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Politics Heat Up in Central NY

By Dave Lucas


Utica, NY – While the "Senatorial Sideshow" dominates Albany headlines, to the west what some call a "one-man political gang" has the city of Utica in an uproar... Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

It began earlier this month when Utica Mayor David Roefaro appointed his long-term friend acting Public Safety Commissioner Dan LaBella to the position of police chief. According to published reports, LaBella scored lower on the civil service test for the exam than the two deputy chiefs, and has less supervisor experience, while all three have been on the force for about the same amount of time.

Roefaro knew that some would view the LaBella appointment as nepotism. People have been commenting about the appointment on blogs and news websites. The vast majority of comments have been negative. Mitch Ford, President of the City of Utica's Democratic Committee, says LaBella is "more than qualified" for the job.

The LaBella appointment helped spur Utica resident William Newell into action: he singlehandedly spearheaded a movement: asking people to sign a petition to recall Mayor Roefaro. Newell needs to gather at 2830 signatures for a recall to be possible. He's about halfway there.

This time of year, volunteers go door-to-door soliciting signatures for candidates' nominating positions. Things started to get out of hand when the City of Utica and Oneida County Democratic Committees said they had received complaints that some citizens may have been duped into signing Newell's "Recall Mayor David Roefaro" petition.

Newell denies wrongdoing, saying he's duped no one. He also disputed allegations that volunteers have been asking for money. Newell has a measured amount of time to gather signatures, which then must be verified and turned over to the Common Council, who according to the City Charter, must then call for a Special Election.

There's another wrinkle to the story: a new media presence in the city, the web-based Utica Daily News, poured gasoline on the fire when it published comments the Mayor's spokesman Angelo Roefaro made about William Newell, describing Newell as a "crackpot" --- Angelo Roefaro has apologized. He believes media coverage has encouraged Newell in his petition drive.

Dave Dellecese has been following the story for Uticas' WKTV: he reacted to Roefaro's comment about media coverage, saying "I think the fact that a gentleman would go to a community event at city hall to drum up signatures for something as out of the ordinary as a mayoral recall...that alone is newsworthy. It's not like this guy was just calling for it. He organized, essentially, a mini-movement. And the fact that he would stand outside city hall to gather signatures is also newsworthy, in itself. Just the fact that a lot of people complain about who runs their city, state, country, etc...this guy actually went through the process to try and make a change."

This week Mayor Roefaro told WKTV he's NOT worried, that there would "be no recall"


Resident launches Web site to recall Roefaro (Utica Observer Dispatch)

Nearly 1,000 Sigantures Collected for Roefaro Recall (WKTV Newschannel 2)

Recall press conference gets heated (Utica Daily News)