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Regional Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 16, 2011
Dems to caucus
By Jo E. Prout
ALTAMONT Former Altamont Public Safety Commissioner Anthony Salerno is one of three men vying for the Democratic nod to run for Albany County Sheriff, after Sheriff James Campbell announced his retirement, effective this month.
Salerno stirred controversy here before leaving the village police department when he failed, after five years of what was to be a probationary period, to take and pass a Civil Service police chief exam. Salerno was praised by village trustees and the mayor as having brought the village police department up to a high standard.
“Tony represents…the epitome of what we believe is the community policing model,” Mayor James Gaughan said last August of the primary reason the village board was committed to keeping Salerno.
Salerno worked in the Albany Police Department for 20 years; from the time he was hired in 1988 until he retired in 2008, his title was “police officer,” as he never advanced in rank, according to the Civil Service History and Payroll Record obtained by The Enterprise through a Freedom of Information Law request to the city of Albany.
For several years, Salerno held the Altamont and Albany jobs simultaneously. In 2010, while still working as Altamont’s public safety commissioner, Salerno was one of about 50 people to submit a résumé to be chief of Albany’s police department, according to Albany Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin. Fewer than 10 applicants were interviewed from that pool, she said, and Salerno was not among them, largely because the city was looking for someone with “more supervisory experience” and more experience with unions and community policing.
Albany County Undersheriff Craig Apple and Homeland Security member James Horton have also applied to receive the Democratic Party nod for candidacy on the November ballot, according to Albany County Democratic Chairman Matthew Clyne.
“This whole thing came out of the blue,” Clyne told The Enterprise about Campbell’s unexpected announcement to retire before his term ends in 2012.
Campbell, a Democrat from Colonie, is in his sixth term as sheriff, having held the post for 21 years. Before that, he worked as a State Trooper for 24 years. Campbell was last elected sheriff in November 2009.
“It’s a young man’s game,” Campbell, 71, told The Enterprise about why he’s stepping down now. He said that a good friend, and former State Trooper, died two months ago at the age of 73. That friend had urged Campbell “to retire before it’s too late,” Campbell said.
“A lot of thought went into it with my wife and I,” he said. “The time had come.”
In his tenure, Campbell helped make 911 service countywide, he said. In the 1990s, he helped create a countywide drug unit. He was also involved with the placement of the sheriff’s communications station in Voorheesville, he said. Currently, the sheriff’s department is consolidating calls from Cohoes, Green Island, and Watervliet to the county 911 call center, Campbell said.
“Consolidation is the wave of the future,” he said.
With his exit, the party must circulate petitions and file them by next month, Clyne told The Enterprise on Monday. “We’re going through an interview process now,” he said.
The party’s candidate review committee will be notified by this weekend, he said, and the designating caucus will be held June 23.
“It’s obviously been placed on the fast track,” Clyne said. “We’re going to do the best we can to make sure the party is aware of the candidates.”
The one who receives the nomination will have proven “aptitude and experience,” Clyne said, “someone who we feel will be managing that department, which, you know, is quite extensive.”
The sheriff oversees corrections facilities, roadside patrols, and the county department, Clyne said.
“It’s a very demanding job [for someone with] aptitude, ability, and integrity,” he said. “It’s an important office for the county.”
Chief Detective Anthony Ryan of the Albany Police Department bowed out of the race this week.
“I’ve actually reconsidered,” he told The Enterprise on Tuesday. “For now, Tony Ryan is staying where he is.”
“I have young children,” he continued. “The amount of time that would go into campaigning…would take me away from them.” Ryan said that a campaign run seven nights a week for up to five months would be too much.
“I can’t go forward with this process now,” he said. “I’ve been in this business for 22 years. My family supports me, [but] I’m not willing to compromise that time with my family. We are going to support the next Albany County Sheriff,” he concluded without saying which candidate he favors.
Former Commissioner Anthony Salerno, who could not be reached for comment this week, left his Altamont post about six months ago. He had refused to say whether or not he took a May 2010 Civil Service test required for all those in charge of municipal police departments. Salerno had been provisionally hired five years earlier with the requirement he pass the exam.
Before Altamont appointed a new police commissioner, Todd Pucci, the village worked with Albany County’s Department of Civil Service to appeal to the state’s Civil Service Commission to avoid the exam for Salerno; the request was denied in July 2009 as the commission found a “lack of compelling evidence” and cited the “clear practicability” of the exam. None of this was discussed publicly.
The village board named Salerno “team leader” when his provisional time as commissioner ran out. The board gave Salerno a 50-percent pay-rate increase while cutting his hours to part time. He had worked 40 hours a week as commissioner and been paid about $40,000; as “team leader,” he was paid $29,900 to work 20 hours a week, just shy of the state’s $30,000 cap on earnings allowed to those collecting a pension.
Mayor Gaughan was named provisional leader. Salerno did not say why he had not taken the exam for five years, but he stated, after his name did not appear on the Civil Service exam results, that he had previously planned to retire.
Undersheriff Apple, who serves as a spokesman for the department, is hoping he receives the nod for the ballot. With 24 years in the sheriff’s department, he is “very familiar with the community and the department,” he said.
“I love this department. We can do great things in the future,” Apple said. “I still truly enjoy helping people.”
Apple has plans for shared services among other policing departments. He said that buying in bulk, sharing computer equipment, and targeting different police efforts will help the county during the economic downturn.
“I’d like to coordinate more with the State Police, as well,” Apple said.
He plans to educate youth leaving county corrections facilities after they have served their sentences by partnering with universities and trade schools.
“They can be capable of performing and can function in society,” he said. He called the preponderance of universities in the Capital District “a huge resource that we can tap into.”
Apple allegedly was recorded on tape, participating in an attempt to falsely entice witnesses to accuse Corianna Thompson for the March 13, 2005 murder of her mother, Jean Balashek; the two lived together in a New Scotland house.
In 1981, Thompson, who was then a man with the name Corey Balashek, was convicted for strangling an Albany woman. Her lawyer in both cases, E. Stewart Jones, told The Enterprise in 2005 that the witnesses on whom the Albany County District Attorney’s Office were relying to convict Thompson of strangling her mother were not reliable or credible.
She had been arrested on April 10, 2005 directly after her boyfriend of four years, Kevin Glover, wrote an affidavit and told investigators that Thompson had confessed to him that she killed her mother. Jones had stated at that time that Glover had no credibility because he had drug issues and a criminal past, so he was vulnerable to police pressure.
Under New York State Law, law enforcement officers are allowed to make false statements while pursuing arrests. The incriminating tape made headlines recently.
“The people in the county will see through that,” Apple told The Enterprise. “I’ve made it no secret that I want to be sheriff. When you’re out there, you take some shots. I’ve got broad shoulders.”
“I fully support him,” Campbell said. “He’s a career officer. He came up in the ranks. He has held every position there is in law enforcement, up to the rank of undersheriff.”
Horton was less forthcoming about his reasons for entering the race.
“I have to respectfully decline comment, and I’m sorry for that,” he told The Enterprise this week. “That’s the way it is. I appreciate your interest.”