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More Assistant DAs Disclose Judge’s Complaints

OSWEGO COUNTY, NY – Three attorneys with the county District Attorney’s office have confirmed the source of conflicts with Oswego County Court Judge Walter Hafner Jr.

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Judge Walter Hafner Jr.

For approximately a year, Hafner has been recusing himself from several cases, reportedly stemming from pending concerns that he brought to the attention of the Attorney Grievance Committee.

Hafner is prohibited from discussing the complaints because of confidentiality rules that protect the attorneys. The prosecutors who are facing allegations of ethical violations are beginning to talk.

“There is not much to say as far as I am concerned,” Hafner said. “I will just let them do all the talking.”

Assistant DA Mary Rain recently disclosed that more than 20 allegations of ethical violations Hafner filed against her in two separate complaints have been unfounded. Rain did not disclose the entire document, however, because several matters are still pending.

Days later, assistant DA Robert Genant, who was defeated by Hafner in the race for the Oswego County Court Judgeship in last week’s election, and chief ADA Donald Todd also disclosed the substance of grievances that have been filed against them.

Genant said Hafner filed two complaints against him with the Attorney Grievance Committee earlier this year. He said the substance of those complaints was entirely political.

“The first complaint was filed June 10, 2008 when he alleged that my campaign flier misrepresented that I was an incumbent judge,” Genant said.

Genant said that the Attorney Grievance Committee decided that the matter did “not justify an investigation on their part” and the matter was closed.

In August, Genant said Hafner filed another grievance, alleging an ad placed in a local newspaper by the county Republican Committee violated election law that Hafner said forbade committees from spending money on candidates before a Primary election.

The two sides debated the validity of the law in news articles that were published in The Post Standard Aug. 5 and Aug. 6.

“In the first place, I didn’t place the ad but he filed the grievance against me,” Genant said. “He cited election law as the basis for his complaint but didn’t check his sources. The law was declared unconstitutional by state and federal courts two years before.”

Genant pointed out that Hafner also made disparaging comments about him and other members of the DA’s office in a letter to the editor that was published in The Valley News in May. In the letter, Hafner questioned Genant’s ethics, related to his bid for the Republican Committee’s endorsement.

“Part of the complaint he filed was contained in his letter to the editor,” Genant said.

Because the Attorney Grievance Committee did not follow through with Hafner’s grievances, Genant said that Hafner is not required to recuse himself from cases that he is prosecuting.

“He doesn’t have to recuse because the complaints are not pending,” Genant said. “But the rules say a judge should recuse when his impartiality might be questioned. Without making any comment on that myself, does it seem his impartiality could be questioned?”

Has it become an issue in court? Genant said he doesn’t know yet.

“I haven’t been in his court in several months,” he said. “I had one Huntley hearing before him but it has been a while since I’ve been in court.”

For other attorneys in the DA’s office, the complaints have resulted in delays. Because a complaint is pending, Todd said he has requested that Hafner recuse himself from all cases that he is prosecuting.

Todd said he can’t confirm that Hafner has filed grievances himself because all grievances are officially made by the Attorney Grievance Committee.

“(Hafner) has corresponded a number of times about me with the Attorney Grievance Committee,” Todd said. “The committee takes the position that while someone corresponds with them, they are independent and they launch their own investigation.”

Todd said that the substance of his grievance is also political and suggests that he is violating an opinion that was set down by the New York State Bar Association. Todd noted that the association is very “pro-defense attorney” but “not so much pro-police and prosecutor.”

“The issue is whether or not a person who is an ADA forfeits their constitutional rights to participate in the electoral process,” Todd said.

“(The Association has) rendered an opinion that DA’s can’t circulate petitions on behalf of candidates that they deem qualified,” Todd said. “So they are saying that because I am a DA, I forfeit my First Amendment rights. There are some of us who disagree with that opinion.”

Because of the complaint, Todd said he does not feel he would have equal footing in Hafner’s courtroom.

“Because he has written multiple letters (to the grievance committee)… it would be difficult for a person to feel he would be on equal footing with another attorney and treated fairly by the court as the person on the other side (of the grievance),” Todd said.

Todd confirms that he is a member of the Oswego City Republican Committee.

“I believe I have a constitutional right to freedom of expression,” Todd said. “The Bar Association opinions are just opinions. … I’ve got rights under the U.S. Constitution that permit me to do what I am doing.

“There was a political sign in front of my house that blew off in the wind but the stake is still there,” Todd said. “That is kind of what the Bar Association opinion is saying. I can have a sign but it can’t say who I want to serve.”

While Todd and Genant say the only issues that have surfaced against them are political, Rain faced charges of ethical violations with regard to her performance in Hafner’s courtroom. When Rain made some of Hafner’s complaints against her public, Hafner suggested that her decision was a political maneuver.

“First of all, I didn’t seek (Oswego County Today) out,” Rain said. “Secondly, the majority of his complaints were taken care of over the summer. I could have discussed this then but I didn’t contact anyone.

“The only reason I opted to discuss the complaints now is because of the constant humiliation I am facing by (Hafner), who brings it up every time we go into court,” she added.

Because of the pending matters in the grievance, Rain said that Hafner is required to recuse himself from cases she is prosecuting.

“Instead of just recusing, he has to drag things out,” Rain said.

Rain pointed out that Hafner notified DA Donald Dodd of his first grievance before she was notified by the Attorney Grievance Committee. In the letter, she said Hafner told Dodd about the grievance but said he can be impartial in cases that Rain was assigned to.

“I found out about his grievance two weeks after my boss did,” Rain said.

An opinion that was issued by the New York Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics states that judges do not have to disclose the reasons why they are recusing to protect “judges and others from suffering unnecessary embarrassment or humiliation as the result of a particular disclosure.”

“The opinion says that the judge is not to embarrass the attorney (he) is grieving,” Rain said. “The whole point of the opinion is that he is not supposed to embarrass or humiliate. Well, it was embarrassing and is humiliating every time that he brings it up by objecting to recuse.

“Even though he doesn’t disclose the reasons why, he is telling people that he is questioning my ethics,” Rain said. “Because he is a judge, that lends credibility to it for a lot of people.”

Citing an example, Rain pointed out comments that attorney Salvatore Lanza made during an appearance for Alan Jones.

“Sal Lanza made a long deal about it in open court,” Rain said. “It is something he never would have been able to know about if (Hafner) didn’t say it in the first place.”

There is a process in place with the New York State Committee on Judicial Conduct to grieve members of the bench. Rain declined to say whether she has taken that action.

“I won’t discuss that, now or at any time in the future for the same reasons that (Hafner) shouldn‘t have,” Rain said.

Barboni Arraignment Delayed

OSWEGO COUNTY, NY – Arraignment proceedings for Jay Barboni, the man accused of murder in the death of his girlfriend’s son, have been delayed.

<p>Jay J. Barboni</p>

Jay J. Barboni

Last week, an Oswego County grand jury filed a three-count indictment against Barboni, 30, of Falcon Drive in Liverpool, that included one count each of second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter.

Barboni appeared for arraignment Friday with his attorney, Amy Hallenbeck, in Oswego County Court. The prosecution is being shared by Chief Assistant District Attorney Donald Todd and Assistant District Attorney Gregory Oakes.

A conflict between Todd and Oswego County Court Judge Walter Hafner ultimately resulted in the delay.

“For reasons that I don’t intend to discuss or disclose… I have requested that Judge Hafner recuse himself from any cases I am prosecuting,” Todd said. “He has agreed.”

The matter was subsequently referred to Fifth District Administrative Judge James C. Tormey, who will select a judge to preside over Barboni‘s case. No return date has been set at this time.

Todd pointed out that there is no time constraints that would affect Barboni’s custody status. Barboni is being held at the Oswego County Correctional Facility without bail.

“The case has already gone to the grand jury,” he said. “All we need now is an available judge.”

Barboni was arrested Aug. 21 and charged with second-degree murder in the death of 15-month-old Nicholas Taylor. The toddler died Aug. 18 while in Barboni’s care.

Oswego Man Accepts Plea In Drug Case

OSWEGO, NY – An Oswego man who was arrested by Fulton police in June 2007 has accepted a plea agreement in Oswego County Court.

Nyome “Mike” Sobe, 25, was arrested June 30, 2007. He was 23 years old at the time.

Nyome Sobe

Nyome Sobe

According to Chief Assistant District Attorney Donald Todd, Sobe was indicted on two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and one count of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Sobe entered a guilty plea Oct. 1 before acting Oswego County Court Judge Spencer Ludington to one count of fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance in satisfaction of the charges. He is currently awaiting sentencing.

Ludington heard the case after Oswego County Court Judge Walter Hafner recused himself from the case.

“The judge indicated that he would sentence the defendant to no more than two years in the (prison),” Todd said. “He said he would also direct him, if eligible, to the Comprehensive Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment program.”

Todd said that the case was based on solid police work that indicated a substantial amount of cocaine was being moved through residents in the town of Volney.

“(Police) obtained a warrant and, as the result of information gleaned from that warrant, took (Sobe) into custody,” Todd said. “Police then obtained a warrant for his vehicle, where they discovered 136 individually packaged bags of cocaine.

“Fulton police department did a fine job on this particular case,” Todd added.

Fulton Police Department was assisted by the Oswego County Sheriff’s Department, the Oswego County Drug Task Force and the New York State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team in the investigation.

As a result of the search warrants, more than two ounces of crack cocaine with street value in excess of $10,000 were seized. Police also seized a vehicle, a small amount of marihuana, two switch blade knifes and more than $800 in cash.

Lieutenant Jeffrey Kinney regarded Sobe‘s arrest as the trigger that launched the Attorney General’s year-long investigation into a cocaine distribution network. “Operation Fultron” culminated this summer with the arrest of 28 individuals in Rochester, Fulton and Oswego.

In June of this year, Robin Baker, the executive deputy attorney general for criminal justice, explained that the Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) headed that multi-agency investigation. Nearly one pound of cocaine with a street value of approximately $35,000 was seized during the investigation, Baker said.

Father Fuming Over Lack of Notice

OSWEGO COUNTY, NY – The father of a Hannibal boy who is believed to have sustained severe brain damage at the hands of his former daycare provider says it is outrageous that his family did not receive notification of her early release from jail.

Elroy Edwards said as the victim, his son should have been informed that Audrey Arnold was granted a conditional release earlier this month.

“They let her out and did not contact or notify my son,” Edwards said. “This is outrageous. We had a right to know that the woman who hurt our child was being released.”

Arnold, who was found guilty of endangering the welfare of a child March 31, was sentenced to serve one year in jail June 3; convicted of causing injuries to Fajo Edward while he was in her care May 31, 2006. Fajo was three-months old at the time.

Monday, Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd said that Arnold was granted “local conditional release” by the state parole board. Arnold will serve a one-year parole sentence from the day of her release, which was Sept. 12.

Edwards said he believes the system is flawed.

“The process should be in favor of the victim, not the criminal,” Edwards said. “They should have notified us. It seems that the criminal gets more support than the victim. This is unacceptable.”

Notified by Fulton Daily News Tuesday that Arnold had been released from the Oswego County jail, Edwards was in disbelief. He spent the day Wednesday confirming her release and asking to state and local officials why his family was not notified.

Edwards spoke with Oswego County District Attorney Donald Dodd, Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann and Assemblyman Will Barclay. He is meeting today with Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd and has made contact with Senator Darrel Aubertine.

Edwards pointed out that Arnold resides two doors down the street from his home.

“Thank God I didn’t just run into her,” he said. “I don’t understand the whole procedure or process. I am still trying to flesh that out. But I am not going to rest until I get to the bottom of this.

“It seems to me that in Oswego County, criminals are allowed to remain free,” he added. “Audrey wasn’t arrested for two years and didn’t go to jail until after the trial.”

Referencing the Erin Maxwell homicide investigation, Edwards said, “God rest her soul. She was killed and nobody has been arrested. … The response here is just not adequate.”

“I am at a loss,” Edwards added. “Just when you think you are turning a corner, something happens. … For now, I am trying to stay strong and get through today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.”

Oswego County Undersheriff Robert Lighthall explained that victim notification is not part of the inmate release process at the jail.

“We release people every day,” he said. “We couldn’t make notifications for every release we have.”

For that reason, Lighthall said that Oswego County joined the fight years in the late 90s to implement the VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) system.

Lighthall explained that anyone can register for notification of a prisoner’s release from any facility through the national victim notification network.

The service allows crime victims and other citizens to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders 24 hours a day. The public can register to be notified by phone, e-mail or text telephone when an offender’s custody status changes by registering online or through the participating state or county toll-free number.

“When you register, you are notified within 15 minutes of an inmate’s release from any facility,” Lighthall said.

While victims are notified of parole hearings at the state level, Lighthall noted that victim notification is not required in the rules for local conditional release.

“I feel bad for the Edwards family that the state did not notify them,” Sheriff Todd said. “But we don’t have any control over that. They made their decision before we were even notified that they were contemplating it.”

Lighthall pointed out that while Oswego County used to have a Local Conditional Release Board, it has since been eliminated.

“The state parole board took over the program in September 2005,” he said. “The state has jurisdiction over any inmate getting local conditional release from our facility.”

Inmates apply to the state parole board for a conditional release review. The sheriff’s department maintains application packets that are provided at an inmate’s request.

Lighthall noted, however, that local conditional releases are rare in Oswego County.

“We have had 15 applications since the state took over the program,” Lighthall said. Of those, he said Arnold represented the third inmate whose release was granted.

The first, Francis Smith, was granted local conditional release in January 2007. The second, Donna Towne, was released in June 2007. Lighthall noted that Towne had served 141 days of her sentence on a drunk driving conviction. She violated her parole and returned to the county jail in June 2008 to serve the remaining time she owed on the original sentence. She was released Aug. 22.

“Even if you screw up on the last day of your parole, you do the rest of the time you owed,” he said.

Within the application terms, Lighthall said the sentence has to be a determinate sentence in excess of 90 days. Inmates have to serve at least 30 days to apply and have to have served at least 60 days to be released.

Inmates who receive an intermittent sentence, a split sentences or a family court sentence are not eligible for the program. Those sentenced to serve probation after incarceration are also ineligible.

“You can’t do parole and probation at the same time,” Lighthall explained.

When local conditional release is granted, a one-year parole sentence begins that requires regular visits with a parole officer including weekly scheduled office visits and unannounced visits at home or work at any time. Parolees are also required to pay $30 per week while they are under supervision.

Parolees are not allowed to leave the boundaries of their county without permission.

Lighthall noted that if Arnold had served her full sentence, she would have been released June 2, 2009. If released early for “good time” (which gives inmates one day off of their sentence for every two days served with good behavior), she would have been slated for release Feb. 1, 2009.

Because Feb. 1 is a Sunday, Lighthall said she would have been released Jan. 30, 2009 because weekend releases are prohibited but the jail could not have held her beyond the time she owed.

In all, Arnold served 101 days of her one-year jail sentence. She declined comment Wednesday morning.

Arnold Granted Conditional Release

OSWEGO COUNTY, NY – The former daycare provider who was convicted of endangering the welfare of a child earlier this year has been released from the Oswego County jail.

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A file photo of Audrey Arnold as she entered court for sentencing in June.

Audrey Arnold, who was found guilty March 31 after a four-day trial, was sentenced to serve one year in jail June 3; convicted of causing injuries to Fajo Edward while he was in her care May 31, 2006. Fajo was three-months old at the time.

“She was released Sept. 12,” Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd confirmed this week.

Todd explained that a board from the state parole department is occasionally called to the county correctional facility to evaluate inmates for possible early release.

“We don’t have (a board) locally so the state does it,” Todd said. “They met with her and decided she should be released. … They sent me an order.

“I don’t have anything to do with it,” Todd noted.

Todd said that Arnold applied to the board to have her case evaluated. The order he received said that Arnold was grated “local conditional release” by the state board of parole, under the authority of New York State penal law and New York State executive law.

“She will be on parole until her time is served,” Todd said. “If she violates that in any way, shape or manner, she will have to come back to jail.”

Reached at home this morning, Arnold declined comment.

Contacted at home Tuesday evening, Fajo’s parents said it was the first time they had heard that Arnold was out of jail.

“We were never contacted,” Lizette Alvarado said. She declined to say more, leaving any further comment to Fajo’s father, Elroy Edwards.

Edwards said he was hesitant to believe Arnold had been released.

“I don’t believe that has happened,” Edward said late Tuesday evening. He said he planned to verify the information before discussing the matter further.

Oswego County District Attorney Donald Dodd, who prosecuted Arnold, also said Tuesday evening that it was the first he’d heard that Arnold had been released.

Dodd stressed, however, that the view of the victim should be taken into consideration in any review process for possible early release. When he learned that Alvarado and Edwards had not been contacted as part of Arnold’s review, Dodd did not mask his disappointment.

“That strikes me as fundamentally unfair,” Dodd said. “They should have been given notice.”

Dr. Wayne Farnsworth of Oswego Hospital’s emergency department testified that, in his opinion, Fajo suffered from Shaken Baby Syndrome.

The boy’s parents have explained that he is permanently disabled and will require life-long care. Two years after the day he was taken from Arnold‘s home-based daycare to the hospital, Fajo remained unable to crawl, talk or feed himself. He is blind and, according to some medical professionals, may not live to the age of 5, his mother said after the trial.

Arnold testified that she shook Fajo “gently,” and according to a “Shake and Shout” CPR procedure she learned. A CPR instructor testified for the prosecution that she had never heard of such a procedure.

Teen Accused of Exposure Also Faces District Consequences

MEXICO, NY – A student who was accused of hitting a female student in the face with his penis on a Mexico school bus is facing consequences from both the school district and the justice system.

The Oswego County Sheriff’s Office reported that the 16-year-old male who resides in the town of Mexico committed the act Friday after asking the victim if she had ever had a “mushroom stamp.”

Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd said the department cannot release the student’s name, nor could he discuss the case with any more detail.

“I can’t say much else without releasing information that is confidential,” Todd said Monday.

Mexico Superintendent Nelson K. Bauersfeld said that the incident is alleged to have taken place during the morning bus run Friday. Bauersfeld said that the complaint came to the district and said the district contacted police.

The teen was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a class-A misdemeanor; and third-degree sexual abuse and public lewdness, both class-B misdemeanors. He was released on appearance tickets and is scheduled to answer the charges before Mexico Town Court Oct. 7.

“The student has been suspended for four or five days,” Bauersfeld said. “We are also scheduling a superintendent’s hearing to decide if additional consequences are necessary.”

While the incident took place in the presence of others, Bauersfeld said he is unsure how many students were witness to the offense.

High school busses in Mexico transport both high school and middle school students. Bauersfeld noted that both the victim and the student accused of exposing himself are students at the high school.

Bauersfeld would not speculate what the potential consequences would be for the student through the superintendent’s hearing process.

“The most a superintendent can do is a two-year suspension for something involving a weapon,” he said. “I don’t know what will happen in this case.”

Engel Case Marks First Charge Under ‘Stephanie’s Law’ In Oswego County

FULTON, NY – Fulton police department’s arrest of a Fulton man accused of using a video camera to secretly record young women in his bathroom marks the first time that an Oswego County resident is being charged under Stephanie’s Law.

Michael A. Engel, 40, of Hill Top Drive, Fulton, was arrested this week and charged with five class-E felony counts of second-degree unlawful surveillance, among other crimes. Police say Engel is accused of installing a surveillance camera inside a bathroom exhaust vent to record several women, primarily in their teens, in various stages of undress without their knowledge or  consent.

According to Fulton Police Lieutenant Jeff Kinney, the investigation is a first for the department and was prompted by information brought to police that resulted in a search warrant of Engel’s home. Kinney said Engel’s camera was discovered during the execution of the warrant.

“The camera was wired to a camcorder-type device that was located in his bedroom,” Kinney said.

“To the best of my knowledge, this is our first prosecution (for unlawful surveillance) in this county,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Donald Todd said. Todd pointed out, however, that the law making unlawful surveillance a crime is relatively new.

Signed into law June 23, 2003, Stephanie’s Law prohibits unlawful surveillance, which is defined as:

  • (1) the installation of “an imagining device” with no legitimate purpose other than surreptitiously viewing or recording another person in a bedroom, bathroom, changing room, or other specified room;
  • (2) for the purposes of sexual arousal or gratification, the use or installation of an imagining device that surreptitiously views a person dressing or undressing when that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy;
  • (3) the use or installation of an imagining device to surreptitiously view under the clothing of a person (commonly known as “up skirting”); or
  • (4) for amusement, entertainment or profit, or to abuse or degrade the victim, the use or installation of an imaging device to surreptitiously record another person dressing or undressing when that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The law is named for Long Island resident Stephanie Fuller, who was videotaped by her landlord, William Schultz, without her consent or knowledge. Schultz put a small video camera in the smoke-detector that faced Fuller’s bed. A line led from the camera into Schultz’s apartment, where he both viewed and recorded the images.

Schultz’s actions were revealed when Fuller’s boyfriend noticed suspicious wires coming out of the smoke-detector. The couple called the police and Schultz was arrested. He later pleaded guilty to a charge of trespassing and was sentenced to three years probation, community service and fines.

With Stephanie’s Law on the books, however, unlawful surveillance is now a felony and carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd said that while unlawful surveillance is likely not difficult to prove once police have video evidence tied to the suspect, finding that evidence in the first place could be more difficult.

“You really have to have someone making a complaint with enough proof to go to the authorities,” he said. “Could this crime be going on in a lot of places that we don’t know about? Sure it could.”

Sheriff Todd noted that as surveillance technology advances, cameras have become smaller and easier to conceal.

“When they are used for legitimate purposes, such as for law enforcement, they are a wonderful tool,” he said. “But when they are used by someone for illegal purposes, they are hard to detect.”

The sheriff pointed out that there are important elements of the law that dictate whether a crime is being committed. Surveillance cameras in convenience stores, for example, are located in a public place without an expectation of privacy.

Asked about devices such as “nanny cameras” that have been marketed for parents who are interested in monitoring caregivers, Todd said there are several considerations.

“It really depends on where a camera is placed,” he said. “It if is placed in a living room or in a baby’s room, they are not areas where people are likely to disrobe. But if it is in a bathroom, it is different. People have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a bathroom.”

Kinney said that the department continues to work the investigation into Engel’s activities with the assistance of the sheriff’s department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. At this time, he said police believe the illegal activities all took place at his home.

“We don’t have information that it took place anywhere else,” he said. “But we are doing forensics on the computer as part of the investigation.

“We are anticipating more charges from the computer forensics,” Kinney added. “Whether this case will be handled by federal prosecutors or the district attorney’s office, I don’t know at this point.”

Engel has been released on bail is slated to return to Fulton City Court Oct. 22.

Anyone with information has been urged to call the City of Fulton Police Department at (315) 598-4504 or the Fulton Police Department Tips line at (315) 593-8477.

Lawmakers Weigh In On NYS’ Use Of 911 Service Fee Fund

OSWEGO COUNTY, NY – The state’s reported misuse of monthly cellular phone service fees has Oswego County legislators hot under the collar.

Monday, the Oswego County Public Safety and Emergency Services committee hosted a lengthy discussion on the matter. Referencing an article that appeared in Sunday’s Post Standard that detailed the state’s use of the “911 Service Fee” that is charged on cellular telephone bills each month, county lawmakers said they believe the state has used the account as its personal piggy bank for too long.

The fee was originally imposed to raise funds to make upgrades to 911’s wireless technology. However, only a small percentage of that fund is directed to 911 centers. Instead, the state has reportedly allocated the money to pay for overtime costs, fringe benefits and travel, clothing allowances and other miscellaneous expenses for other departments.

Each month, cellular customers in New York state are required to pay at least $1.20 for the service fee. Legislator Paul Santore, R-Oswego and committee chair, pointed out that only 6-cents of that fee is returned to Oswego County.

“The state has done everything with that money,” said Santore, who called the state’s handling of the money “abuse.” Santore encouraged the committee to direct the county to draft a letter to the state in reference to its activities.

“Use the funds for what they are for or give them back,” Santore said.

Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd pointed out that the Sheriff’s Association took on that task nearly a decade ago as part of its ongoing efforts to lobby for a fair distribution of the funds. Todd stressed, however, that the state has only had to show an accounting of the funds for the past three years.

“(The state) built the new State Police lab with that money,” Todd said. “It is just a large amount of money that they refuse to share with counties.

“We asked for 50 percent several years ago,” Todd noted. “They said they don’t have to share anything with us and they won’t.”

Michael Allen, director of Oswego County’s 911 department, pointed out that more than half of the calls received at the 911 center are placed from cellular telephones.

“We receive less than nothing from that tax,” he said.

Allen said that the 911 association has worked to form partnerships with every group it can to press the state to divulge what it has collected and how it is spending the money. Three years ago, he said the tax was estimated to bring in approximately $144 million per year to the state.

“If we were getting our fair share of that, we could see about a quarter of a million in additional revenue a year,” Allen said. “We have brought a lot of proposals to the state. … It is an outrage to 911 centers.”

Early on, Allen noted that 911 received approximately $1.7 million to purchase the equipment necessary to receive wireless 911 calls. Through subsequent upgrades, centers are able to locate where people are calling from on their cellular phones with a degree of accuracy, however, the tax has not been lifted.

As advances are made in cellular technology, Allen pointed out that there is not one 911 center in New York with the capability to receive information through things like texts, photo messaging or video.

“This is so much bigger than wireless technology,” he said. “This money would be a perfect way to fund that new technology but the state refuses. They are using the money for everything but (911 technology). … The present administration is even using a significant amount of that money to balance the budget.

“This is too big of a problem to get your hands around,” Allen added. “There needs to be a total overhaul to 911 technology. We have a lot of ideas. We have written position papers and proposals.”

But they are getting nowhere, he said.

Allen noted, for example, that Onondaga County asked the state to temporarily allocate $1 of the $1.20 fee to the county to offset its costs for a communication system. At that time, Allen said the request passed in the Assembly and the Senate but was vetoed by the governor.

Instead, the state allowed counties to tack an additional 30-cents onto the fee, bringing the total to $1.50 per month per phone.

“We haven’t done that in Oswego County,” Allen said.

As cell phone usage increases and landline usage decreases, Allen explained that it reduces the revenues his department receives from landline telephone 911 fees.

“A few years ago, we were receiving about $280,000 in revenue (from landline 911 service fees) to help fund the 911 center,” he said. “Now, we will be lucky to receive $200,000. Every year, that revenue source continues to drop. The only thing we will be able to counter that with is a surcharge on wireless phones. It is something we will have to talk very seriously about at some point.”

Legislator James Oldenburg, R-Scriba, agreed that it is time for the county to take a stand and tell the state to distribute its “slush fund” appropriately or “stop taking it out.”

“It is dishonest,” Oldenburg said.

Todd said that he has little faith that counties can bring about a change in the way the money is handled.

“What you are doing is asking state legislators to take money away from the state that the state is using,” Todd said. “It is not going to happen.”

Local Sheriff Offers Children Back-To-School Bicycle Safety Tips

Submitted article

“With school back in session, children will again be riding their bicycles to and from school,” Sheriff Reuel A. Todd of the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office predicts.

“All too often children, like adults, become creatures of habit and overlook simple safety precautions.  I would like to ask all school children that ride their bicycles to remember a few safety rules:

·    Wear a helmet.  In New York State, all bicyclists age one through 13 are required to wear approved bicycle helmets when they are operating a bicycle. Wearing a bicycle helmet has been shown to reduce serious head injuries by 85%.
·    Only one person belongs on your bike.  Never let a second person ride with you.
·    Allow plenty of room for a safe stop.  Never follow bikes or cars too closely.
·    Keep both hands on the handlebars for safe steering.
·    Always give proper signals.  Keep a firm grip on the handlebars with your right hand and use your left arm and hand to signal turns and stops.  Arm straight is a left turn; arm bent up at the elbow is a right turn; and arm bent down at the elbow is a stop.
·    Avoid riding your bike at night.  If you must ride at night, equip your bike with a good headlight and rear reflectors.  Wear light colored or reflective clothing so others can see you easily.
·    Make sure you obey all traffic signs and signals.  Stop completely at stop signs and always look both ways before starting out again.”

The Sheriff explains that it’s easy for children to get into a routine in traveling back and
forth to school.  However, he stresses that children should remind themselves – and be reminded by their parents – that practicing safety everyday can save them from serious injury.

“Remember that a bicyclist is like a motorist,” Sheriff Todd concludes, “You must be skilled like an automobile driver in handling your vehicle and should always be cautious when traveling the roads.”

School Bus Safety

Submitted article

“The yellow school buses will soon be back on the road again with the start of school,” says Sheriff Reuel A. Todd of the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff offers the following list of safety rules for children who will be riding those buses to school:

WHEN WAITING FOR THE SCHOOL BUS

•    Always be on time at the bus stop
•    Always wait quietly and orderly so that the bus driver can see you
•    Always stand back and away from moving traffic
•    Never accept rides with friendly strangers who offer rides to school

WHEN GETTING ON THE BUS

•    Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop
•    Never crowd around the door of the school bus
•    Go directly to a seat and stay there

WHEN RIDING THE BUS

•    Always be courteous to the bus driver and the other passengers
•    Remember where the emergency exit is and how it is used
•    Never put your head, arms or hands out the open window
•    Never throw food or trash on the bus seat, floor, or out the window
•    Do not distract the bus driver

WHEN LEAVING THE SCHOOL BUS

•    Wait in the seat until the bus comes to a complete stop
•    Always use the hand rail by the bus door
•    Stay alert to any moving traffic
•    Never cross the road until it is safe to do so and the bus driver can see you

“Be a safe passenger, who set a good example and obey all of the school bus safety rules,” reminds Sheriff Todd, “and Oswego County children will get to school and back safely.”

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