Government Gridlock In Cohoes: Councilors Weigh In

Oct 4, 2018

With its mayor facing calls to resign from Governor Andrew Cuomo and other local officials, the city of Cohoes is facing more apparent gridlock.

The Cohoes IDA is a board appointed by the common council. While its function is to foster economic development in the city, the panel is currently unable to function.

The council had appointed five members to the IDA, but two resigned because they did not live in the city as required. A third member resigned in protest over accusations of domestic violence leveled against Mayor Shawn Morse in a series of Times Union articles. Common Council Vice President Bill Smith says with only two active members, projects cannot move forward.    "Probably two or three that need to really get done by the end of the month, closings I believe that need to get done."

Fifth Ward Councilmember Steve Napier says councilors needed to make at least one appointment...  "... so the council called for resumes. We reached out to people who we know, each of us reached out to people we know within our ward, we put out notices on social media, et cetera, seeking qualified individuals, people who might come from a variety of backgrounds, you know maybe they have a background as a business owner or as a CPA or what have you, something that might be beneficial to that board.  When we got the resumes together, we went to a council meeting to review those resumes and we decided to make six appointments. Those appointments, I believe a body that will be effective and be able to operate independently without undue influence by either the council or by the mayor."

Napier says the council will be bringing forward six resolutions in the next meeting to make the appointments. He adds that the mayor, who serves as the IDA's paid CEO, is less than thrilled with the list of prospects brought to him by Council President Chris Briggs.   "The mayor took issue with it, and the City Corporation Counsel, basically the city attorney, agreed with the Council President that it was the prerogative of the council to make these appointments and when that happened the mayor fired the corporation counsel because he made that judgement," said Napier.

Mayor Morse did not return calls for comment.  "Brian Kremer, who was the corporation counsel, was fired. He, as corporation counsel also served as legal counsel to the common council, so we are currently without counsel within the council, ha-ha, if you will."

Smith says Cohoes is moving forward despite negative press, including a report that Morse is the subject of a probe by the FBI.   "The latest article that we're looking to oust the mayor as the CEO of the IDA is false. What we're only doing is looking to appoint members to the IDA, and those members have say over who is or who are not the CEO. The council cannot oust the mayor as the CEO of the IDA. So what the TU printed was wrong and misleading."

Napier expects everything will get sorted out — possibly the next time the panel convenes, Tuesday evening.