COUNCIL SEAT BATTLE AVERTED

An effort by Democrats to fill vacancy spurs protest, leads to open nominating process

LAUREN STANFORTH STAFF WRITER
Section: Capital Region,  Page: B1

Date: Wednesday, December 28, 2011

SCHENECTADY - City Council appears to be opening up the process to fill mayor-elect Gary McCarthy's seat as its lone non-Democrat announced Tuesday that he will interview candidates Jan. 10 at City Hall.


Vincent Riggi, a citizen activist who won a City Council seat after running on the Republican and Alliance Party lines in November, announced at Tuesday's council meeting that he will interview candidates at 6 p.m. Jan. 10 in Room 110 in response to ruling Democrats' plans to privately decide between two candidates who will fill the one-year seat. McCarthy's replacement will have to run in November to stay in the seat another four years.


Riggi invited people interested in the post to submit resumes to the city clerk, and also invited his five fellow council members to attend the interviews.


"I have no problem with the two candidates," said Riggi, who made his announcement during the meeting's public comment period. He will take his City Council seat Jan. 1. "But I think the process should be open to everyone." City Councilwoman Denise Brucker, who will likely be made City Council president during Schenectady's organizational meeting Jan. 3, said council members will likely attend Riggi's interviews, and she'll encourage the two preferred Democratic candidates to attend.


"He's a new council member, I understand him wanting it to be open," Brucker said after Tuesday night's meeting.


Normally the ruling Democrats, who hold five of six seats on the council, would agree who would be appointed. But there is dissention in the ranks, as the city's Democratic committee promised the seat to Weed and Seed coordinator Marion Porterfield, while some council members want the one losing Democratic candidate, John Mootooveren, to take the reins.


Riggi became vocal after learning that Democrats were planning on discussing the two candidates privately.


Brucker said she expects the council will vote on the new member in January. Mary McClaine, who was kicked off the November ballot after a petition challenge from city Republicans, will also likely attend Riggi's interviews for the appointment.


Meanwhile, Tuesday night's meeting honored the two departing council members, Tom Della Sala and Joe Allen. Allen, the first African American elected to a city post 16 years ago, was also named a Patroon, the city's highest award.


"This is a blessing. It's above and beyond my expectations," said Allen, 76, who held his two-year-old grandson during the ceremony. "Without the Lord on my side, I don't know if I could have done this."


Reach Lauren Stanforth at 454-5697 or lstanforth@timesunion.com.