Janiszewski losing grip on school board

Well, I lost my bet. The Schenectady school board did not appoint Jeff Janiszewski’s old partner in

Well, I lost my bet. The Schenectady school board did not appoint Jeff Janiszewski’s old partner in crime, Warren Snyder, to fill a newly opened seat on the board but decided to leave the seat vacant until it can be filled in the May election.

What was amazing about that is that Janiszewski’s ordinarily docile followers on the board — Linda Bellick, Lisa Russo and Gary Farkas — refused this time to follow.

They all voted with Diane Herrman and Maxine Brisport, and left Janiszewski, long the guiding light of the board, all alone.

Granted, Janiszewski did not openly advocate for Snyder; he just proposed filling the seat on principle, but I happen to know he was advocating for him behind the scenes.

So I detect a little shift now on this previously monolithic board, and I am more anxious than ever to see what happens in May when four of the board’s seven seats, including Janiszewski’s, will be contested.

I refer to Warren Snyder as Janiszewski’s partner in crime only figuratively, all you libel lawyers out there, and make no representation that the two of them ever violated any statute, state or federal.

Over the years they just ran the Schenectady school board, recruiting members and getting budgets passed, behind a couple of false fronts that they called Friends of Schenectady Schools and New Citizens Convention, which, as devious as it might have been, was not criminal to the best of my knowledge.

Snyder finally stepped aside in 2007 after 15 years of devoted service, leaving Janiszewski to run things on his own, and I for one was looking forward to seeing the old team reassembled.

Alas, it is not to be.

Speaking of honesty, however, or dishonesty, I do take note of one little detail that has just come to light. Do you remember Janiszewski and his team first saying that a certain investigative report was going to be “transparent” in order to regain the community’s confidence, and then after the report was prepared, changing their tune and keeping it secret?

Well, it now emerges, in an affidavit from the investigator herself, that the board told her right from the get-go the report “would not be shared with the public.”

So there was no change of heart. The “transparent” bit was a lie right from the start. Isn’t that interesting?

Bucks for bruno

Only in New York, you might say: a fundraiser organized by a member of the state Ethics Commission to help a politician pay his legal bills, after the politician was convicted of felonious corruption.

There it was the other night at the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center, next to the Albany airport, exactly that. A gathering of a couple hundred Capital Region notables in support of former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, lately nailed for “theft of honest services,” the event put together by John Nigro, ethics commissioner, in charge of guarding against corruption in our state government, who in fact was named to the commission by Bruno himself, just to make the circle complete.

All the actors were present: the notables, including prominent lawyers E. Stewart Jones Jr. and Steve Coffey; the indignant demonstrators out front, holding symbolic mops and brooms; the media vultures, including yours truly, notebook in hand; and of course the guest of honor, Uncle Joe, as he is affectionately known in Rensselaer County, upon which he bestowed so much largesse over the years. It was largesse from our pockets, of course, but never mind. He looked as radiant and as confident as ever.

Especially when Jones and Coffey came before the cameras and vouched for him with as much passion as if they were giving a summation before a jury on behalf of an honorable citizen wrongly accused of bank robbery.

“He’s a solid man; he’s a good man; he’s a man who cares about other people,” averred Coffey.

As for Mr. Nigro raising money for an official who has been convicted of corruption at the same time he supposedly keeps watch over the ethics of such officials, Jones assured us that Mr. Nigro is “a man of great integrity and honesty.”

I asked Bruno how much he expected to raise at this event, and of course he said he didn’t know, as if he were above such crude concerns.

It could hardly have been enough. He has said through an aide that his legal bills will exceed $2 million, and we know his leftover campaign money covered just a little more than half of that.

Even if all the supporters who showed up at the Desmond donated the requested maximum of $1,000, which is unlikely, that would still be just $200,000.

Asked what he has been doing since his conviction last month, he said, “I’ve had more fun in my life,” though, alas, the fun couldn’t have included bagging his executive job with a private company. He added, “I have a lot of faith in the Lord,” which didn’t surprise me. So many scoundrels do have such faith.

One thing that I’ll admit pleased me was the presence among the demonstrators of a few of those yellow “Don’t Tread On Me” flags, with the coiled snake, associated with the Tea Party people who are always railing against big government.

I was glad to see them protesting corruption rather than just ragging on health-care reform. It gave them a little more credibility in my eyes.

Red-face dept.

In my column the other day about Martin Luther King, did I refer to the Birmingham bus boycott? Yes, I did. But of course it wasn’t Birmingham, it was Montgomery. Everybody knows that — even me, when I’m paying attention.

Categories: Opinion

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