Current Politics

By Chip Rowe

Investigation still open?

Libby Pataki (photo by Christopher Peters)

About a year ago, the state attorney general’s office said it was investigating a tourism nonprofit created by Libby Pataki, then director of the Putnam Visitors’ Bureau, that apparently did not have a functioning board of directors, as required by state law. When The Current inquired earlier this year about the status of the investigation, the press office at the attorney general’s office said it had been completed.

However, the AG denied a Freedom of Information request for a copy of its findings, citing a statute that allows law enforcement agencies to shield ongoing investigations.

“The investigation in fact continues — you were mistakenly informed otherwise,” wrote Assistant Solicitor General Kathryn Sheingold on May 25. “Disclosing [the records] while the investigation continues would risk revealing the areas that are of specific interest to the investigators, potentially providing targets or prospective targets with information that would allow them to avoid detection or alter or destroy evidence.”

Republicans decline to back LoBue

The Putnam County Republican Party voted 14-10 to give its endorsement for the County Legislature’s District 8 seat (which covers Mahopac Falls and part of Mahopac) not to two-term incumbent Dini LoBue but to Amy Sayegh, president and executive director of Putnam Community Cares.

To force a primary before the November election, LoBue must gather signatures from at least 5 percent of the county’s registered Republicans before July 10. LoBue has butted heads with County Executive MaryEllen Odell and her fellow legislators, all Republicans, over issues such as the senior center at the Butterfield redevelopment in Cold Spring.

The party caucus also endorsed Putnam County Sheriff Don Smith for a fifth term over challenger Andrew DeStefano, a former New York Police Department captain who lives in Patterson. He also could force a primary with a nominating petition. Smith has been sheriff since 2002.

Kent approves ‘no sanctuary’ resolution

By a 4-1 vote, the Kent Town Board on May 16 approved a resolution affirming the town would assist federal immigration officers and share the immigration status of anyone in town if asked (Kent Weighs ‘No Sanctuary’ Resolution, May 12). The town supervisor, Maureen Fleming, cast the sole “no” vote.

The measure was introduced by Councilman Paul Denbaum in response to a resolution passed by neighboring Philipstown. The Philipstown resolution, which passed 3-2 in April, calls for “equal protection” for all residents, regardless of immigration status, and states that, unless required by state or federal law or a court order, town officials and employees will not (1) investigate or assist in an investigation of immigration or citizenship status; (2) aid in arrests or detentions initiated by agencies enforcing federal immigration law; or (3) request, maintain or disclose details of immigration status.

The Kent resolution states that “the Town of Kent shall assist and cooperate with any investigation, detention or arrest by any agency enforcing federal immigration laws and if requested disclose information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any person to said agency.”

Prior to the vote, Sheriff Smith addressed the board, saying the major concerns of his office were criminal cases, and that being in the country without documentation is a civil violation. He noted that the Putnam County Correctional Facility typically reports immigration status to federal officials when a criminal suspect is booked and said victims of crime should not have concerns about contacting police because of their citizenship status.

Legislature hires Carmel lawyer

The Putnam County Legislature on May 25 unanimously approved the appointment of Robert Firriolo as its new legislative counsel.

“We went through a very vigorous screening process, and Mr. Firriolo was the overwhelming choice,” said Chairwoman Ginny Nacerino (R-Patterson).

Robert Firriolo (Photo by Holly Crocco)

Trained as an engineer, Firriolo has been with the Carmel-based Boutin & Altieri since 2012. He earned his law degree in 1991 from the Brooklyn Law School.

Among his specialties are Constitutional and administrative compliance, environmental law and municipal and land use law, including construction disputes and zoning and planning issues.

Firriolo is also the longtime local counsel for the National Rifle Association. In 2011, when Philipstown drafted a law to ban weapons from town-owned properties, he wrote to Supervisor Richard Shea to argue that state law prohibited the town from regulating licensed firearms

Firriolo succeeds Clement Van Ross, who had been with the county for nearly 30 years when the Legislature removed him from the position in January. No reason was given for his dismissal.

Additional reporting by Holly Crocco

2 Responses to "Current Politics"

  1. Patty Villanova   June 11, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    I was surprised to read that the AG is still investigating, however I am hoping that they have expanded their investigation to include the current Visitors Bureau as it exists today.

    Ms. Pataki is long gone, but the abuses and disarray that plagued the agency have if anything gotten worse under the new board of directors and her successors. The taxpayer money that is being spent supposedly to encourage tourism in our county is being wasted. Most of the funds go to salaries for the current director, Mr. Conklin, and his staff. Thanks to Chairman Molloy’s guidance, no money is being spent to promote Cold Spring which is the county’s only real tourist attraction.

    The merchants of Main Street who contribute so much to the county budget in terms of sales tax and other revenue are being short changed by the incompetent bureaucrats who are supposed to be running the Visitors Bureau. It’s about time that someone from Albany who is getting paid to do the job, starts to take a hard look at how taxpayer money is being spent. I am sick and tired of writing endless letters and articles as a private citizen. I sincerely hope that the AG will step in.

  2. Ann Fanizzi   June 13, 2017 at 5:42 am

    Politicians rely on the amnesia of the public to cover up flagrant abuses such as that which occurred at the tourism bureau and the hoopla generated by the Odell three-year achievement of mediocrity “repurposing” Tilly Foster from an historic, incomparable farm to a table and bar variously calculated at $2.1 million tab to the taxpayers.