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Rip awakes — or not

Scott Myers
January 7, 2019 01:47 pm

The jail issue… is not about a jail. It’s about justice reform. Greene County was voted second only to Rikers, which is closing. NYS Commission of Correction’s (“COC”) Chairman Beilein’s report (Worst Offender - describes abhorrent behavior by Sheriff Greg Seeley and Jail Superintendent Michael Spitz. The problem’s NOT the architecture.

My FOIL request for correspondence to County Attorney Ed Kaplan was denied. On consultation with the Open Government group I FOILed COC. Five years of correspondence between COC and Albany shows that COC was placated.

County Administrator Shaun Groden did exactly the same thing when he was an administrator in Michigan. So much in fact the federal court allowed him to be sued in his individual capacity 08-12202 USDC EDMSD Thomas v. St. Clair County et al.

The county intentionally failed to heed COC holding out for a megaprison in Coxsackie. Greg Seeley wrote to encourage triple dipping by Jail Superintendent Michael Spitz, but it’s Spitz’s behaviors that harm the detainees and the county. Spitz is retained to supervise a jail that was closed on April 20. The county’s saved $1.2 million so far by closing the jail. We’re operating a shared/regional jail and taking care of our security needs without a new mega prison/jail. $90 million in a loan we can’t afford.

All evidence shows that RicciGreene was commissioned to provide large numbers, to justify a large new jail. They lied. When we looked at their work we found they didn’t have raw data, they were fired half way through the contract. These numbers, 136 then 98, continue to justify the Coxsackie disaster. Attorney/Legislator Larry Gardner folded to pressure and allowed an 80 bed (human cage) facility. COC came back approving it but asking for more, yes 98. COC’s already approved the non-jail sail solution — the shared/regional jail. It’s settled law that a shared/regional jail is legal. No one denies this with any creditability.

Last week the Safety and Finance Committee agreed to contracts with Delaware, SMRT and Pike. But, these “plans” show a horrible site. I sat in on each hour of the public engineering meetings. The site’s clay, which means no hydrothermal energy AND that a 6’ pit must be dug for the entire perimeter, covered with a moisture barrier and filled with gravel. Any construction there must float on it. Concrete can’t be poured on clay. Opening the site costs $8 million!

Ethics. At the same meeting Coxsackie Legislator (where the majority of the fiscal abuse occurs) Charlie Martinez nominated a friend to head the ethics committee. Martinez then recused from the vote. I hope the reader gets the irony. I won’t insult you by explaining it, just reread this paragraph.

It’s probably time for Shaun Groden to be replaced. Last year’s $113 million is this year’s $119 million budget. There is no new money business here, and no plans to attract or secure it. Importantly, the $119 million does NOT include the new jail. It shouldn’t, it can’t be built.

The jail issue, the justice reform issue, isn’t a democratic of republican thing. I have as much trouble with the democrats as the republicans. Doreen Davis largely failed as Greene County Democratic Chair. Her husband encouraged a new mega prison jail, plan 1, 2 and 3 don’t include the shared/regional jail solution — which is already the default.

My approach (like the approach in Washington) moves to the court. County Attorney Ed Kaplan is sued for liable. When I proposed that ATI be a standing committee Shaun Groden wrote to Supreme Court Judge Lisa Fisher — who then recused. This clears the way for litigation without county judges. I’m asking for an Order preventing new expenditures until several issues are resolved. A judge makes judicial determinations of law. Greene County believes they can make their own — ignoring Beilein for instance.

It’s likely the jail project can be stopped because fraud exists in the need, without need increases above 2 percent are not justifiable. It’s likely that county laws sections 216 and 217 prevent moving the Sheriff’s Office out of Catskill — I’m asking the court for their determination, the plans clearly show a new sheriff’s office in Coxsackie.

Time to wake up Greene County. You DO NOT want to reinforce this Sheriff’s Office!!! You do NOT want to divert the more affordable and more ethical legitimate business development, nor do you want to provide a free gym for the 39 white deputies (only one of our deputies is black).

Mat Bua’s “Rip Awakes” project (installation piece at the end of Main Street Catskill) was initially denied by the Village of Catskill board. I complained at the meeting that this would cause a 1st amendment case. The board reversed itself 2 days later. Washington Irving’s 1819 story is an example of individual transformation, he wakes up. That’s the point.

WAKE UP GREENE COUNTY. Your Village logo depicts the pre-transformed Rip, asleep. That’s not who we are. That’s not a branding that’ll generate tourism. What’s intelligent is to promote success in a) non-seasonal, non-public, new money tech and industry and b) that we treat our non-publicly employed citizens with respect. 38 percent of the jobs here are in the public sector. No one’s going to invest in Greene if we use our police to prey on citizens, demanding we pay for the abuse with a 30 year tax increase.

Scott Myers has lived in Greene County for 10 years. He’s an engineer with experience at Boeing and Apple. He’d like to see some new money businesses, like tech, come to Greene County.

We have never truly voted "for" this sheriff, because, as in Russia, he has always run unopposed. At its core the domination of upstate New York by its systemically corrupt version of "Republican" has been even more of 'fix' than the downstate Democratic dominance. At least the Democrats have some spirited primaries that serve as their true elections. We had one of those here, come to think of it, and it produced Antonio Delgado with a 22% margin of a five way split, and he went on to beat the unopposed in the primary, Faso. Democracy is healthy. At least when Russian intelligence and psychological warfare waged through false identities on Facebook can be kept to the sidelines.
Why was there never a real objective study, or general voter referendum for the largest financial obligation undertaken in the history of Greene County? That is the $90Million Dollar question, and the answer is likely scandalous.