FILLING DPW POST TO TAKE SOME DOING

One candidate left for Albany County job, but appointment may be iffy

CAROL DEMARE STAFF WRITER
Section: Capital Region,  Page: B4

Date: Saturday, June 19, 2010

ALBANY -- After his friends in the Albany County Legislature were ready to go to the mat for him, lawmaker Alexander "Sandy" Gordon has quietly withdrawn his name from consideration as the new county public works commissioner, leaving a former Troy city engineer as the only candidate.


However, the appointment of engineer Walt VanDeLoo, the choice of County Executive Mike Breslin, to fill the vacancy created when Michael Franchini left to take a job as county director of operations, could be in jeopardy.


Legislators will vote next month on a resolution to amend a countywide hiring freeze to exclude "critical hires" from the exceptions to the freeze initially imposed in November, leaving only public health and safety jobs eligible to be filled.


Under the amended freeze, VanDeLoo, a Troy resident who would have to be confirmed by the legislature, couldn't be hired, Legislature Chairman Dan McCoy said, suggesting the county would leave the post vacant for the time being.


Also, VanDeLoo's out-of-county residence would have been a problem. Breslin's office said he would move to Albany County.


Gordon, a veteran lawmaker and farmer, said this week he wants to stay in the legislature. "I want to continue to focus on the county budget and not forsake my legislative position," the Berne Democrat said. "I'm spending quite a bit of time focusing on the role of agriculture in the clean-energy economy."


The commissioner's appointment was headed toward a political showdown between the lawmakers and the executive. With major issues pending in the county, not the least of which is a financial crisis -- Breslin has warned the county could be out of cash by year's end -- "We don't need side shows at this time," Gordon said.


He contacted Deputy County Executive Michael Perrin late last week and said he was not interested in the position, even though Breslin had already set his sights on VanDeLoo.


"We feel he would have been a great candidate, but I understand that he doesn't want this to detract from the business we are trying to do in the legislative body, and he wants to take the high road," McCoy said.


Mary Duryea, spokeswoman for Breslin, declined to comment on what, if anything, took place between Gordon and Perrin, saying it was a personnel matter.


"The county executive has considered for appointment a highly qualified candidate for commissioner," Duryea said. The name of VanDeLoo has been sent to the legislature's Personnel Committee.


Meanwhile, Don Airey, co-director of the Schoharie Valley Watch, a not-for-profit whose mission is to "advocate for transparency in open government as well as ... for quality rural living in the Schoharie Valley," said he is still waiting to hear about an ethics complaint against Gordon filed with the Albany County Ethics Commission 18 months ago.


As an elected official, Gordon was, at the time, "working for a wind company or an affiliate company, and in that capacity he was lobbying local town officials to create permissive wind laws," Airey said. He said he believes Gordon has lobbied in the towns of Richmondville, Summit, Fulton and, possibly, Berne and Knox.


"In 1999, I was a wind advocate, only after I did extensive research and saw how it was being misapplied and how ineffective it was, did I become opposed to wind energy," Airey said. "As a group, we are opposed to the reckless siting of industrial wind turbines."


Gordon declined to comment on the complaint and said he hasn't worked for a wind energy company for some time. Albany attorney Clemente Parente, chairman of the five-member commission, could not be reached for comment. Airey said since he filed the complaint in January 2009, he has heard from Parente from time to time and most recently two months ago he was told the complaint was under discussion by the committee.


Carol DeMare can be reached at 454-5431 or by e-mail at cdemare@timesunion.com.