Hugh Reynolds: Battle for the gavel

Delegates to the Third Judicial District nominating convention will convene at 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21 at the Albany County courthouse to nominate two candidates to run for state Supreme Court in November. Ulster, the second largest county behind Albany in the district, will bring a 16-member delegation led by county Democratic Chairman Frank Cardinale. About 80 delegates from seven counties will be in attendance.

Four candidates are vying for the nominations, including incumbent Republicans Mike Kavanagh, 68, of Woodstock and Bernard “Bud” Malone, 69, of Albany, against Democratic lawyers Richard Mott, 63, of Columbia County, and Steven Schick, 59, of Sullivan County.

Cardinale was coy about whether Ulster would be backing a favorite son (the ever-popular Kavanagh) at convention. Such a move would certainly spice up nominations where half a dozen votes might make a difference.

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All four candidates are vying for a cross-endorsement in order to obviate a grueling, expensive (at least $500,000) seven-county campaign where party enrollment heavily favors a Capital District candidate. The job pays $144,000 a year, with perks.

The catch here is none of the candidates, even the baby of the bunch, Schick at 59, will be able to serve the full 14-year term on the ballot on Nov. 6. Supreme Court judges must retire after the year they reach 70, but can be “superannuated” (certified on a yearly basis) as judges until age 76.

For Republicans, the pitch to Democrats is this: Give our candidates another year or two (until retirement) and we’ll give you the open slots next year or the year after. Democrats will counter with: We can elect our guys now, and they’re younger. Go fish.

A happy outcome (for politicians, but not disenfranchised voters) would be cross- endorsement of one Democrat and one Republican. But which?

Kavanagh, a former Ulsterdistrict attorney, is an appellate judge and should he be re-elected as a sitting judge would likely be reappointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Under the rules, nobody runs for Appellate Court.

Kavanagh, obviously seeking Albany support, held a $50-a-head fundraiser at the hopefully well-named Victory Café in Albany this week. Most Albany lawyers spend more than that on lunch. Back home, Kavanagh will host a $35 fundraiser at Mariner’s Harbor on the Rondout from 6-8 p.m. next Thursday. Even Ulster lawyers should be able to afford that modest charge.

Clearly, Kavanagh, who some see as the longshot in this four-way contest, is hoping to generate some buzz before the judicial convention.

Exec on exec

At first blush, it would appear that rookie Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro bested our own Mike Hein in the annual retirement-ready employee buyout derby by a three-to-one margin. But there were extenuating circumstances.

Molinaro offered a $20,000 buyout and got 54 takers, according to published reports. Hein, offering $12,500 (all before taxes), got 18. But Hein has been making this pitch for three budget years, while this is Molinaro’s first time around. Given the low response inUlster, it would appear Hein has plucked most of the low-hanging fruit.

Buyouts of almost-ready-for-retirement workers are problematic, in any case. Most employees with one foot out the door would consider the so-called “incentive” little more than a windfall bonus, i.e., they were leaving, anyway.

Big bucks

Some of the pricetag for the county’s recently approved trend-setting four-year contract with its CSEA union workers landed in the legislature last week, and it’s a whopper.

The county executive, via the personnel director, is seeking $900,000 to retain the Albany-based labor relations law firm that negotiated the contract. Retroactive to Aug. 1 — the agreement with some 1,300 workers was approved by CSEA members on August 27 — the proposed pact with Roemer, Wallens, Gold and Mineaux would end July 31, 2015.

For “really skeptical” legislature Majority Leader Ken Ronk, “that’s an awful lot of money, considering we have labor-relations attorneys on staff.” For legislative Republicans, that’s not necessarily their strongest argument, considering they hired Orange County-based lawyer Langdon Chapman as their legislative counsel in January.

That Roemer et al. successfully negotiated a difficult contract for the county will no doubt be a factor in retaining the firm. Having the county’s largest union in the fold —negotiations are ongoing with three smaller unions — might mitigate resistance to committing almost a million bucks in advance to labor lawyers whose work is largely completed. Then there’s those official Board of Elections records being passed around that detail how the Roemer law firm donated $3,250 to the executive’s campaign committee over the last few years. That troubles some legislators.

But while Ronk and a few others might balk at approving this contract, the executive has a record of securing the necessary votes (12 of 23) before he submits legislation.

In another financial issue that may raise some dust, the executive is putting out requests for proposals (RFPs) seeking to update the county’s website, mostly his own. Excluded from what is expected to be a $75,000 makeover, according to documents submitted to the legislature for its meeting next week, would be individually designed websites operated by the district attorney, sheriff, county clerk, comptroller and legislature. All are independently elected offices, but for information purposes remain integral parts of county government. Ergo, some legislators grouse, the website do-over is just another example of the executive burnishing his image.

No word back from the executive branch on either one of these projects, since the executive presently does not talk to reporters from Ulster Publishing.

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Stone solid

There are those who consider Assemblyman Kevin Cahill something of a windbag — he can go on and on and on — but at times he can be succinct, even poignant and funny.

Witness Cahill’s drop-in remarks — he had several other official functions last Saturday night — at a Kingston Veterans Association dinner honoring Phoenicia’s Frank Stone as veteran of the year.