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Cohoes Dust-Up: Mayor Vs. Ex-Mayor

Bill Keeler, Shawn Morse
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Bill Keeler, Shawn Morse

The last mayor of Cohoes and his successor are at odds over dirt and an allegation of theft of services.

There's no love lost between Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler and former Mayor Shawn Morse, who was defeated by Keeler almost a year ago in the Democratic primary. Morse left office after pleading guilty to federal wire fraud charges.

The two are again locking horns over a dispute that began on social media. According to former City Councilor Randy Koniowka, someone took pictures early Thursday morning of Cohoes DPW trucks and employees dumping and grading topsoil on property owned by Keeler.

"My phone was blowing up with photographs and video of City Department of Public Works personnel, heavy dump trucks, dozers, graders, at the home of Mayor Keeler dumping topsoil, grading topsoil on property directly adjacent to his home."

First ward Democratic Councilor Bill Smith immediately called for an investigation, suggesting State Attorney General Letitia James look into the matter. In an email, he claimed Cohoes has cut staff during the pandemic, and work is "piling up all over the city."

Keeler responded on his Facebook page, posting a statement that he has allowed the DPW to access his property for the past three years, instead of trucking the fill elsewhere, saving taxpayers money. Keeler added Morse was in his driveway the same morning taking pictures of the DPW trucks. Morse insists he was never in Keeler's driveway but admits the two did exchange words along the street.

"If I was in his driveway, he's got cameras all around his house. Pull them out, show me on his property, in his driveway and him coming up talking to me. You're not going to find it. If there's anything, you'd find me, in the road, driving by his house, like I do a hundred times a week, and trying to extend a courtesy and support the Music Hall and give him some advice, because I know what it's like when you're in the public eye. No matter what you do, somebody's gonna come after you."

Morse insists he was just trying to convey the message to Keeler that it might not be a good idea for city workers to be seen on his property and it could lead to trouble.

On Facebook, Keeler declared Thursday "was the first day in 2020 I noticed DPW using my property for fill. This morning, after review, I ended the practice." Keeler also identified Morse as the individual who was taking pictures of the DPW crew.

"Whether I took a picture or I didn't take a picture, has really nothing to do with whether the guy was taking city workforce and using it as his personal landscapers. Right? If I took every picture and turned them in, would that be inappropriate? If he was murdering somebody would they say well Shawn you can't do that because you were the old mayor and that's political. I mean come on. The reality is I am not responsible for the pictures that were sent out there in the morning. And even if I was, what would that have to do with the fact that he was doing something that he shouldn't be doing, that's illegal to be doing, and then they can twist it around, 'Oh Shawn took the pictures.' Who cares who took the pictures?"

Keeler declined several WAMC interview requests.

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