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Monthly Archives: May 2017

Politics, Power, Patronage and Conflicts of Interest: The Albany County Coroners Office

From its Very Beginnings, the Office of the Coroner was Tainted by Politics, Greed and Corruption.

The office of the coroner has existed for about 800 years and began in England, in the 12th century (1194) when the office of the “crowner” was created to investigate suspected felony deaths. Then, as now, there was government interest in such deaths and it wasn’t justice or public health. You see, the coroner, if he found that the death was due to a felony, would then investigate and confiscate the felon’s property, which went to the crown. Of course the coroner would get a cut of the goods, too. So, from its very beginnings, the office of the coroner was tainted by politics, greed and corruption. Add to this toxic mix the Democrat political machine in Albany, and it can’t get much worse.


Three out of the four incumbent coroners are Guess what? funeral directors actively practicing in the Albany County region. Charles Smoot, the de rigueur token African American at the Albany County Coroner’s office, and one coroner the others would like to get rid of for a number of reasons, John Keegan, and Paul Marra are funeral directors and work as coroners. There’s a conflict of interest here because the coroner has to call a funeral director or funeral home to take custody of the body after the investigation. If you were in the business, who would you call?

Timothy Cavenaugh owes his claim to the coroner’s office to his political connections and to the fact that his father, James Cavenaugh, was Albany County Coroner before him. It appears that the Albany County coroner is not only political, it’s hereditary.

You’ve all seen the Newcomer Cryptkeeper ads on TV.

It does get worse, though, and here’s how: One of the contenders for the elected position is Frank Simmons, another funeral director, who — according to the recent Albany Times Union report —  works for Guess who? Newcomer Funerals and Cremations in Albany. Yes, that’s the same nickel-and-diming, factory funeral provider that’s part of the Newcomer Funeral Services Group, the funeral home chain that operates in some 10 states. Newcomer just opened a new location in Latham and it seems they need more bodies so why not run for coroner? Does anyone see the plan, the agenda, the potential for corruption and conflicts of interest in this coroner system as it operates in Albany County? (The Holubs dumpster-diving moghuls of the Ghettochopper, that is, Pricechopper fame have bought a share of Albany government; now it’s Newcomer Funerals and Cremations who what their share of the local action?)


Editor’s Note:

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read our articles on Newcomer Funerals and Cremations, Service Corporation International (a.k.a. Dignity Memorial), and StoneMor, please see our articles at:


In a 2010 article published in the Times Union  (Coroner saw much in his decades on job, Times Union, November 24, 2010) reported on an Albany County Coroner, Bill Loetterle (now deceased, see his obituary), in which Loetterle describes some of his experiences, and provides some insights into the operations of the coroner’s position in Albany County. He describes how in one case he was ready to call a murder, the police stepped in and overruled him calling it a suicide. Sends up red flags already. He describes serious mistakes being made in the coroner’s office like getting names wrong for the bodies in their custody. In that article, Dr Jeffrey Hubbard, a pathologist working with the Albany County Coroners Office is quoted as saying “the coroners office doesn’t have the answers and doesn’t know when they are going to come about. They are waiting for the pathologist, or pathology lab or for the police.” Makes you wonder why there’s a coroners office in the first place.

Then why have the extra level, the coroners, if they don’t have the answers and have to rely on the pathologist or the police? The County of Albany is already paying the pathologists and the police are already on the payroll. Sounds political and corrupt to us.

You might go back to Loetterle’s tale about the homicide called suicide by the police, overruling the opinion of the coroner. Do you really think that isn’t possible given the fact that the politics in Albany County run law enforcement and the coroners office? Better think again!

Former Albany County Coroner William Loetterle was a Purchasing Agent at GE

So, Loetterle (A Democrat, of course!) came on board as an appointed part-time coroner in 1979 and stayed on the job until 2010, 30 years! Loetterle worked for GE as a purchasing agent. That’s the qualification of the guy who’s going to determine the circumstances of a suspicious or unattended death, whether on the street or in the hospital, and sign the death certificate. It’s no wonder that death statistics are so screwed up!

In the TU 2010 article, though, Mr Loetterle, if you don’t believe he was part of the machine, totally unqualified and just outright ignorant, we read that in his “educated” opinion, “having coroners is better than having medical examiners because it’s much less costly for the taxpayers.” We’ve done a thorough study of the coroner and ME system and we know that that statement is categorically untrue and incorrect, as we’ll point out below.

Albany County Coroners are so good that they actually sent a woman who was still alive to the morgue!

The coroner is poorly trained and doesn’t have the necessary education to do the job

Furthermore, the office of coroner is for all practical purposes antiquated and obsolete. Moreover, it’s more costly to taxpayers because it actually duplicates effort and costs, and is actually detrimental to the public health efforts and programs at state and federal level because the coroner is poorly trained and doesn’t have the necessary education to do the job. That and the fact that it’s an elected position and only those candidates that get local political party approval get on the ballot.


Incompetence goes viral….

In a New York Times article, the writer refers to the coroners office as a “relic.” The article goes on to describe how an elderly woman was found in her apartment in an Albany complex for the elderly:

The old woman was sprawled on her living room floor, cold and motionless, and the apartment manager who found her on Wednesday was sure she was gone. Paramedics and the Albany County Coroner… found no heartbeat, no pulse, no breath or other signs of life, and the [Albany] coroner declared her officially dead.

They zipped Mildred C. Clarke, 86, into a body bag, took her to the morgue at the Albany Medical Center Hospital and left her in a room where corpses are kept at 40 degrees, pending autopsies or funerals. About 90 minutes later, the chief morgue attendant went in to transfer her to a funeral home.  (NYTimes

Albany paramedics and an Albany County coroner declare the woman dead, transfer her to Albany Medical Center, and no one there has any interest in confirming she’s dead or alive, and she gets put into a refrigerator where she stays until a morgue attendant notices the body bag moving. Something out of a horror flick? Hell, NO! It’s Albany County and Albany Medical Center at work!

Lucky she wasn’t an organ donor! But according to a NYT follow-up report Mrs Clark later died a week later at Albany Medical Center of ‘undisclosed causes,’ according to an Albany Medical Center spokesperson. (NYTimes)

William X Kienzle even includes the incident in his book, Requiem for Moses  (Kienzle, William X. Requiem for Moses. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Pub, 2013). That’s how Albany County gets on the map, we suppose.


So that brings us to another Times Union article published just recently, on May 23, 2017, entitled “Albany coroners race could have Democratic Primary. Democratic nominees face 4 others in Albany County” The reporter writes, “following a long, often contentious and disorganized Albany County Democratic Committee meeting…two incumbent coroners secured the Democratic nomination” for the coroner posts up for re-election. Four others were also endorsed by the Democrats. Can it get any more political?

Of course, the Albany County Democratic Committee chairman, Jack Flynn, would not comment on the strong interest in the coroner post but we will.

Albany County: No politics. No power. No patronage. No way!

A couple of years ago, Albany County considered changing over to the medical examiner system where a licensed and specially trained physician would do the death investigations (“Charter panel weighs coroner’s role,” Times Union, April 29, 2013). That article describes the Albany County Charter Committee as “11-member panel will tread lightly around the perception that it’s bent on curtailing anyone’s power.” Power. Not the public’s interests or welfare but power. The article is otherwise uninformative beyond confirming the corruption of the Albany Democratic machine and the infighting.

Somehow Albany has managed to misinform and keep the electorate ignorant and County Executive McCoy, Democratic Committee chairman Flynn, Majority Leader Frank Commisso (majority leader since 1993!), and certainly not the coroners or their highly-paid local pathologists or Albany Medical Center, whose facilities the Albany County Coroners Office uses for storing bodies and for forensic examinations. They all have an interest in keeping the obsolete and antiquated Albany County Coroners Office in place despite good evidence that it should be dumped and replaced by a medical examiner system. But no politics, no power, no patronage? No way!

This wouldn’t be a political position and would be governed by the professional ethics and oversight agencies that watchdog physician’s activities. But that wouldn’t be something the Albany Democrats would be interested in, would it? No politics. No power. No patrons. No way!

We should mention here that both Schenectady and Rensselaer Counties, as well as the majority of the rest of the country, especially those more advanced locales, have opted for the medical examiner system over and against the coroner system. There are many good reasons for this and we’ll be discussing them in future parts of this series of articles. The unfounded opinion of some supporters of the Albany County Coroners Office that the coroner system is less expensive to tax payers are misinformed and make no sense. The coroner system is in most studies of the system found to be incompetent, inefficient, expensive, and detrimental to the public’s health. Too many unqualified or politically ambitious people tend to seek these offices and should take their egos on a vacation. Coroners, at least the Albany County Coroners, have another agenda, as we’ll point out below.

But in the old days, local docs could be found who would sell their signature for a Tootsie Roll., and we have evidence of one physician, now deceased, who assisted the Office of the Albany County Coroner by signing death certificates for a fee-per-signature; he was actually selling his signature for a fee, and didn’t give a damn what was on the DC. His cause of death was always ASD, heart disease! If you examine the death certificates he signed you’ll find he certified almost every single death inappropriately using an abbreviation (more on this later), ASD, “arteriosclerotic disease”, making the false impression that almost every death investigated by the Office of the Coroner was due to heart disease. Think of what that could mean to national statistics on death due to heart disease if such corruption is widespread! It is. And published studies prove that fact. Scientific, peer-reviewed studies show that heart disease as a cause of death was a highly reported fake cause of death. It was over-reported by ignorant people completing death certificates with no qualifications, or who didn’t really care what the cause of death was, so cardiac death was an easy way out.  Frequently still is.

Investigating Deaths with Almost No Qualifications!

Studies also show that coroners and many physicians do not know how to properly complete a death certificate. And many physicians don’t know when they are legally authorized to sign a death certificate, frequently giving an incorrect cause of death. If physicians can make those blunders think of the damage an untrained, poorly educated coroner like Bill Loetterle, Charles Smoot and others like them can do!

The On-call coroner Frequently Doesn’t Even Go to the Scene but Completes and Signs a Death Certificate

If it works for one, it’ll work for many. This scandalous practice continues to be the case. We have received information from the Albany County Coroner’s office that when a call reporting a death is made to the Office of the Albany County Coroner, the coroner goes directly to the scene of the death, investigates, makes his report, and, depending on his findings, completes the death certificate and signs it. That’s what the coroner’s office tells us.  What we have learned from some professionals who work with the Albany County Coroner’s Office is that the on-call coroner frequently doesn’t even go to the scene but completes and signs a death certificate. Incredible? Maybe, but really quite likely knowing how Albany County operates.

Now let’s have a closer look at Albany County before we proceed with a more detailed discussion of what MEs and coroners are required to do and how it affects us as individuals, and as a state and nation. Albany has been a Democrat party stronghold literally for generations, and the Party has a stranglehold on public office. Most of the institutions in the City of Albany and Albany County are controlled by the local Democrats who have established a powerful system of patronage: If you’re not a Democrat and a log-roller, or you don’t know someone in City Hall, you simply don’t get a job or you don’t get elected. It’s a simple but corrupt system to say the least. Qualifications or credentials may play a role but it’s really who you know, not what you know. So it’s no big surprise to note that all of the Albany County Coroners, all elected officials, are all Democrats.

You may also find it interesting to know that two of the four coroners are licensed funeral directors running local funeral homes, Paul Marra of Marra Funeral Home (Cohoes), and John Keegan of Magin & Keegan Funeral Home (Albany). One of the coroners, Charles Smoot, claims to be a licensed funeral director, and if he is he must be doing behind the scenes work – so-called “trade” work — for other funeral homes; no one seems to know where he works but the Albany County Coroner’s office confirms that he is a licensed funeral director. Informants in the funeral services business in Albany tell us they never see him at any continuing education events, a requirement for funeral directors and for coroners. So Smoot, as we have mentioned, may be just a fixture in the Coroners Office, the token, but even so, he’s not popular in the Albany County Coroners Office. They’ve been trying to get rid of him for some time now, we hear. We also have information that alleged funeral director-coroner Charles Smoot has close connections with Anthony Perniciaro of the McLoughlin & Mason Funeral Home (Troy) so guess who’s likely to get Smoot’s bodies.

How Public Office is Inherited in Albany County

The fourth Albany County coroner is Timothy Cavanaugh is a good example of how positions in the Albany Democrat machine get handed out, or in Cavanaugh’s case, handed down. Timothy is the son of a former, now dead, Albany County coroner, James Cavanaugh. The Cavanaugh dynasty is an example of how public office is inherited in Albany County. The same is true of one other coroner, Paul Marra, son of former coroner John Marra, also of Marra funeral Home in Cohoes. See the patterns? We’d also like to note that Paul Marra and John Keegan are not listed as owners on their respective funeral home web pages. We find that rather questionable, since we feel that those web pages should list the owners’ names or at least let the visitor know who is running the show. Or is does this have more sinister implications related to the owner’s holding a public elected office and possible conflicts of interest. You know, of course, that the coroners have to contact a licensed funeral home to transfer and take custody of the body once the investigation is completed.

Magin & Keegan Funeral Home, Cohoes

So we found it a bit suspicious when we asked about funeral homes used by the coroners, the Albany County Coroner’s Office could provide no information on which funeral homes the coroner’s tend to use for transferring the deceased. Three coroners who are funeral directors, two of whom own funeral homes, and one of which claims to be a licensed funeral director with close connections with a Troy funeral home. Now there couldn’t be any conflict or interest or abuse of public office here, could there? Not in Albany County?

And it does get even worse…

John Keegan not only co-owns and operates Capital District Affordable Cremations LLC in Albany, New York, Anthony Pernicaro of McLoughlan and Mason Funeral Home, Troy, is also one of the co-owners. That’s the same Anthony Pernicaro and the same McLoughlan and Mason Funeral Home we connected with Albany County Coroner Charles Smoot! Insider information received from local funeral home operators indicates that the three Albany County Coroner/Funeral Directors are abusing their positions to steer business to their own funeral homes and their other businesses.

Given the importance of ethics and integrity in public office and the adverse effect on health statistics information collected by death investigators like coroners, you’d think recordkeeping would be a high-priority item on the list of coroner administrative requirements; after all, it’s the office that is required to collect information and report it on such a serious occurrence such as a death. Well, recordkeeping is not really a very high priority in the Albany County Office of Coroners.

Here are just a couple of deficiencies we found in our investigation:

First of all, we place great value on documentation and fact-finding. This requires a system and it also requires a knowledge of how information and data collection affect other departments, programs and even government agencies. Apparently, the Albany County Coroners Office got left in the 1300s, while other locales changed over to the medical examiner system or at least developed data collection forms that reflect the importance of the death investigation data collected during the coroner call.

If anything clearly demonstrates the substandard workings of the Albany County Coroners Office, it’s the form used for documenting the death investigation. Here’s an Albany County Coroners Call Sheet used to document the facts of the scene investigation. Compare it to this one from Indiana (+coroners general death investigation protocol_indiana)or even this simplified one from Cleveland (+Coroner-Call Sheet (Cleveland Ohio)). But our investigation found even more substandard practices in the Albany County Coroners Office. Here are just a few:

  • No up-to-date or upgraded software for entering and administering information collected by coroners (A key employee of the Albany coroners’ office tells us that the software they are using dates back to the 1980’s and has not been updated; the office can’t do queries or generate reports from the software. What’s up with this, Albany County?) (Per information received from the Coroners Office, “The computer system used by The Albany County Coroner’s Office is an internal spread sheet that has been created for our use. All records are also kept as paper copy within the Albany County Hall of Records.”)
  • No way to determine which coroner had which case and when (Wouldn’t that be of interest when you consider almost 1000 coroner calls in 2015 and more than 900 coroner calls in 2016?)
  • No way to report cases that were closed without autopsy and those that went to autopsy
  • No way to determine which coroner used which funeral home to transfer the body Now that’s convenient, isn’t it, considering that three of the coroners are funeral directors, two of whom own funeral homes, and one of whom allegedly has a close connection with a Troy funeral home?)
  • An unacceptable delay in getting autopsy reports: up to 90 days! When cases go to autopsy, there is a significant delay in getting the autopsy reports from the medicolegal/forensic pathologist (the Albany coroners office has four pathologists on call Drs Hubbard, Sikirica, Balasubramaniam (“Dr Bala”), and a Dr Ing, and one physician assisting the coroners, a Dr John Len). So why the delay in the autopsy reports and the consequent delay in closing the case?
  • Apparently there is no way for the coroners office to report which cases are pending closure and which are closed.
  • Cases are not tabulated by coroner; they are tabulated only as a total The Albany County Office of Coroners is unable to list dates of coroner’s calls with a corresponding coroner’s name, location, funeral home, or case closing date. We find this to be gross dereliction of responsibilities!
  • The Albany County Office of Coroners does not keep a list of funeral homes used by the coroners. We don’t wonder Why? Do you?
  • Contrary to personal informal reports we have received, and which resulted in our interest in this topic, the Albany County Office of Coroners tells us that they have received no complaints regarding the performance of their coroners. (Per the Coroner’s Office, “As stated above any complaints against The Albany County Coroners would go through The Albany County Board of Legislators. In checking with them on this matter, no complaints have been filed against this office.” Do you wonder?)

Although the coroners have no medical training, and can be elected from any status in the general public, as long as they can get on the ballot. According to statute coroners must participate in a minimal death investigation course. The Albany County Office of Coroners reports that “all” county coroners receive annual training through the

  • New York State Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners (NYSACME)
  • The American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigation
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and
  • Funeral Director CEU (continuing education units).

We note that the Albany County Office of Coroners response clearly reads “[a]ll of our coroners receive yearly training through those organizations. Does “all” mean all as in every, each? If it does we have some questions. One of those questions arise because we have personal communications from funeral professionals who state that they don’t see Charles Smoot at any of the funeral director continuing education events (CEU). Where is he getting his continuing training? Who’s paying for it? The answer to the first question is: Nobody knows. The answer to the second question is: We are.

Given the inadequate documentation, and without some documentation of a coroner’s whereabouts at a particular time a coroner’s case is called in and a death investigation is supposedly being done it will be very difficult if not impossible, to defend against any claims that the coroners are not attending at the death scene but are signing death certificates without due and diligent investigation. This is a serious issue and must be responded to and dealt with. We now publicly submit this question to the Albany County Office of Coroners and demand a response.

Here’s what the Albany County Budget for 2017 lists for the Albany County Coroners Office:

 Albany County Coroners Office Personnel Count

2015 2016 2017
A 1185 Personnel Count 6 6 6
A1185 Coroner $725,824 $733,039 $733,239
2014 2015 2016
A 1185 Personnel Count 6 6 6
A1185 Coroner $693,504 $727,294 $728,729

So the budget figures don’t lie but they also don’t tell the whole story. So we filed several demands for production of documents and information under the New York State Public Officers Law or the Freedom of Information Law. All criticisms aside, we have to give credit where credit is due: The clerk / administrator and confidential secretary at the Albany County Coroners Office have been very helpful and forthcoming, and we hope honest — in providing information in response to our demands. Unfortunately, much of what they provided does not speak in favor of the coroners office:

Albany Medical Center Propaganda

In 2015, Albany Medical Center performed all of 222 autopsies for the Albany County coroners. In 2016 , Albany Medical Center again performed a majority of our 230 autopsies for Albany County. Ellis Hospital began a contract with Albany County at this time but, according to the Coroners Office “a breakdown of these numbers is not possible with out going through each case by hand.” This is the 21st century, people! Everyone has computer software for keeping these sorts of records! Why doesn’t Albany County?

Albany County does not bill for out-of-county residence. If a person dies within Albany County, Albany County picks up the cost of Coroner involvement, pursuant to New York State Law. According to a Times Union report these costs totaled nearly $113,000 from January 2012 to August 2013 (“The dead’s tab: $61,426. When a patient flown to Albany Med dies, Albany County pays for the autopsy.” Times Union, November 25, 2014). During that same period the $61,426 for 56 outside cases in 2012 accounted for about 10 percent of the coroner’s overall $603,000 2013 budget. .But they can and should bill the cost back to the county of residence.

As mentioned above, the Albany County Coroners Office uses outside pathologists: Jeffrey Hubbard MD, Michael Sikirica MD, and Nadarajah Balasubramaniam MD a.k.a. Dr Bala. We demanded information regarding the costs of pathologist services and the Coroners Office provided these figures:

Pathology rates per patient:
Autopsy 770.00
Certification of Death 75.00
Review of records/exam/Certification 360.00

 

Amounts Paid to Pathologists
Per year
2015
Dr. Hubbard $46,980.00
Forensic Medical Services
Drs Sikirica and Balasubramaniam
$138,075.00
2016
Dr. Hubbard $68,125.00
Forensic Medical Services
Drs Sikirica and Balasubramaniam
$146,725.00

Albany Medical Center Autopsy Room

In addition to the three pathologists, John Len MD is a so-called physician assisting the coroners. Len was paid $3,350.00 in 2015, and $11,285.00 in 2016 for “assisting” Albany County coroners. Len, in other words, sells his signature to certify deaths when there is no personal physician.

Albany Medical Center has been the Albany County Coroners Office’s primary autopsy and lab and facility for the years 2015 and 2016. Ellis Hospital (Schenectady) began a contract with Albany County at the end of 2016, it is on a trial basis continuing through 2017.

Amount Paid to Albany Medical Center (Autopsy Services)
2015
Albany Medical Center $198,890.94
2016
Albany Medical Center $189,532.98
Ellis Hospital $6,550.00

Additional Laboratory Testing Services: In 2015 and 2016 National Medical and Bender Laboratories were used for additional toxicology services.

2016
National Medical $7,242.00
Bender Laboratories $27,500.00
2015
National Medical $13,881.66
Bender Laboratories $1770.00

We have demanded this same information from the Schenectady and Rensselaer Medical Examiner Offices and from the Greene County Office of the Coroner. As of this writing, their responses are still outstanding. Once we receive that information, we will publish a comparison of the systems.

Literally thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of deaths in Albany County are in a limbo land thanks to the decrepit and irresponsible administration of coroner records in the Albany County Coroners Office

Whereas the New York State Department of Health (NYDOH) has implemented an Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS) in a number of counties in New York State,  implementation of the system in 2017 does not alter the fact that substandard recordkeeping in the Albany County Coroners Office has prevented any attempt at quality control or even retrieval of important data for administrative, study or research purposes. This means that information on literally thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of deaths in Albany County are in a limbo land thanks to the decrepit and irresponsible administration of coroner records in the Albany County Coroners Office.

It’s too little too late for many and we really have to ask the burning question, “Who dropped the ball for so many years?”

It’s the 21st century and it was a long time in finally coming but is still not fully implemented throughout the state, New York State’s Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS) in a secure web-based system for electronically registering deaths. EDRS simplifies the data collection process and enhances communication between health care providers and medical certifiers, medical examiners/coroners, funeral directors, and local registrars as they work together to register deaths. That having been said, it’s too little too late for many and we really have to ask the burning question, “Who dropped the ball for so many years?”

For now, though, Albany County Residents and our readers far and wide can draw their own conclusions about Albany County and it’s questionable rationale in keeping the obsolete, inefficient, and antiquated Albany County Coroners Office, apart from the obvious corrupt and self-serving political, power, patronage and economic interests involved.

We’d like to invite you to share your experiences of the coroner and medical examiner system with us. We’ll share them with our readers to enable them to be better informed and to improve their public health systems.

It’s time to do a forensic autopsy on Albany County and the Albany County Coroners Office!

Time to Autopsy the
Albany County Coroners Office
The Editor


Editor’s Note

The Albany Times Union reported that Mr Frank Simmons, one of the controversial candidates for Albany County Coroner, is an employee of Newcomer Funerals and Cremations: “Simmons, a funeral home director at New Comer Funerals and Cremations, intend[s] to petition to be on the ballot for the Democratic primary in September.” We have received information from a reliable source and in the funeral service business that Simmons is not employed by Newcomer but by the John J. Sandvidge Funeral Home, Troy. We are looking into this information and have notified Ms Amanda Fries, author of the Times Union article.


 

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Abuse of Public Office, Albany, Albany County Coroner, Albany County Coroners Office, Albany County District Attorney, Albany County Elections, Albany County Executive, Albany County Executive, Albany County Legislature, Albany County Sheriff Department, Albany County Supervisor, Albany Police, Anthony Perniciaro, Arthur Fitch, Bill Loetterle, Bring out your dead, Bureau of Funeral Directing, Capital District, Charles Smoot, Conflict of Interest, Corruption, County Legislator, Craig D. Apple Sr., Dan McCoy, Daniel McCoy, David Soares, Death, Death Certificate, Death Investigation, Democratic Party Committee, Dignity Memorial, EDRS, Elected Official, Electronic Death Registration System, Favoritism, Frank Commisso, Frank Simmons, Freedom of Information Law, Greene County, Greene County Coroner, Greene County District Attorney, Greene County Sheriff, Hudson Valley, Jack Flynn, James Cavanaugh, Jeffrey Hubbard, John Keegan, John Len, Law Enforcement, Licensed Funeral Director, Magin & Keegan Funeral Home, Marra Funeral Home, McLoughlin & Mason Funeral Home, Michael Sikirica, Nadarajah Balasubramaniam, National Funeral Directors Association, New York State, New York State Funeral Directors Association, Newcomer Funeral Home, Newcomer Funeral Services Group, Newcomer Funerals and Cremations, Nick Facci, NYS Assembly, NYS Senate, P. David Soares, Paul Marra, Public Corruption, Rensselaer County Medical Examiner, Richard Touchette, Rick Touchette, Schenectady County Medical Examiner, SCI, Service Corporation International, StoneMor, Timmothy Cavanaugh, Uncategorized, William Loetterle

 

$46 Million Dollar School Budget Passed – One Backwoods School District

Voters a.k.a. “residents” approved a local RCS Central School District school budget of almost $46 million dollars. That’s more than the total budgets of several surrounding townships combined! Voters a.k.a. “residents” who passed the budget are largely non-property owners but the property owners foot the bill. What’s more, local government has caved to demands that local corporations get their tax breaks and reduced assessments. Again, local tax burden falls on the shoulders of local property owners. The local area is falling apart and so is the quality of education because we’re educating those who don’t have an appreciation for education and who likely don’t even use it later; they just don’t come from a background that encourages working or learning. So why do we keep spending and spending and spending? We don’t make the necessary adjustments, we just tax more and spend more. Why is that?

You’re still doing it! So we’re here to tell you how…

$45,829,423 budget for the 2017-18 school year!?! That’s more than local town budgets combined! And you wonder why your roads suck? You wonder why your drinking water is toxic and brown? You wonder why crime is rampant and the police do little or nothing to bring in the criminals? You wonder why you can’t make ends meet? But don’t you wonder why your kids act like brain dead morons? Why they can’t read? Why they can’t spell? Why they can’t hold a discussion?

Has anyone ever asked the students — the one’s with the lights on and someone home in their heads — what they think of their education, of their teachers? Times Union, News Herald, Daily News, W10, W13? Has any of the media given a thought to ask students about what they think of their education? Well, it would have to be cleverly done — and that rules out Times Union, News Herald, Johnson Newspaper Group, Daily News, W10 and W13, practically all Capital District media — and it would ideally include past graduates, who would be more likely to be truthful and say where RCS education got them. Current students would be fearful of teacher or student retaliation if they were to be interviewed and identified. That’s the way it has been and continues to be in the RCS Central School District, and is very likely the same situation throughout this third-world, backwoods hole in the earth. (Great place for woodchucks, though.)

We did an informal survey and found that several past graduates agreed that “one in fifteen teachers was any good and cared for students.” Others simply hated RCS and refused to participate even in 10 year class reunions. One RCS teacher with 23 years teaching said that he couldn’t wait to retire, “They have millions for astroturf but no money for books for my AP students! I’m history as soon as I can retire.” A history of pitiful graduation rates, low student and teacher morale, and spending seem to characterize local schools, especially spendthrift RCS.

Why don’t we ask the one’s who know?

If past history is anything to judge by, we have a pattern of fewer property owners (those who pay) and a growing number of social service recipients, senior citizens (those who can’t afford to leave), and transients (those who don’t pay), as well as a decline in taxable businesses, and an increase in pandering to local large corporations (who get “corporate welfare”) who want and get tax breaks but don’t create jobs and don’t contribute to tax revenues. So the misinformation provided by propaganda machines like the Times Union, News Herald, and other local media, flash such titles as “School budgets sail to approval”(Times Union, May 19, 2016) reporting also that “districts were mostly able to avoid huge tax hikes in their 2016-17 budgets thanks to a large increase in state aid.” Really? If that’s last year’s situation, why the increase this year?

The previous year, the Times Union article, “Voters Happy With Budgets” (May 19, 2015) reports that “Voter turnout was typically slim with many school board candidates running unopposed. Albany saw 72 percent of voters who showed up to vote offer support for the school budget. In 2015 Albany passed a $234 million budget that carried no tax increase. Schenectady passed a $177 million budget that will actually decrease the tax levy 0.21 percent. The report goes on to say that “on average, Capital Region schools are prepared to spend and tax more than other districts around the state. Spending is poised to rise 2.87 percent at schools across the region next year (compared to 2.1 percent statewide), while tax levies will increase an average of 0.95 percent (compared to 0.7 percent statewide). That was 2015.

The pattern continues in RCS. 2017-18 budget passed by voters Residents of Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk took to the polls Tuesday, May 16, approving a $45.8 million budget for the 2017-18 school year, as well as the bus purchase proposition and community library vote. Voter turnout was typically slim (less than 1000 voters, down from previous years) with school board candidates running unopposed.

The local school district got approval to purchase school buses for the year ahead and create additional teaching positions. New technology purchases, like Chromebooks and iPads, were also high on the budgets, as well as a bigger investment in professional development for teachers. More technology, less learning, more cyberkids and sheeple. What a plan for Big Brother!

Local politicians, including the RCS School Board, are like maggots eating us alive.

Corporate Welfare. Lowered assessment for Selkirk Cogen to affect RCS homeowners (May 5, 2017). The RCS Central School District website reports: “One noticeable difference for taxpayers will be increased tax rates for the 2017-18 year, due to a lowered tax assessment for local business Selkirk Cogen. The district does not control home or business assessments, however, taxes collected from those [private] assessments act as revenue for the district.” This is purest propaganda. These businesses come to this area, destroy our historically beautiful landscapes, poison our air and our water, demand tax breaks at the expense of property owners and small business, drive out local residents and businesses, shift the tax burden to local property owners. They promise prosperity and jobs, which our local hillbilly elected officials gobble up like hungry hogs, and don’t deliver. In fact, the trend is to automate operations, leaving the really dirty jobs to low-paid black-collar workers. Now that’s a real vision for the future. Our economic geniuses hard at work for the corporations, while burying us!

According to a RCS school board member : “As a district, we have no control over assessments,” school board member James Latter said. “it’s unfortunate the reduced assessment has an effect on our resident taxpayers, we are thankful for businesses like Selkirk Cogen. It’s businesses like these that often pay large sums of school taxes, taking some of the burden off our residents.” Contradiction here, Mr Latter? Read that quote again! He’s double-talking. And that’s the kind of dumbass RCS voters put on the school board! 

That kind of pass-the-buck double talk is characteristic of weasel Jim Latter, who is an employee of a Saudi-owned corporation in Feura Bush, so we know where his loyalties lie. He’s not going to be honest and tell it like it is: He’s going to spend, spend, spend and then blame the tax hikes on the local town administrations! Of course he’s thankful to Cogen and to his Saudi keepers, they sign his checks.  But it’s his talking out of both sides of his mouth that irks us most. You see, they preach austerity and fiscal responsibility but they don’t practice what they preach.

We’d like to know where the money came from for the sports field refreshment stand that is not used for 6-8 months of the year? The RCS Sports Association was to have paid for it but they couldn’t raise the money. Anybody hear where the rest of the money came from? Anyone care to guess? We all know. But the question is still: If we have so many youth sports associations and groups in the area, why does the school district have to have million dollar playing fields. Is the RCS community that rich? We know it’s falling apart and dirty. We know that our elected swine are handing our community to killer trucks, heavy truck traffic, dust devils, and our roads are tuning into mini-Grand Canyons. We know our students are coming out of RCS schools stupid. We know that there’s money for jocks but no money for books and brain programs. We know the teachers are getting paid very well, get incredible benefits and get paid professional enhancements. We know that 75-80% of the budget goes to salaries and benefits. What else do you know but won’t admit?


Heres a contribution from one of our readers that should get you thinking:

I was working out at the Glenmont Planet Fitness when a group of about 4-6 boys gathered around one of the equipment. One was on the phone and talking to “his brother”. When he had finished he asked the others whether they knew anyone who would “buy” for them. As the conversation went on it became clear that they needed alcohol for a group or a party that was going to happen in connection with the prom. They brainstormed for a little and made some calls, and then, apparently the problem was solved. Someone, one of the boys brothers, would make the purchase. These guys were obviously still in school at RCS and planning a party after the senior prom. They needed booze and found it. I wanted to give them a good talking to but the way they were acting, it would only have caused a scene and embarassed me. They were too ignorant to care, and their language didn’t make me think they had any brains.

I thought about one of the blogs recent articles about the accident on 144 when Logan Penzabene was creamed and his buddy seriously injured. I remember the quotes from local law enforcement, and then there’s Cuomo’s campaign. I lthought how right you were in that article. Then I saw this one and everything got clear. It’s all smoke and mirrors around here.

Not two weeks after a fatal accident and these knuckleheads are looking for alcohol. What? Isn’t the prom enough? I guess they’re so insecure they have to drink. So where are the parents? Do these kids still have parents? Do they know it? What’s up with all this law enforcement effort to curb these teen morons and their childish behavior? Where’s the school district and the teachers on this one? Where’s Cuomo’s campaign. They’re at Planet Fitness arranging for a booze delivery! I couldn’t believe my ears!


Well, there you have it, “Not two weeks after a fatal accident and these knuckleheads are looking for alcohol. ” Maybe the RCS school district can get a discount on the grief counseling they provide after the fact. Is that in the budget? Plenty of money to spend but none to spend wisely.

Less than 1 in 5 persons in Coeymans eligible to vote actually voted in the budget vote! And they weren’t property owners voting for a tax increase, we know that for sure!

Coeymans has a population of about 7500 persons with 13% over 65 years of age. In 2010 there were approximately 3000 housing units in Coeymans, of which 70% were owner occupied (the tax base). 91% of residents 25 years old or older are high-school graduates but only 1 in 5 has a bachelor’s degree (they graduated high school but either couldn’t get into a 4-year college or didn’t try)! Of those employed, they travel an average of 26 minutes to work (Obviously they don’t work locally. Where would they work?) Half of the population earns less than $55,500 a year, and there’s a 10% poverty rate. About one quarter of Coeymans residents is under 18 years of age; 13% are over 65 years old. OK. Let’s do some old-fashioned math: 25% of Coeymans are under 18 so they can’t vote. That leaves 75% of Coeymans residents who can vote, or 5,675 eligible voters. Let’s say, just for argument’s sake, that only 5000 are legally registered and can actually vote. The numbers for the budget vote show only about 900 total votes were cast on May 16, 2017. that means that less than 1 in 5 eligible voters actually voted (This is probably less, considering that parts of New Baltimore in Greene County could participate in the voting!). This is even more alarming because if we can believe the US census data, 70% of the some 3000 housing units in the town of Coeymans are owner occupied, meaning that they are property owners and foot the tax bill. That’s about 2,100 voters, at least, who should have showed up to vote on the budget! How many property owners do you know who would vote for a tax increase? So you can guess who the majority of the about 600 votes were, who voted for the budget and the tax increase, can’t you? Piss poor performance in our opinion! Are you proud of yourselves, Coeymanites.

“The impact of the reduced assessment will be reflected in September 2017 tax bills when residents will likely see an estimated tax rate increase between 4.5 and 6.5 percent (based on 2016 tax assessment figures), depending on town of residency.

The RCS Graduate:
Can’t draw, can’t spell, can’t count, can’t write,, can’t drive.
Can drink, can fornicate, can finger-fondle any electronic device.
Can get a social services check.

Local Corporations Get Tax Breaks; Property Owners Get a Tax Increase; Teachers Get Increases in Perks and Benefits; Students look forward to a lousy education; We all Get Shoddy Government by Incompetent Ego-maniacs; Our Roads Get Worse (Our idiot highway departments fill in potholes with sand today, pothole’s back tomorrow). The budget calls for an increase in total spending of 2.6 percent from the 2016-17 school year and a tax levy increase of 1.25 percent, which equals the district’s limit based on the state’s tax levy cap calculation. Translation: for a home valued at $150,000 with no STAR exemption this would lead to a projected tax increase of $195 for Bethlehem residents, $116 for Coeymans residents, $117 for New Scotland residents, and $153 for New Baltimore residents. Here’s what you get for your tax increaase:

  • Local Corporations Get Tax Breaks
  • Tax burden shifts to property owners and small businesses
  • Property Owners Get a Tax Increase
  • Teachers Get Increases in Perks and Benefits
  • Students look forward to a lousy education
  • We all Get Shoddy Government by Incompetent Ego-maniacs
  • Our Roads Get Worse (Our idiot highway departments fill in potholes with sand today, pothole’s back tomorrow)
  • You get less in the package for more in the manufacturer’s pocket (Do you ever read the labels of your coffee containers?)
  • Welfare recipients get their cell phones, transportation, manicures, healthcare for free (Are you going to work today? Second job? Third job?)

Voters turned out in very low numbers, again. Even more alarming is that — even with the low turnout– there seems to be a bizarre pattern in the voting this year (similar to past years) With with the budget receiving 538 in favor and 294, the bus proposition 537 yes and 289 no; The RCS Community Library budget showed the same pattern of 593 in favor and 297. (RCS Central School District webpage, 2017-18 budget passed by voters, last accessed on May 17, 2017). Even more bizarre is that several of the local news reports repeat each other’s stories almost word for word!

The only good news coming out of this year’s budget vote was that the RCS Community Library vote passed with 593 in favor and 297 opposed. Residents also re-elected two candidates to the library board of trustees. Bravo! RCS Community Library! 

The only ones with half a brain appear to be the baby-boomers and they’re quickly disappearing from the area, leaving outright, or just dying. It appears anyone born after 1980 is a product of the materialist consumerism that haunts us today. Those born in and after the 1990’s are a total loss to their anxieties and greed. After 2000, they are either chemical or electronic addicts; orphans, really, and unable to articulate a sentence or even make change at the counter, even when the amount of change is displayed on a screen.

Your school tax dollars at work. Thank you.

Holy Scripture & Our Opinion
The Editor

 

Just to Keep Your Attention…

For the visual ones among our readers, we’d like to provide a couple eloquent images for you to think about.
Just to Keep Your Attention
While We’re Working on the Next Story


We’re damned sick and tired of ghetto rats, rapists, abusers, sickos being touted on ESPN and the Sports Networks as heros. It’s got to stop!

We’re sick of providing benefits not only to lazy-ass hippo-hips, but to illegals, too! They can take our money but they don’t give us any respect! Same for our elected officials! This has got to stop NOW!

No comment!



Actually, it makes me want to vomit! Where has a healthy sense of integrity and honesty gone, anyway?


 
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Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Tragedy or Failure? Watch what you do; take personal responsibility for things like this!

A truly sad event occurred in the morning hours of April 25, 2017, when a young man died as the result of an unfortunate vehicular traffic accident. The event has been called “tragic” but we’d like to call it instructive and meaningful. Logan Penzabene’s death on April 25 was not just the loss of a son, a friend, a young man whose life would have been full of promise; it was a wake-up call to every single politician, law enforcement person, and every member of this bereft community and beyond. The roadside memorials will disintegrate, the tears will dry up, the body will be buried but will the problems and failures persist?

Watch what you do; take personal responsibility for things like this!

The media reports that “The tragic crash took place in the midst of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s teen safe driving campaign, and law enforcement babbles, and as Bethlehem Police Commander Adam Hornick babbles, “It’s even more unfortunate that we had this crash urging a campaign like this where we have such a concentrated effort by law enforcement to cut down on incidents like this.” Hornick hopes others will take the crash as a reminder to drive safe on the roads. Don’t we all?

Regardless of what Gov. Mario Cuomo puts out there politically or what Hornick makes as a public statement on behalf of law enforcement, the fact remains, that many reports and complaints have been made to local law enforcement and to the New York State Police regarding the safety of vehicular traffic on Route 144, where this accident occurred, claiming the life of another young person and severely injuring another.

We made a direct complaint to New York State Police at the toll plaza 22 of the New York State Thruway…

In fact, several weeks ago, we made a direct complaint to New York State Police at the toll plaza 22 of the New York State Thruway regarding the very real and present problem of operators, including passenger vehicles and heavy commercial vehicles, running the stop signs at Rt 144. Details were provided to responding State Troopers but to date we have not been able to observe any police presence at the times we reported such activity nor at any other time.

The New York State Police seem to have plenty of money, personnel and time to escort oversized vehicles down Rt 144, even when commericial escort should be available and doing that service, but the NYS Police don’t seem to have time to enforce the vehicular laws of this state. People are endangered, injured and killed as a result. Why is that?

Know what this means?

We have repeatedly reported on the careless and dangerous operation of vehicles entering and exiting the Port of Coeymans and adjacent Coeymans Industrial Park properties but we have seen no enforcement action taken at that location. Illegal and dangerous passing by motorists when a slow-moving truck pulls out in front of them. Decoy cars parked unlawfully and dangerously on the roadside but no visible control of the heavy truck traffic. Why is that?

On Aprll 25, 2017, Logan Penzabene was killed when he crossed into the on coming lane of traffic. Why was that? What caused him to migrate into that other lane and strike the oncoming vehicle? Texting, using a phone, horsing around in the car? Didn’t take more than a second and it happened! Where are we, people? In LA-LA Land?

The Penzabene Accident Scene

On the one hand we can speak of our unrealistic notion that we are in control of events and that such things are preventable. That’s part of our LA-LA Land arrogance and is somehow believing in magic. Something that is preventable reasonbably leads to the conclusion that if it happened and was not prevented that some mistake was made, and if a mistake was made, someone obviously made it, barring any notion or proof of mechanical failure. In Logan’s case, complete failure of his steering wheel. So if the accident was due to human error, what was it?

Signs pointing in the direction of failure of programs…

While we, as human beings, are blasted into reality when such an event occurs, that reality regrettably lasts only until the memorial shrine disintegrates or a couple of days after the funeral. Then it’s back to business as usual. Here’s the stupid-rule: the more stupidity, more so-called tragedies. But the real tragedy is still the stupidity. The stupidity of educators, parents, law enforcement and policy makers. These events are not just deaths, they are evidence of failures but no one seems to think of these events as signs pointing in the direction of failure of programs. So the so-called tragedies continue.

It’s half-arsed damage control…

Quite frankly, it’s half-arsed damage control when the RCS school district plays the caring and compassionate student-centered educators by announcing that “grief counselors are being made available to students and staff in the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk school district. This follows the death of RCS grad, Logan Penzabene. He was killed in a car crash Tuesday in Selkirk.” Too little, too late  And if RCS Superintendent of Schools Robert Libby sent a letter home with each student in the district informing families about the fatal accident Wednesday, he’s going to have to do a hell of a lot more than just sending students home with letters. But does he have any clue what to do?

Cuomo’ s public announcement of a so-called “teen safe driving campaign” isn’t going to do it. Hornick’s wishful thinking and so-called efforts to cut down on inicidents” like the Penzabene incident isn’t going to come to any fruition. Why? Because they are smoke and mirror shows, empty!

If efforts and programs worked, why is it, as Hornick reports, that “[T]he community has already been through this; the town has,” Hornick said. “This is the second fatal in town in six months.” Second “fatal” but what about the others, the non-fatal ones. If Hornick’s efforts were as colorful as his title,  Bethlehem Police Commander, maybe we’d see some change.

In our May 3 article “Enuf already! Freaks and Scofflaws” we  reported on a local business vehicle apparently operated by an employee of Eagle Tools in West Coxsackie. That report was provided on the very day of Penzabene’s funeral, on May 3! That truck ran a stop sign, was traveling at a low speed, was crossing over into the oncoming lane numerous times, never used a turn signal. And that’s someone allegedly with a commercial driver’s license!

And what about the rest of you? You’re all just as guilty! Just open your eyes while you’re driving and observe what’s happening around you, and the hazards and dangers being created randomly by your fellow vehicle operators. Better still, just count the hazardous and dangerous habits you have behind the wheel. Precious cargo on board signs merely obstruct visibility even if you were using your rear view mirrors; programs and efforts don’t work unless the community actively commits to the program and actively participates in the efforts.

What are you doing to ensure you don’t get that knock at the door or that telephone call starting,
“I’m afraid I have some bad news…”

This is not the time to start thinking…

It would also help if law enforcement did less talking and responded more proactively to real complaints and reports of vehicular misconduct and careless operation.

Cuomo is a politician and spends most of his time in a very secure environment, most of the time in New York City. We have to live in the community. We have to use the roads. We have to try to stay alive despite the stupidity of those around us. What to we do about stupidity? Well, you could start by being less stupid yourselves.

So forget all the empty “You’re in our prayers” crapola. Forget the roadside memorials. Forget the sentimental expressions of superficial sympathy. Forget Cuomo and his idiotic empty programs. And forget law enforcement efforts that are practically non-existent if we can judge by their response to real complaints and ongoing problems. Do something that is really effective: Mind your manners!

While human compassion blots out reason in the acute moments of such loss, and loss it is in myriad ways, and our heartfelt sympathy goes out to Logan’s devastated family and friends, we have to look at this event as having an incredible meaning for everyone: Logan’s death has become an icon, an icon that demands that we take responsibility for our own actions and accept accountability. If Logan’s death is to have any meaning at all, it’s up to his young friends, his community, and all of us to be responsible and obey our laws, take our time, be mindful of the moment, and to realize our duties and obligations not only to ourselves but to those around us as well. Period.

Read a Related Article at No Empty Chair at the Dinner Table.

Download the final article from Spirituality & GriefcareNo Empty Chair

Thank you, Logan!
The Editor

 

Enuf Already! Scofflaws & Freaks.

The Community has had enough already, and local, regional and state law enforcement are diddling themselves, while public safety goes to hell in a hand basket. Well, with this communication from an interested and angry resident, we’re starting the new service:

RAVENA-COEYMANS-NEW BALTIMORE

Enuf Already! Scofflaws and Freaks

Here’s how it works: Any citizen who observes a law being broken or a freak in action, emails us with details to rcs.confidential@gmail.com. Please include any photos if you have the opportunity to take any. We’ll verify with you and any others we can identify and publish the report. Here’s one for starters:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at about 3:30 p.m., I was driving South on  Rt 144 and approaching the NYS Thruway plaza 22, when a large box-truck ran the plaza stop sign and entered 144 so that I had to slam on my brakes in order to avoid an accident. The freak was in such a hurry that for at least a mile he didn’t travel more than 40 m.p.h. (the speed limit on that stretch is 55 m.p.h.). Not only did he run the stop sign only to slow traffic down to about 40 m.p.h., his wheels were constantly crossing the centerline as I followed the vehicle (I thought he was either drunk or drugged; probably texting or using his phone!). It got so bad that I decided that I would find out where he was going and give his employer an ear full. Well, as if running stop signs, almost causing an accident, failing to keep right wouldn’t be enough for this freak to lose his license, along the way he made about 3 turns and didn’t use his turn signals for a single one. I followed him, constantly keeping him in sight — it was an ordeal because his erratic driving was highly distracting — he drove through Coeymans Hamlet and through Ravena village, and turned onto 9W going South. I decided to continue following until I could turn off to get home and decided that if he appeared he was going past the junction of 144 and 9W, I’d give up the plan. Well, he used his turn signals for the first time when he signaled to enter the driveway of Eagle Tool Rental on Rt 9W. As he was making his turn, I noted that Eagle Tool Rental was lettered on the passenger side door, indicating that the truck belongs to Eagle Tool Rental. The  NY license plate number of the truck was 38435-KA commercial. Please do not use my name.

OK, Anonymous, you’re the first to help ensure the safety of our community by providing information on Scofflaws and Freaks in our communities!

We verified the truck and the location and the truck appears to belong to

EAGLE TOOL RENTAL & SUPPLY
372 State Route 9W
West Coxsackie
NY 12192
Phone: (518) 756-6531

We’d like to hear from EAGLE TOOL RENTAL & SUPPLY about this incident, and what measure’s they’ve taken to discipline the driver of the truck with NY commericial plate 38435-KA.

YOUR NEW TITLE
The Editor

 

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Uncategorized