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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 9, 2007
May Fireworks bust results in arrest
By Jarrett Carroll
GUILDERLAND Police in May discovered a tractor-trailer-sized cache of fireworks in a Westmere house.
In June, Peter F. Andrus, 63, of 117 Brandon Terrace, was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment, a felony; second-degree reckless endangerment and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a firearm both misdemeanors; and unlawful possession or use of fireworks, an infraction.
His arrest report, made available last week, describes Andrus as a divorced white physician.
Guilderland Police did not release Andruss name in May but told The Enterprise that they were assisting emergency medical services workers with a call to a residence. When they arrived at 117 Brandon Terrace, they found a car running inside of the garage.
Andrus was then evacuated from his house to the nearby Westmere Elementary School where he was transported by helicopter to Westchester Medical Center for carbon monoxide related injuries, according to police.
The hospital listed his condition as "stable" that week and he was later released.
Once police discovered powders and other explosive substances inside of Andruss home, they called the State Police Bomb Disposal Unit.
According to the arrest report, police found "a large amount of explosive precursors and a large assortment of class ‘C’ fireworks, in his residence."
Police also found "a loaded 38 caliber Colt pistol," in his house, the report says.
Fireworks were found in various locations around Andruss home, including some stored in large crates, police said at the time.
Both handmade and commercially-made fireworks were found in the home, as well as the raw materials to make fireworks, such as black powder and flash powder, Chief Technical Sergeant Tim Fischer of the State Police told The Enterprise after the incident.
"Although those are the most common ingredients in pipe bombs, there were no bombs being made there," Fischer said. "There was a small laboratory inside"He was making powders for fireworks."
Fischer said fireworks are not only dangerous to store in a house but could also pose serious threats to local rescue crews if the house caught on fire.
Andrus’s arrest report says he showed a "depraved indifference to human life" because he "did recklessly engage in conduct which created a grave risk of death and/or substantial risk of physical injury to another person."
In New York State, it is illegal for an individual without a permit to "offer or expose for sale, sell or furnish, any fireworks" or to "possess, use, explode or cause to explode any fireworks."
Locked child in car leads to arrest
By Jarrett Carroll
GUILDERLAND A mother and grandmother were arrested last Wednesday after Guilderland Police discovered they left a 3-year-old child locked in a car at Star Plaza. The temperature was 86 degrees Fahrenheit, police say.
Lorie Cordell, 54, the childs grandmother, and Franchesca Zuniga, 25, the childs mother, both of 790 Route 990, Gilboa (Schoharie County), were charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.
Police arrested the two women shortly after 7 p.m. at the plaza, at the corner of routes 155 and 20, after they received a call about a child being locked in a car there, according to a release from Guilderland Police. When police arrived, they say they found the car was not running. Cordell and Zungia stated that the car had been left running with an automatic car starter, which provided air-conditioning, the release says.
High temperatures inside of a car can be fatal in a matter of minutes, the assistant chief of operations for the Western Turnpike Rescue Squad, Denise Schultz, told The Enterprise that
"At that temperature it could cause hyperthermia"which is the over heating of all the body’s systems," Schultz said. "It has been fatal"In that kind of heat, we’re talking just a few minutes before you could have adverse effects occur."
Schultz said there are many other factors involved, too, such as pre-existing health conditions and the heat index and humidity levels, that make it dangerous to be in a locked car during the summer months.
The young and the elderly are especially susceptible to health risks due to excessive heat, Schulz said, adding that the rescue squad answers more calls in extremely hot and cold weather.
Guilderland Police say Cordell and Zuniga were both released on appearance tickets at the scene and are scheduled to appear in Guilderland Town Court on Aug. 16.
Is Conners doing his job"
By Jarrett Carroll
ALBANY COUNTY The county comptroller is running on his record as his challengers campaign manager makes an issue of accessing his records.
Patricia Slavick, a Guilderland Town Board member, is challenging Michael Conners for comptroller in the Sept. 18 Democratic primary. Her campaign manager, the towns development director, Donald Csaposs, wants to see Connerss audits.
In a lengthy letter to the Enterprise editor this week, he complains about a delay in his request for information and writes, "My personal suspicion is that he doesn’t want to tell me what audits he’s performed because either he doesn’t do any or doesn’t do enough, and the taxpayers of Albany County deserve better."
"We decided we wanted to take a look at the quality of his audit work," Csaposs said yesterday. "The starting point is to find out what he has covered. The next thing is to look at how well has he done it."
Conners defended the work of his office, citing his audits of the Albany County Nursing Home and Albany Countys prescription drug plan, which revealed diversions and overcharges of millions of dollars. Connors also pointed to his offices improvement of the hotel-motel tax auditing system, which resulted in additional revenue for Albany County.
Conners said that Slavick’s name was not on the requests sent to the county clerk’s office, but that her "handlers" were requesting the information.
He said one of the focuses of his 2007 campaign for re-election is leadership and that the comptroller has to be a "demonstrated leader" to earn the job.
He would not comment on the contents of Csaposss letter to The Enterprise, calling the letter "a personal attack" and saying it did not "dignify a response."
"I always run a clean campaign," Conners said.
Responding through The Enterprise, Csaposs said, "I guess if you’re not talking about anything, you’re running a clean campaign."
Csaposs said he filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the county clerks office in early July for lists of audits that Connerss office has performed and the ones he scheduled for this year.
Daniel Hornick, of Albany County Executive Michael Breslins Office, who is also working on Slavicks campaign, has filed FOIL requests with the county clerk, too.
"We just want to see if there was an audit plan available," Slavick said yesterday, when asked about Csaposs’s letter that was e-mailed The Enterprise on Friday. "We also FOILed for the audit procedural manuals."
"Audits," she said, "would determine if goals are being met."
Connors told The Enterprise that the comptroller’s office has conducted around 60 audits since 2004, but that his office also conducts hotel-motel audits and receives "between 50,000 and 60,000" claims each year.
"The requests will be completed in the order they were received," Conners said of the FOIL requests. Conners also said he is waiting on information from the county attorney’s office, but that his office has already gathered 1,600 pages of documents to respond to the requests.
"I was informed by the clerk’s office that on or before August 15, the comptroller will make a decision," Csaposs said about what information he will receive.
Saying the comptroller’s job is chief auditor and that he only wants a list of what audits are taking place, Csaposs said his request is not an "unreasonable thing."
According to the state’s Freedom of Information Law, an agency must acknowledge a FOIL request within five business days. However, the agency has another 20 days after acknowledgment to grant a reasonable request or give a written reason "for the inability to grant the request in 20 days" and must then give "a date"within a reasonable time."
Slavick describes the audit plans and relevant information as being "very important."
"If you visit other county websites, you’ll see audit information," Slavick said. "I’m not seeing an audit plan here."
Only a handful of upstate counties similar in size to Albany County such as Broome and Dutchess counties provide some on-line information regarding comptrollers audits, but the type of information available varies by county. Albany Countys website does not provide any statistical audit information aside from testimonies and proposals.
Csaposs said the information he is asking for is important for legislators and other decision-making leaders around the county. Larger counties are more likely to have on-line information on audits, although many do not.
"You can bog a website down with too much detailed information, but not with a list of audits and maybe a small summary," Csaposs said. "Some information ought to be out there."
Slavick challenges Conners for county comptroller
By Jarrett Carroll
ALBANY COUNTY The real race for county comptroller wont be decided on Election Day in the Democrat-dominated county. It will be decided in the Democratic primary on Sept. 18.
Guilderland Councilwoman Patricia Slavick is challenging three-term incumbent Michael Conners; forcing a primary in a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-to-1.
Conners is pointing to his experience and his streak of "independent initiatives" as comptroller, while Slavick is saying new leadership is needed and is questioning Conners’s auditing practices. (See related story.)
Slavick is running on a platform of reform through better auditing practices and keeping financial risk down while Conners is running on experience, leadership, and "a proven track record."
Slavick, whose political career is based in suburban Guilderland, has the official endorsements of the Albany County Democratic Party and many of the local Democratic leaders, as well as the endorsements of the Independence Party, the Working Families Party, and several local unions.
She said she is very "honored and humbled" by receiving the endorsement of her county’s party.
A city contingent has recently split from the county Democrats; The Enterprise was unable to learn before press time who the city Democrats will support for comptroller.
Connors says he has faced primaries before because of his turbulent political history and that he believes it will help his race because: Comptrollers need to remain independent, he said.
"I’m more interested in the endorsements from the ballot box than from the political bosses," Conners said. "My first priority is to maintain my independence. The taxpayer shouldn’t have to rely on political leadership."
Conners has switched between the Democratic and Republican parties several times and ran unsuccessfully as a Republican against Democratic Senator Neil Breslin for his New York Senate seat in 2004.
Connors, whose father, Democrat Richard Conners, was a long-time state assemblyman, is now enrolled as a Democrat.
Slavick said she should be the new comptroller, not because of political endorsements, but because "the residents of Albany County deserve a professionally-run county comptroller’s office that provides effective direction and oversight to the county’s financial affairs."
Slavick, a certified public accountant, said her experience in both fiscal and information systems in the private sector and in New York State government will help make the comptrollers office more accessible, efficient, and accountable.
Running for county comptroller has been in the back of her mind for "probably about five years," Slavick said, but she wanted to first finish her work as a town councilwoman.
Both Conners and Slavick agree that the role of comptroller is to watch over the countys tax dollars, but Slavick sees the role as one of oversight and Conners says its a position of leadership.
"The comptroller is the chief fiscal officer"and has to be a watchdog for the people’s money," Conners said. The chief fiscal officer has to be a leader and the comptroller’s office is often used as a check or balance, Conners said.
"Here in Albany County, we have an outside accounting firm for the office which we contract out to bid every three years," he said. "But a comptroller’s job is to lead that office."
Slavick wants to use audits to check on the operations of the county.
"To me, the comptroller is an oversight position. It’s basically managing the funds of Albany County," said Slavick. "The other role is conducting audits"to see how efficiently things are run."
Slavick said there are many types of audits, not only financial ones, but that they all serve the same purpose checking efficiency and managing risk. The audits can help improve county operations, she said.
Both candidates have full résumés, but each stresses different qualifications for the position.
Slavick said her experience on the Guilderland Town Board and knowledge of local municipalities will help her on hot-button county issues such as consolidating municipal services.
Conners said his 12 years of experience as the countys comptroller will help him identify which cooperative efforts are beneficial and which ones may hurt the county in the long run.
Both agree that the consolidation of some shared services should be investigated.
"It could be a good thing, but it would have to have a cost benefit," Slavick said of consolidating services. "Me, personally, I would need to have all of the facts in front of me"Elected officials need to look into it. I think creative initiatives are needed"but it’s a balancing act."
Conners said it could help save money for the county, but that it’s "not the silver bullet."
"Cooperative efforts"are efforts that hold a real potential," he said. "However, there are cases that you have to have proper staffing and you’re going to have to pay for it"You manage these costs with better planning and better spending."
Slavick said that her educational background coupled with her private sector and government experience with finances and information make her an ideal candidate. But with less campaign money than Conners, Slavick said she is using old-fashioned shoe leather to take her message to voters.
"I am very goal-oriented," Slavick said. "I have been out every evening and every weekend going door-to-door all over the county and talking with people"I like meeting with people and I like going to events."
Conners said he has proven himself in the past as a good comptroller and will continue to do so. He said taxpayers need leadership.
"I think one of the major points of this race is who is the demonstrated leader," Conners said. "Are you going to be a leader who can handle the pressure of bucking popular opinion and tremendous political forces"
"The office of comptroller must remain independent," he concluded.
Slavick has lived in Guilderland since 1978, which is how long she has been a Democrat. She has been on the town board for seven years. Asked what she, as an individual, had accomplished on the board, Slavick cited the towns noise ordinance.
Slavick has an associates degree secretarial science from Schenectady County Community College; a bachelors degree in business from The College of St. Rose; and a masters degree in accounting from the University at Albany School of Business.
She received her Certified Public Accountant license in 1997 and a Business Analyst Certificate in 2006. Slavick worked at General Electric for 20 years, providing accounting and corporate tax support, and currently works at the New York State Comptrollers Office.
Her campaign website is: www.patriciaslavick2007.com.
Conners has lived and worked in Albany County most of his life. He began his public career in 1988 as the gubernatorial appointee and treasurer of the Albany Municipal Finance Water Authority. He has a bachelors degree from Siena College and is a Certified Insurance Counselor and was the chief operating officer of MF Conners & Sons Agency, a 104-year old insurance agency in Albany.
Conners was elected county comptroller in 1995 and re-elected in 1999 and again in 2003.
His campaign website is: www.conners2007.com.
Conners lives with his wife, Kathleen, at their Brookside Avenue home in Menands and has six children. Slavick lives with her husband, Steve, and their two children on Randomwood Drive in Guilderland. Both candidates say they are confident that voters will make the right choice.
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