runion; and

— Misconduct regarding the maintenance of complete and accurate attendance and leave records.

The first two charges stem from behavior within the past year, said Runion. Attendance records are being examined going back to 2001.

Through a Freedom of Information Law request which was at first denied and then successfully appealed, The Enterprise learned that, in the last five years, the amount of vacation time Murley took fluctuated, ranging from 17 days in 2004 to nearly 35 days in 2002, according to his time bank records.

Runion told The Enterprise that the only records that exist for Murley are individual leave slips and his time bank. As chief of police, Murley was able to file for his own personal leaves.

According to his contract, Murley, whose pay was $96,844 annually, is allowed up to six months of paid leave in a given year.

An administrative hearing is planned within the month, Runion said. It could result in a range of recommendations, from a determination that the charges are without merit, up to a recommendation for dismissal, he said.

Murley has eight days to respond to the charges which were served on March 9, said Runion.

The town board at its meeting Thursday evening will discuss appointing a hearing officer, Runion told The Enterprise. "The board can select whoever they feel comfortable with"A number of names have been suggested," he said, but declined specifying who.

Cade said yesterday that he has been going through the town’s procedures and policies with "a fine-tooth comb" and will meet the March 17 deadline for response, although he had filed nothing yet.

In Murley’s absence, Deputy Chief Carol Lawlor is running the department as she has in the past. In the fall of 2004, Murley missed 40 days of work due to Lyme disease, which he got from a deer tick bite. He was hospitalized several times before doctors were able to detect the disease, which had spread to his spinal cord.

Lawlor said at Friday’s press conference that morale among the officers was fine and day-to-day operations were continuing.

"We have to continue," she said. "We owe it to the citizens and visitors."

"Rumors in the press"

Despite media accounts to the contrary, Runion said at Friday’s press conference, "There are no charges with respect to sexual harassment."

Runion also called reports of a town employee wearing a wire to tape Murley’s behavior "unfounded rumors."

Throughout Friday’s conference, Runion termed "rumors in the press" untrue.

A question was asked as to whether town cars were used to take Murley to Turning Stone Casino during work hours and whether town employees went with him.

"None of the things you touched on came to light," Runion said of the investigation. "We do not have any indication there has been a misuse of town property or of other town employees during business hours being in attendance at any [inappropriate] event....We’d welcome you to come forward," he concluded of such information.

However, when Runion was asked if Murley was at a casino during his nine-to-five work day, he replied, "I’m not going to answer that."

"We proceed based on fact," Runion said, not "rumor and innuendo."

Mum

After sending out a press release about Murley’s leave, the town had remained silent on the allegations until Friday’s press conference.

"Our first and foremost concern was to protect the privacy of the individuals involved in the investigation," said Runion. "Additionally, we wished to protect the integrity of the investigation by allowing it to proceed without external distractions."

As Runion was peppered with questions at the press conference about the town’s silence, he repeatedly cited the Public Officers Law. Under the law, he said, disciplinary charges cannot be released until after a hearing.

He also said that Murley had, over the years, "developed close relationships with a number of members of the media."

He went on, "The nature of these relationships is such that we believe that we had and have reason to be concerned that coverage of our investigation could compromise appropriate objectivity."

Murley had a close relationship with some members of the media, which included taking them out to lunch and one reporter may have even gone to Cape Cod with him, Runion said.

Asked if it was a romantic relationship, Runion said, "No, he was not dating."

"Reporters lunch with sources," said one television reporter. "I don’t understand."

"You have a different viewpoint on that," responded Runion.

Deborah Murley told The Enterprise this week that a former Channel 6 reporter, who had gotten to know Murley when she did a story about his having Lyme disease, had lunched with the Murleys on Cape Cod after she had left her job at Channel 6 and was working in West Palm Beach.

"She had already left her job; it wasn’t a conflict," said Mrs. Murley.

Runion, a lawyer, also cited Section 75 of Civil Service Law, which deals with disciplining employees.

Witnesses might be intimidated by press coverage, Runion said.


Nothing slows down Mattice, nothing!

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Making the cut.

As an athlete, it means everything. As a leukemia survivor, it means even more.

That’s why 12-year-old Hayley Mattice knew exactly what she was getting into when she lobbed off more than 10 inches of her hair for Locks of Love — because she is both.

Mattice, now a sixth-grader at Farnsworth Middle School, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001 while she was in kindergarten at Lynnwood Elementary School. With the love and support of her family and friends along the way, Mattice is today looking to become Guilderland’s future basketball star.

Nothing is slowing her down.

"I like to keep myself busy," Mattice said. "I don’t like to sit around."

Between the Guilderland Basketball Club; the Junior Catholic Youth Oranization team; softball; bowling; the Law Club; school plays; playing the saxophone; tap, jazz, and ballet at the Dance Studio; and being a straight-A student, there really isn’t much time to sit around, say her parents, Paul and Karen.

"I get to be her chauffeur," said Mattice’s father as Hayley was describing her long list of activities. "And her older brother, too," he added.

Mattice was recently given an award by Farnsworth Middle School for "Good Character" in helping others.

Paul Mattice said the family found out about Hayley’s leukemia on Friday the 13th in April of 2001, after Hayley had been feeling tired and a blood test was taken. But, he continued, with the support of friends and the specialized touch of Albany Medical Center Cancer Care, she pulled through remarkably.

"She came through a lot better than her parents"It was never a big deal to her," he said, beaming with pride. "As you can see, it hasn’t slowed her down any."

Mattice said she has been growing her hair out for quite some time in order to participate in the Locks for Love program for other kids who lost their hair to a disease.

"I did it for the kids who lost their hair. I kind of know how it felt, so I wanted to help them," she said. About her own hair loss, Mattice said, "It was kind of like a shock, but then I got used to it."

Mattice does have some advice for others who are struggling with hair loss from chemotherapy.

"Don’t be embarrassed by it, because people will appreciate you for it," she said.

Never using Locks of Love herself, Mattice wore bandanas, but added that she realizes some people prefer wigs to make themselves feel comfortable.

"For Halloween, I wore a wig, but at school I always wore a bandana," Mattice said. "A lot of them had different patterns. I don’t think there was one that just had plain colors on it."

Mattice’s father said the other kids in her class asked Hayley about her leukemia and that two nurses from Albany Medical Center came to the school and explained it to everyone. After she lost her hair, all of students at school rallied behind her, he said.

"They had a bandana day at the school," he said. "A lot of the girls started wearing bandanas after she did"And all of the teachers down at Lynnwood took care of her, too."

Mattice looks forward to playing basketball throughout her academic career in the Guilderland School District, saying she’s going to try out for the modified team next year in seventh grade. She sometimes goes to the University at Albany basketball games, and, Mattice said, she wouldn’t mind playing there herself one day.

"I heard it was a really good college and I would like to go there and try out for team after high school," Mattice said.

When asked what she sees herself doing after school’s all done, Mattice responded after but a moment’s hesitation, "I really like basketball, so I was thinking about the WNBA."


Zoners approve gravel pit

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — The zoning board said yes to a gravel pit and a house-call veterinary office last Wednesday night, and told developer Jeff Thomas to come back in two weeks.

Charles Desch was unanimously granted a special-use permit for his sand and gravel mine proposed for Becker Road. The board told Desch that he could not start his operation until the road at Route 158 underwent reconfiguration.

Other stipulations have to be met, too, such as creating an escrow account for any damage caused to the road by Desch’s truck. Desch is only allowed to use a single-unit truck no longer than 30 feet.

Because mining permits are governed by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, the zoning board’s only authority was to issue a special-use permit. The DEC has already granted Desch a permit for the project.

"The DEC has pre-empted all zoning boards from mining permits," said zoning board chairman, Peter Barber.

Desch’s lawyer told the board the only real issue left is the re-alignment of the intersection.

Sue Green, a resident of Route 158, asked the board why four nearby neighbors were not notified by mail of the hearing.

"As you know, the only legal notice required is publication in a newspaper," Barber said. "We do the mailings as a courtesy."

Chief Building Inspector Donald Cropsey told Green he thought all of the residents had been notified by mail.

"If anyone has enough money to fix the roads, they can drive whatever they want"" Green asked the board, indicating the weight limit would be broken by trucks hauling gravel.

"Mr. Desch is only allowed to drive trucks to and from his gravel pit and Route 158," Cropsey told her.

Green was also upset that the board did not address the hours of operation in Desch’s application.

"The DEC said boards can make recommendations for the hours of operation," she said. "Did you make recommendations""

The hours of operation for the gravel pit will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

"By law, the DEC has exclusive jurisdiction over the hours of operation," Barber told Green. "I wasn’t involved."

There were several letters both for and against Desch’s application submitted to the board.

House calls

In a six-to-one vote, the board granted veterinarian Laurie Coser a special-use permit to operate an "administrative" office on 20 Shady Lane.

Board Member James Sumner voted against the application, citing too many residents were concerned over traffic that might be generated by an "animal hospital."

Because Coser performs chiropractic treatment, the town code defines the operation as an animal hospital, which is not allowed in a residential zone and not allowed as a customary home occupation.

There were several letters of opposition and support for the application.

"We do not endorse any critical comments directed toward you," Barber told Coser, adding that the board only looks at the legalities of an application through the town’s code. Because Coser’s profession falls within the description of an animal hospital, he said, her original application would need to be in an agricultural zone.

"I am willing to make the office completely administrative," Coser told the board. Coser said her operation will consist of house-calls and animal shows, but that no animals will actually be treated on Shady Lane.

Donald Reeb, president of the McKownville Neighborhood Improvement Association, spoke on behalf of surrounding neighbors about making sure animals were not treated at the office.

"It does worry neighbors about enforcement and adherence"It is a very difficult process," he said. "It puts a requirement on neighbors to serve partly as viewers as to what’s going on. That’s not necessarily comfortable."

Senior housing

Jeff Thomas and his architects presented plans for an 86-unit senior-housing complex at the former Bavarian Chalet. Thomas needs a special-use permit and an area variance for the project to move forward.

Last year, the town board re-zoned the site from local business to multiple residence in return for a town-designated senior center at the complex.

Revised plans presented to boards addressed previous issues brought up by concerned residents nearby. The project’s setback, emergency access, density, and landscape coverage were the main concerns.

One resident, Thomas Green, of 5080 Western Turnpike, lives next to the project and three sides of his property face the proposed complex. He brought up many issues at the last board meeting.

"I’m quite surprised at how little has changed," Green said. "With a few more variances we could probably get Giants Stadium in there"I don’t think there’s a development this compact with density in the entire Capital District."

It was brought up later in the meeting that the Mallards Pond development in town has a higher density with eight units per acre, compared to Thomas’s proposed seven units per acre.

Thomas Green was angry about the setback being so small behind his property and raised concerns about noise and traffic.

Mary Ann Zwicklbauer of Hoosick Falls, whose family sold the Bavarian Chalet, spoke in favor of the project.

"We’ve been there for a very long time," said Zwicklbauer. "It was important that something constructive be done with it."

Zwicklbauer went on to say that many of her family’s older friends are retiring and want to downsize their homes, but stay in the area. She said that Guilderland was in desperate need of such a project.

Thomas has proposed two other senior-housing projects — one in Berne to serve the Hilltowns, and the other on Brandle Road just outside of Altamont.

Despite what the Army Corps of Engineers said about wetlands on the property, Zwicklbauer told the board that her grandfather was the one who dug the pond and planted the trees in what was once an empty field.

With hundreds of weddings with up to 200 people, a community banquet, and lots of soccer events, she said, "Seniors cannot possibly be as noisy as we were when it was a bustling business."

The board asked for some more details from Thomas’s architects and planners, and told them to come back in two weeks, on March 21.


Hello, Dolly! is still going strong, on Guilderland stage

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Forty-three years after Thornton Wilder’s play, The Matchmaker, was made into a Broadway musical, Hello, Dolly! is still glowing, still crowing, still going strong.

The classic musical, with book by Michael Stewart and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, is being presented by The Guilderland Players this weekend.

"It’s colorful and happy," said Director Andy Maycock, an English teacher at the high school. "There’s not a down moment in it; it’s all light and fun."

He contrasted this with the players’ last two spring musicals, Into the Woods and Steel Pier, which had their dark moments.

This year, Maycock chose a standby with which he was very comfortable because some long-time faculty members had retired from the annual show. Maycock had a part in the ensemble in a 1985 production of Dolly that played in the newly-renovated Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady. Then, in 1986, as a student at Burnt Hills, he played Cornelius in his high school’s production.

"I was breaking in some new people and I needed a show I was comfortable with," said Maycock, who has directed the players’ productions since 1998.

One of the new faculty, the choral director, Kerry Dineen, is really an old hand. Currently a music teacher at Pine Bush Elementary School, "She was in The Guilderland Players way back when," said Maycock. "She has a lot of energy and is enthusiastic working with the kids."

The new conductor, directing the pit orchestra, Alexis St. Clair, also has a history with the players. She teaches music in Guilderland elementary schools and she teaches the flute at the high school. "She was in the ensemble of Once Upon a Mattress, my first show here," said Maycock.

The new choreographer, Mike Gatzendorfer, works in the BOCES programs for the deaf and hard of hearing. "He’s a young guy who has worked with youth theater in Ballston Spa," said Maycock. "I told him that we work for four months, it’s a long haul, and we expect the kids to be top-notch...The kids demand it and so does the audience."

Gatzendorfer has risen to the occasion, said Maycock, describing one scene where Dolly is teaching people to dance. "The temptation is to do a simple waltz," said Maycock. "He’s got turns, flips, people jumping over each other," he said of the choreographer.

"Precursor to the Internet"

The play is set in 1890’s New York City. "It’s about a woman, a widow, who’s a busybody and a gossip," said Maycock. "She has a purse full of business cards that fit any occasion."

Her primary role, though, is to be a romantic matchmaker. "Sort of a precursor to the Internet," said Maycock, with a chuckle.

Dolly is played by Jen Meglino, a senior at Guilderland High School. Although Maycock knew Meglino was a strong player, he didn’t see her as Dolly until it came to the callbacks during the auditioning process. "She just took over the role, as a controlling, powerful character," he recalled.

"She’s a dancer," Maycock went on. "She’s little, but she’s commanding. She has a really sweet smile. What she says is the truth and nice to hear."

Maycock hasn’t been fond of the portrayal of Dolly in many productions, he said, citing Barbra Streisand’s rendition in particular. "Her Dolly was obnoxious. Jen is sweet and true and strong."

Dolly has her sights set on Horace Vandergelder, the well-known half-a-millionaire; crotchety and cantankerous, he lives in Yonkers and owns a hay and feed store.

"But he’s about to propose to Irene, a woman Dolly set him up with," said Maycock. "So she has to set her up with somebody else."

David Alliger, a junior, plays Horace Vandergelder. "He’s a tall, slender guy; it seems like he’s 6 feet, 10," said Maycock. "He’s able to be funny without knowing it. He has an effortless humor."

Romantic subplots involve Irene Molly (played by Lydia Walrath) and Minnie Fay (played by Elizabeth Sherman) who work in a hat shop, and Cornelius Hackl (played by Zack Tolmie) and Barnaby Tucker (played by Andrew Saperstone), who work at Vandergelder’s Hay and Feed Store.

Maycock describes Tolmie as "a great kid, full of energy and ideas, with a golden voice to boot who’s been in every one of our shows the last four years."

Walrath, also a senior, is playing in her fourth musical. "Her character, like Dolly, is a widow. She’s not eager to settle down. She sees through Cornelius, who is pretending to be rich, but she thinks the boys are charming and plays along.

One of the high points of the show, said Maycock, is the song Tolmie and Walrath sing together — "It Only Takes a Moment."

Saperstone, another senior, plays Barnaby Tucker as "a neurotic and nervous guy, fumbling and bumbling, and fun to watch," said Maycock.

And Sherman, who is a senior, too, is creative with her portrayal of Minnie Fay. "I keep throwing things at her, like, ‘Do it in a Brooklyn accent,’ and she does and it’s outstanding," said Maycock.

"Grammy’s gonna love it!"

"There’s something for everyone in this show," said Maycock. "There are so many different dancing and singing styles — there’s a polka, there are big brass numbers and a waltz, and there’s that beautiful ballad, ‘It Only Takes a Moment.’

"People expect The Guilderland Players to do difficult stuff that you don’t normally see in a high school. We’re not just up there, standing and singing."

In fact, Maycock said that, when rehearsal first started four months ago, he sat down with Dineen, St. Clair, and Gatzendorfer and they decided to cut the encore to the "Hello, Dolly!" number, where Dolly dances with waiters.

"They’re supposed to look like swank waiters doing the soft shoe. Here are these boys I thought would never do it and now they’re leading the way...Last week, I watched the guys nail "Hello, Dolly!" and we put the encore back in...

"It ends much more beautifully now. The audience applauds and they get more. The boys really earned that."

The show, concluded Maycock, will appeal to discerning audiences of any age. Maycock’s mother comes to every show as does his seven-year-old daughter.

Watching a recent rehearsal, his daughter proclaimed, "Grammy’s gonna love it!"

****

Hello Dolly will play on the Guilderland High School stage March 15 at 7 p.m., a show which is sign-language interpreted; March 16 and 17 at 8 p.m.; and March 18 at 2 p.m.

Tickets for all shows are $7. Reservations may be made by contacting Joan True at the high school at truej@guilderlandschools.org.

Remaining tickets will be sold at the door.


[Return to Home Page]