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Cohoes Mayor Doubles Down On Refusal To Resign

Embattled Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse
WAMC image by Dave Lucas
Embattled Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse

In an extraordinary press conference Monday, beleaguered Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse defied calls from the governor and others to resign.

Shawn Morse has been accused of domestic violence in a series of articles in the Times Union. The first-term Democrat addressed reporters for 45 minutes, vowing he will not step down.   "No man should ever have to give up his job that he's worked for his whole life because of any allegation, about me or my character."

Morse feels the Times Union newspaper has damaged his character. He played a cellphone recording of a tiff he'd had with his wife, Brenda, that name-checked a reporter:   "I'm calling Brendan Lyons tomorrow." "I'm talkin' to Brendan Lyons tomorrow, which is the common thread I hear from my wife every time she comes here and gets mad."

Morse pointed to a state police announcement Thursday that at the conclusion of a 10-month investigation, his name was cleared, and choked back tears as he maintained he's done nothing wrong.   "I guess that's not good enough, so if I'm going to save my family, my kids, and even my wife's life, I guess I have no other choice but to stand here in public, in the most humiliating way, a broken man with a broken family."

Morse says all domestic violence allegations lodged against him are false. Critics say Morse’s denials ring false, and that there are too many separate, credible allegations to discount them. Governor Andrew Cuomo and Democrats across Albany County say Morse should resign.

Morse's attorney Joe Ahearn explained one reported accusation involving a 911 call:   "It was about 6 a.m. when she calls 911, her daughter came over to the house 2 or 3 hours later, Brenda Morse's daughter not Shawn's daughter, to check on her and get a handle on the situation, and in that situation Brenda actually asked her daughter to lie for her and say you were home and you saw the whole thing. Brenda's child hasn't lived in the house in about two years. She didn't live there at the time. But Brenda Morse is trying to get her adult child to lie to the State Police to say she was home and she observed the entire incident. The State Police have that information. Have witnesses interviewed by the State Police last November. So with that in mind, I certainly don't speak for the State Police of course, but I can only imagine that's one of the main reasons why they came out Thursday and said there was a lack of probable cause for the arrest of Shawn. So not being satisfied in that situation, the news has already reported this, but Brenda went to the Colonie Police Department Friday at some time, regarding an incident she alleged occurred at Denny's on Wolf Road on Thursday, to which Shawn has been cooperative with the Colonie Police Department, we met detectives at 8 o'clock yesterday morning, the Colonie PD. Shawn gave a sworn written statement as to what occurred. They're investigating it, and we'll wait the outcome."

Morse referenced a Times Union report of police called to the mayor's home.  "I called the police because my 15-year-old daughter ran away for three straight nights. She was found with people that had guns. That were doing drugs. That were being looked at by every police agency."

He says his daughter ran away seven times, hinting she is now receiving special care.   "Every agency investigated me on every complaint and none of them found anything to be credible. And that's including that CPS report that was handed over to the Times Union."

Morse added his wife Brenda was jailed two weeks ago...  "...for violating an order of protection, for putting my 15-year-old daughter in danger. Two days after that she failed her drug screening for cocaine. Two days after that I was the only one who is now allowed to see my daughter outside the confines of where she is getting taken care of."

Brenda Morse has declined interview requests from WAMC.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy and state Assemblyman John McDonald, a former Cohoes mayor, are among those calling on Morse to step down. Morse said McCoy does what he's told to do and called McDonald, who says he saw Morse drag a woman by the hair out of Marra's pharmacy years ago, a liar.

The Cohoes Common Council held a special session Monday evening, but did not act to remove Morse from office.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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