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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 14, 2009

Once again, Sherwood cleared of conflict-of-interest charges lodged by Redlich

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — A conflict-of-interest complaint lodged against Guilderland Town Attorney Richard Sherwood, with the Committee on Professional Standards, six months ago, has been dropped. The CPS did not find sufficient basis to charge Sherwood with professional misconduct; the investigation was officially dropped on April 30, 2009.

The town’s ethics committee had cleared Sherwood of similar charges in January.

The complaint with CPS was lodged last November by Republican Councilman Warren Redlich. He had a problem with the way Sherwood handled the re-assessment of Walgreens, at the corner of routes 155 and 20 in Guilderland; the initial assessment of the property was $3.2 million, but was dropped to $2.7 million in June 2008, after a town board vote, split down party lines.

The issue has come to light again this month as Redlich’s fellow Republican, Councilman Mark Grimm, has announced his run for Guilderland supervisor.

Redlich and Grimm voted against the decreased assessment last year. They accused Sherwood of having a connection with Kenneth Segel, the listed Walgreens property owner, because Sherwood was listed as “of counsel to” Segel, Goldman, Mazzota, & Siegel, P.C. law firm, which was founded by Segel. The law firm explained in January that Sherwood had been an associate in the early 1990’s, but in the last three-and-a-half years, had probably only done about five hours of work for them.

Sherwood told The Enterprise in January that he saw Segel on an infrequent basis, sometimes at a charity event.

The town of Guilderland ethics committee was charged with looking into the accusations, and attorney Robert Roche was hired by the town to work with the committee in the investigation, a service on which Supervisor Kenneth Runion said the town spent close to $5,000.

In January, Roche and the ethics committee cleared Sherwood’s name, saying that they found no connection between Sherwood and Walgreens. Robert Haines, chairman of the ethics committee, said in January, “We are saddened the charge was ever made,” and that he was “100 percent satisfied” with Roche’s investigation. (For the full story, go to www.altamontenterprise.com, under Guilderland archives for January 15, 2009.)

Last week, Robert O’Keefe, a member of the Guilderland Republican Committee, wrote a letter to The Enterprise editor questioning Haines’s role in the investigation of Sherwood, saying, “Mr. Haines is just a partisan political surrogate for Supervisor Ken Runion. No wonder his committee found nothing wrong with Mr. Sherwood’s conduct and the secrecy that has surrounded the Walgreens assessment.”

O’Keefe made his statements after reading a letter submitted to The Enterprise editor by Haines, which criticized Grimm. “Why should we even have an ethics committee if it has a chairman who is only going to whitewash unethical behavior and make partisan attacks?” O’Keefe questioned in his letter.

After reading O’Keefe’s letter in The Enterprise, Sherwood sent the correspondence between himself and the CPS to the newspaper, to show that he had not only been cleared by the Guilderland ethics committee, but also by the objective disciplinary committee for attorneys. The CPS did not return calls seeking comment.

Sherwood told The Enterprise this week that he felt Redlich’s complaints to both the ethics committee and CPS were political endeavors.  “The purpose of the complaints were solely to embarrass me, and Mr. Runion,” he said.

Redlich, an attorney, said this week that he thought the ethics committee investigation was executed incorrectly, and he didn’t feel it was objective, so he sent the complaint to the CPS. “The attorney ethics rules require us to report misconduct. I felt obligated to report my concerns to the Committee on Professional Standards,” he said, stating that he was not politically motivated.

Redlich explained that his motivation was his belief that, as town attorney, Sherwood has the responsibility to represent town board members, which he did not do properly during the assessment discussion. Redlich said Sherwood didn’t bring the proper paperwork with him to the meeting; Redlich compared the situation to a defense lawyer not showing his client the paperwork that asked him to plead guilty, but just asking him to sign. “Sherwood did not properly represent me in executive session,” Redlich said.

According to Sherwood, Runion told Redlich during the executive session that he could go look at the assessor’s files, which were down the hall, and Redlich refused. Runion, a Democrat, has been at odds with the two Republican board members since they joined the formerly all-Democratic town board a year-and-a-half ago. 

“If the complaint was a political move, I would have made it public,” said Redlich. He also noted that he doesn’t know how the CPS operates, and whether it is truly objective, or biased. Redlich said he is not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation.

Haines, who still chairs the ethics committee, told The Enterprise this week he did feel that Grimm and Redlich’s initial complaint was politically motivated, but that the committee’s decision was not political. Haines is a Democrat, and formerly chaired Guilderland’s Democratic Committee, but said he doesn’t even know the political affiliations of the other members of the ethics committee.

Runion said there is no political majority on the ethics committee, but the breakdown is two Democrats, two Republicans, a Conservative, and two independents.

Sherwood said he is glad to have been cleared by the CPS, and concluded, “There has been virtually no damage to my name, or reputation, because Redlich and Grimm have no credibility. No one just blindly believes what they say.”

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