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Embattled Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse Rejects Call To Resign By Gov. Cuomo

Mayor Morse
Lucas Willard/WAMC
Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse

Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse is defying calls to resign, including from the governor of New York, after the Times Union reported more details of alleged domestic violence on Sunday.


The call to resign came from the highest office in the state on Sunday: Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said a state police investigation into Morse that was reported having been "wrapped up" on Friday, is being re-opened. Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi:   "This is exactly the same standard that the governor held Attorney General Schneiderman to. This report came out of him abusing women, and the governor called on him to resign because he wasn't fit to lead the office given these circumstances."

Renewed calls for Morse, a first-term Democrat, to step down come after the Albany Times Union published articles that included 911 calls (Thursday) and allegations Morse got physically violent with his wife and daughter (Sunday).


Swift reaction also came from a trio of local Democrats and the Albany County Democratic Committee.  Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and state Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy last December led the initial call for Morse to step down, which came after the Times Union published a series of reports detailing alleged domestic violence incidents by Morse dating back years.  

Now, state Assemblyman John McDonald is echoing those calls.  McDonald, a former mayor of Cohoes, agrees with Governor Cuomo that Morse should go.   "Well he really should take that into consideration. You know at the end of the day he's got to think about what's best for his family and himself, and the citizens of the city of Cohoes. I've known Shawn for a long period of time. He's a hard worker, he's hard-charging as well. At the same token, the city has made great progress over the last couple of decades. It's important that we continue that progress, but in all honesty, the pressure of this investigation, which I don't think is gonna go away any time soon, has gotta be a major distraction in his ability to do his job."
A close political ally of Morse, Albany County Comptroller Mike Conners reserved comment, explaining he might become involved in the police investigation.   "I do know his wife and I have spoken to her many times and received text messages from her, so, you know, this goes along, we could be involved. I will say this: that when drugs or mental illness hits a family, the whole family is injured and I feel sorry for Shawn's stepdaughter, his son and his daughter. And I of course feel sorry for his wife, who's, you know, had her troubles."

The Cohoes Common Council plans to hold special meeting to discuss the situation tonight at 7. Councilor Randy Koniowka, who recently announced his intention to run for mayor,  proclaims this "the darkest time in the history" of the Spindle City, and says it’s unclear what, legally, the Common Council can do.   "Our charter does not give us any authority to remove the mayor. The most we could do would be to pass a resolution calling for the mayor to resign. Now, that being said, we're not even certain if we could bring a resolution to the floor without the mayor's consent, and that was a question that was brought up by the president of our council at our last meeting, and that was addressed to our corporation counsel who didn't have an answer."

Mayor Morse did not return a call requesting comment Monday, but did an extensive interview with WAMC News on September 13th where he twice denied having committed domestic violence. "I’ve never hit my wife. My wife is a wonderful, loving, caring mother, we have a great family. And, again, if I wasn’t the mayor of the city we wouldn’t be talking about this, because there’s a million people across this country who have had to deal with some of the most painful things, that me and my wife dealt with. And we’re still trying to work through them and make everything good for our family. Not gonna to discuss those things, it’s no one’s business."

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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