Monday, May 01, 2006

Mayor says ethics and obeying law "doesn't mean anything"

Republican Harry Tutunjian, Mayor of Troy, NY says "To me, it doesn't mean anything," after hiring former State Supreme Court Judge Thomas Spargo to replace former City Court Judge Henry Bauer as the cities corporation counsel.

Spargo, a Republican, was removed from the bench for misconduct in March. He replaces Bauer who was recently elected to the city council. Bauer, also a Republican, was removed from the bench in 2004.

In Bauer's case:
The 39 misconduct charges upheld against Bauer essentially fell into two categories: more than two dozen cases where the commission found that the judge set excessive bail and several cases where he failed to advise defendants of their right to counsel. In general, Bauer was accused of abusing his bail discretion to coerce guilty pleas from unrepresented defendants.

One case cited by the commission and Court involved a man who was charged with a violation for riding his bicycle on a sidewalk without the appropriate lights. Even though the maximum penalty for that offense was a small fine, Judge Bauer sent the man to jail for seven days in lieu of $25,000 bail, records show.

While Bauer engaged in practices abusive of defendants Spargo, a "leading expert" on election law was guilty of breaking election law and subsequently of abusing his office to solicit contributions from lawyers with cases pending before his court.
The Commission on Judicial Conduct cited several acts of misconduct by the justice in releasing its removal recommendation Friday. They included his solicitation of a $10,000 contribution from one lawyer for his legal expense fund as he challenged the legal right of the commission to pursue a disciplinary case against him. The commission said Spargo also arranged a lunch at a local restaurant at which his friend solicited contributions for Spargo from other lawyers who had pending cases before the justice.

Other instances of wrongdoing cited by the commission dated back to 1999, when Spargo handed out $5 coupons and free drinks while he was campaigning for a town justice seat. The commission also said his appearance at a Monroe County Conservative Party fundraiser in 2001 violated state rules about judges' involvement in political activities in New York state.

Not cited in the case was Spargo's involvement with Rep. John Sweeney (R-Animal House) in the recount rioting in Florida 2000 commonly known as the Brooks Brothers Riot.

One can only assume that figuring out how to break election law is what makes one an expert in Republican circles these days. Sad, very sad.

Which leads us to Mayor Harry Tutunjian of Troy who hired first Bauer after his removal from the bench and now Spargo to replace Bauer.
"Tom Spargo is a talented, brilliant lawyer, and I am proud to have him be a part of my administration to represent the city in legal matters," he said.

The state commission on judicial conduct appeared to think differently when it said:
"By engaging in a series of acts that conveyed an appearance of 'exploiting his judicial office for personal benefit,' the respondent diminished public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary as a whole and has irretrievably damaged his usefulness on the bench," the commission wrote in its decision.

"Their actions as judges shouldn't translate into how they represent the city," Tutunjian said.

"To me, it doesn't mean anything," Tutunjian said. "We are searching for talented attorneys to help us run the city of Troy. To have someone of Mr. Spargo's caliber on our team is a bonus."

Troy, NY... the home of John Sweeney, Henry Bauer, Harry Tutunjian, and now apparently, Tom Spargo.

Ethics? Obeying the law? Judges shaking down lawyers? Locking people up for not having a light on their bicycle?

"To me, it doesn't mean anything," Tutunjian said.

For more on the wonderful adventures of Troy, NY see The Troy Polloi.

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