Casino opens other seat on school board

So Pa Dukes is packing it in, and I’m referring of course to Jim Casino of the Schenectady school bo

So Pa Dukes is packing it in, and I’m referring of course to Jim Casino of the Schenectady school board, who distinguished himself last August with a series of booze-party photos on Facebook in which his family good-naturedly gave him the Pa Dukes label, which I understand is urban slang for dad.

He missed as many board meetings as he attended after those photos came to light, and the other day he made it official with a letter of resignation. An announcement from the school district’s spokeswoman, Karen Corona, concluded with the now-familiar line, “Follow-up questions and interviews will not be entertained.”

For people interested in cleaning house at the school district, the resignation could hardly have come at a better time, since, no matter what the school board does about the vacancy in the short term, that seat will now be contested in the May election, whereas if Casino had stayed he would have been good until May 2011.

I mean, even if the board appoints another old Jeff Janiszewski sidekick like Warren Snyder to fill the seat, which is my bet, it will only be for a few months.

Or if the board conducts an open interview process, or simply leaves the seat open, or whatever it does. Which means in the May election a total of four seats out of the seven will now be up for grabs. So if those residents of Schenectady who wish to clean house present a convincing slate of candidates they could take control and, if they have the starch, even fire Superintendent Eric Ely.

As one who has recently been making his living off shenanigans in the Schenectady school district, I of course hope this doesn’t happen, but I have to recognize it’s a possibility.

The last time a vacancy occurred, the board shamelessly appointed their recently defeated friend Linda Bellick to fill it, and her seat will be open in May. The seat of Jeff Janiszewski, the former president and guiding light of the board, will be open. And the seat of Maxine Brisport, who serves as sort of compromise president, will also be open. Plus Casino’s.

When you figure that Diane Herrmann, elected last summer as a reformer, is already there, we could be looking at quite a transformation.

As for Mr. Casino, we didn’t get to see his full resignation letter — the school district released just a few anodyne quotes — so we don’t know if he pleaded that he wants to spend more time with his family as disgraced officials so often do.

But given the kind of activities that we saw him participating in with his family in those Facebook photos — beer-pong, kegstands and luging — I hope he has something else in mind.

President Brisport was quoted in the school’s announcement as saying, “The board of education will need to discuss how to respond to his resignation, and I anticipate that a dialog will begin at our next scheduled board meeting,” which is Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the high school.

We’ll see what happens.

Ritter again

Ah, Scott Ritter, in the news again. Accused this time of a little Internet exchange with a person he thought was a 15-year-old girl but was actually a Pennsylvania cop running a sting.

According to an affidavit from the cop, in the township of Barrett, in the Pocono Mountains, Ritter not only had a sexual conversation with the presumed girl but embellished it by turning his Webcam on himself and performing an exercise in what the Victorians would have called self-abuse. This occurred via Yahoo Instant Messenger, on which Ritter employed the online name “delmarm4fun.”

Upon completion of the performance, the cop called the wireless phone number corresponding to the online name and identified himself as a police officer, whereupon, according to his affidavit, “‘delmarm4fun’ provided his personal information as WILLIAM SCOTT RITTER JR. of Delmar, NY.”

So now poor Ritter is charged with unlawful contact with a minor and is looking at up to seven years in prison.

Of course we all remember him from his days as a leading spokesman against President Bush’s invasion of Iraq. He had been chief weapons inspector for the United Nations from 1991 to 1998 and thus seemed to be in as good a position as anyone to know if Iraq possessed the weapons of mass destruction that Bush claimed. He said they did not, and he traveled the world making that case.

And then in January, 2003, that is, with the U.S. on the brink of invading, it came to light that this pesky and embarrassingly knowledgeable campaigner had been arrested a year and a half earlier on a charge of trying to arrange sex with a minor.


Scott Ritter, weapons inspector! Scott Ritter, antiwar campaigner! Soliciting sex with minors!

It was quite a sensation at the time, if you remember.

Well, the case was “adjourned in contemplation of dismissal,” which is a legal maneuver for getting rid of something, and the records were sealed. But now here we are again, and something tells me, with all the attention, it won’t be so easy this time.

One thing that does interest me is police work in Barrett Township, a bucolic area of Pennsylvania with a population of 4,100 and a police force consisting of six members.

Yes, six members, one of whom sits at a computer pretending to be a teenage girl, prowling the Internet for perverty men wherever in cyberspace they may be.

It’s the sort of thing I would expect a somewhat larger agency to do, like maybe the state police, but no, the Barrett Police Department has its own sleuth, Detective Ryan Venneman. One-sixth of its force.

Now if you’re wondering how a citizen can be charged with unlawful contact with a minor when the person he had contact with was actually an adult, rest assured that the laws are written broadly enough to cover this sort of thing.

Just ask Chris Ortloff, the former assemblyman and parole commissioner now in prison for soliciting sex with a minor when he too was dealing only with an adult police officer.

Categories: Opinion

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