On Aug. 23 at 11 AM, Albany mayoral candidate Frank Commisso Jr. called a press conference at his Jefferson Street headquarters to review the candidate’s ongoing criticism of the city’s fiscal state and unveiled an acquired email exchange from City Hall employees that the candidate said suggested plans to hide details of Albany’s budget and “contemplated legal…and financial ramifications of insolvency.”
“A municipality that was in good financial health would not be contemplating the theft of company monies, the theft of water monies–would not be contemplating insolvency,” Commisso said, later adding, “As mayor I would never engage in any situation where we’ve accepted this kind of rationale in city government. This would be something that would result in someone’s termination.”
Commisso did not disclose to the press how or when the Jan. 7, 2016 email–from former deputy state budget director and consultant Catherine Durand to the Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s former chief of staff Matthew Peter–was acquired. However Brian Shea, the mayor’s current Chief of Staff, told The Alt that Commisso has “been shopping this email around for [almost] two years.”
In a later email correspondence, Shea added, “…the Times Union and Spectrum News had made inquiries into this email. At the time, both decided the email was not newsworthy and declined to run stories.”
Shea also argued that the email did not refer to any proposed theft but was a suggestion from Durand, a former deputy state budget director, on how to best represent city cash flow as Sheehan’s office continued to lobby for the $12.5 million in state aid.
In the exhibited email, Durand lays out a timeline of how long Albany can coast without the $12.5 million in state aid. One option suggests leaving out details of county and water board revenues as “these are not City revenues” when they present their budget case to the Legislature. Durand had concerns that if the Legislature did not believe the city would run into financial trouble until August 2016, they might set the issue aside until their regular session in June. “It is MUCH harder to get a spending bill done in June–the Gov often vetoes those using the argument that they weren’t included in the budget,” she wrote to Peter. The city of Albany received their state aid in early April of 2017.
“Mr. Commisso’s latest claims are so absurd and desperate, I feel like I’m watching a parody,” Shea told The Alt, adding that the city has and continues to relay financial information in an open and honest way.
“While those [county and water board] monies are technically part of our cash flow, they are eventually turned over to the county,” he added.
Commisso did not comment on whether he has access to any additional City Hall memos or emails on hand and said he waited this long to unveil the evidence at hand to protect the “whistleblowers”:
“They are concerned about their employment and you have to be careful…to go to every length to make sure you protect those individuals.”