Rejecting calls from fellow Democrats to resign, Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse received a standing ovation from supporters Tuesday night.
Morse, a first-term Democrat, took to Facebook earlier in the day to urge supporters to attend the city council. They answered his call and filled council chambers, cheering as Morse spoke at his first public meeting since a report published in the Times Union on Sunday detailed allegations of domestic violence involving the mayor going back decades.
Prominent Albany County Democrats including Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Assemblywoman Pat Fahy called for Morse’s resignation after the article appeared. Morse says he’s staying put.
“I’ll let the people of Cohoes decide my fate two years from now. But I’ll tell you right here and now at the first public meeting that I am not stepping down…”
Morse lashed out at Sheehan and Fahy in an exclusive interview with WAMC News on Tuesday.
After Morse spoke to his supporters, the city council meeting resumed as scheduled.
But not all on the council are supporting Morse. Council member Randy Koniowka tweeted that the supporters who showed up to the meeting “do not represent the majority of citizens of my city. We are better than that.” Earlier, he wrote: “as a city historian, I can tell you this is the worst period in the history of Cohoes.”
Koniowka, who spoke to WAMC News earlier in the day, says the city council does not have a legal way to remove Morse from office.
“That is barbaric. This was witnessed by a sitting member of the State Assembly. Now either he is lying, and I have no reason to believe he is lying, why would people lie? Why would these women coming forward? We’re getting into a real dangerous place here where now all of a sudden we are back to blaming the victim,” said Koniowka.
In his interview with WAMC, Morse denied the Times Union report that he had assaulted a woman inside a city pharmacy.
New York State Assemblyman John McDonald, who was working in his family’s pharmacy at the time, corroborated the story.
“It was an employee of ours. A person that I made sure was OK. And asked her what she wanted me to do. At that time, I did not realize that was actually Shawn. It was told to me by she and another employee who it was after he had run off down the street. But she begged me not to call the police. And going back 30 years ago, I honored her wishes,” said McDonald.
Morse denies the allegations.
“Well, let me just ask you the question. Did it happen? Because if I grabbed a woman in Marra’s pharmacy and dragged her out by the hair, where was John McDonald then? Why did John McDonald not call the cops then? Why has it never been brought up in any fashion for the last 34 years of my life? Why is the woman who he says I did that to not coming out and saying I did that? Me and John McDonald are political adversaries. We have been for a long time. But he has also come to my fundraisers and we have done events together, and for him to now say that that happened concerns me.”
Morse claimed that McDonald, a former Cohoes mayor, was trying to “politically assassinate” him. McDonald said he was deeply troubled by that sentiment.
“We have a mayor who I think has been working very hard for the citizens. No one disputes that. Has really been working on stirring economic development that is obviously being distracted by this incident. And I’ve said now twice and I’ll say for a third time, Mayor Morse needs to sit down with his wife and make the best decision for him, his family and the city of Cohoes. And whatever that decision may be, that will be it,” said McDonald.
McDonald acknowledged challenges facing the city, including the recent Remsen Street fire that damaged more than 30 buildings.
Morse pledged to move forward.
“But I can tell you I’ve been a good man my entire life. I’ve been a good husband, a good father. I’ve fought hard for this city. I’ve crawled through fires, I’ve saved people’s lives. And you’re never going to get less than my very best and I’m going to continue to work hard every single day.”
Hear the full interview with Mayor Shawn Morse here.