TROY — Correction officers at Rensselaer County Jail pushed to register inmates to vote in last
fall's primary and general election as part of an effort to unseat Sheriff Jack Mahar.
State and federal law enforcement agencies have launched broad investigations into the activities of the correction officers, including whether their initiative to garner inmates' votes violated state or federal laws.
The probes are part of a broader investigation that began when a group of
correction officers accused their labor leaders of fraud and looting
union dues for personal use
.The I.R.S and U.S. Attorney's office are involved in the investigation, according to two people briefed on the matter. The investigations follow years of
documented civil rights violations inside the county correctional
facility, including systemic beatings of prisoners, strip-search
policies that were declared unconstitutional by a federal court and
sexual assaults of inmates.Representatives for the U.S. Attorney's office and the state attorney general declined comment.
Mahar won re-election to his third term as sheriff in November. He was challenged by Gary Gordon,
a former Troy police sergeant who is an investigator with the
Rensselaer County district attorney's office. Gordon received strong
campaign support, including cash donations, from Marc A Piche and Kevin Rogers, who were the longtime leaders of a labor organization that represents the jail's roughly 180 correction officers.
Mahar recently suspended Piche and Rogers from their jobs for undisclosed
reasons. A person familiar with the matter said the men were removed
from duty because they're a focus of the outside
criminal investigations.Last October, Rogers allegedly dropped off about 140 voter registration forms at the county Board Of Elections, according to an employee there. Many of the registration forms,
including one filled out and signed by Rogers, were for people who sought to register in — or change their enrollment to — the Conservative Party.
Gordon,a Democrat, won the Conservative primary over Mahar by a narrow margin.
Mahar, a Republican, then won the general election by more than 4,000
votes. The campaign was heated, with both sides accusing the other
of misconduct.Gordon acknowledged that he was uncomfortable with his campaign's effort to enroll inmates to vote.
"There came a point in time during my campaign that I became aware of a drive
to get Conservative voters, to get people to register,"
Gordon said. "Shortly after that there was discussion to talk to inmates, to get
inmates to register, and I put a stop to that. ... I don't even know who
was in the room when we were discussing it. Piche or Rogers may have
been there. The decision was made not to solicit inmates."Piche was president and Rogers was vice president of the jail officers' labor group, Sheriffs Employee Association of Rensselaer County (SEARCO). They could not be reached for comment.
Correction officers are prohibited from soliciting votes from inmates or helping
them register to vote. Courts have held that guards have an inherent
power over inmates and strict policies limit their interaction. Most
correctional facilities use inmate-services' offices to assist inmates
in legal matters, including requests to vote.
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Guards-sought-inmates-votes-in-sheriff-s-race-3343172.php#ixzz1nQH2x6EL
In: Regional News
Tags: corruption, voting, democrats, republicans, politics, inmates
Location: Schenectady, New York, United States (load item map)
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