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Troy city councilor pleads guilty to ballot fraud, resigns

Troy's city seal
Lucas Willard

A Troy city councilor has resigned after pleading guilty to ballot fraud in federal court. Now, city leaders are clashing over how to select a temporary replacement.

Troy City Councilor Kim Ashe-McPherson resigned Thursday morning, one day after pleading guilty to fraudulently submitting absentee ballots in last year’s election.

The Republican from District 2 chaired the council’s public safety committee.

Troy Mayor Patrick Madden, a Democrat, says the news is extremely disappointing.

“I am grateful that she resigned. I know that might sound harsh, but the city needs to move beyond this.”

Ashe-McPherson’s resignation comes 29 days before the court-imposed deadline, as part of her plea deal.

According to court documents, Ashe-McPherson requested information from an unnamed employee with the Rensselaer County Board of Elections on how to obtain an absentee ballot for an individual outside the country during a June 2021 Working Families Party primary election. Ashe-McPherson, who ultimately won the WFP line, obtained and cast a ballot in the person’s name in the primary. The individual was registered to vote in District 2.

Months later in the general election, Ashe-McPherson again sought information from the same Board of Elections employee on how to request an absentee ballot for the same individual and another person who resided outside of the country. She acknowledged illegally casting ballots on behalf of the two individuals in the general election.

The Times Union reports the guilty plea is part of a wider federal investigation into ballot fraud in Rensselaer County.

Sue Steele, leader of the city council’s three-member Democratic caucus, said the news “raises more questions about the hundreds of absentee ballots collected by Ashe-McPherson and other Republican operatives that helped decide many local elections in Troy and Rensselaer County in 2021, as well as several prior close election cycles.”

Madden called the three illegally-cast absentee ballots the “tip of the iceberg.”

“There were hundreds more absentee ballots submitted in the last election than any other election. Hundreds more,” said Madden. “And there were some individuals who submitted, individually submitted over 300 absentee ballots themselves on behalf of others. This was not a clean process.”

Republican City Council President Carmella Mantello calls it a very sad day for Troy. She says voting is “one of our most sacred rights.”

“I’ve said this many times, and it’s critical we do everything humanly possible to preserve the sanctity of the vote.”

But Mantello and Madden disagree about how to move forward.

Mantello wants to create a five-member bipartisan commission made of three District 2 residents and a minority and majority council member to make a recommendation on who would fill Ashe-McPherson’s seat through the end of the year.

“It’s essential that we receive District 2 residents, their input, and include them in this process,” said Mantello.

Along with fellow Republican councilors Jim Gulli and Irene Sorriento, Mantello plans to introduce legislation to establish the committee, and may call a special meeting to do so.

Mantello says she plans to reach out to community groups to find individuals interested in serving on the committee, including the Troy NAACP.

Under the Troy city charter, an interim councilor would serve until the end of year. The winner of a special election in November would serve the remainder of Ashe-McPherson’s two-year term.

Mayor Madden says Former District 2 Democratic city council candidate Steven Figueroa, who lost November’s election, should fill the seat.

Madden said Figueroa has “repeatedly demonstrated his commitment” to residents of the city’s North Central neighborhood.

“I can’t think of anybody more qualified. I’ve never seen anybody work harder to be elected than Steve. I just think it’s the right thing to do. He’s a good representative for that community, particularly the youth,” said Madden.

Madden said he also would support Figueroa in a special election this fall.

Mantello said the decision to name a replacement rests with the city council.

“So ultimately, it may happen to be her prior opponent. But the mayor, to throw out a name like that…I truly believe…include the people of District 2 first. And right now, it’s not the mayor’s decision.”

With Ashe-McPherson’s resignation, the city council is now comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats.

On Thursdsay afternoon, Madden announced he is calling for a special city council meeting Friday at 6 p.m. for the consideration of Figueroa for the District 2 seat.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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