In today’s weekly “Morning Headlines” on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio, Jim Kevlin, editor/publisher of www.AllOTSEGO.com (and Hometown Oneonta & the Freeman’s Journal), assessed today’s primary election for Otsego County sheriff between incumbent Richard J. Devlin Jr. of Milford and retired state trooper Bob Fernandez of Otego.
(or google: wamc, kevlin, sheriff)
Editorial for September 7, 2018
For Now, Only
Choice In Sheriff’s
Race Is For Due Process
A letter to the editor the other week drew on the Biblical injunction, “The son shall not suffer for the sins of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquities of the son.” And surely that’s as it should be.
That said, it’s legitimate for open-minded citizens to question how county Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. has handled the situation involving his son, Ros, a correctional officer in the jail his father administers since it surfaced in January 2017. At the least, the situation is an awkward one; at worst, a dangerous one.
In effect, according
to a court decision on a
related matter made public on March 31, 2017, Ros Devlin told a fellow C-O he was thinking of committing suicide in front of his disciplining supervisor at the county jail, after first creating a diversion by shooting up an Oneonta or Milford school. (To read the decision for yourself, type “devlin judge’s order” in the search line at www.AllOTSEGO.com)
From the beginning, the sheriff has stood steadfastly by his son, who was suspended for more than a year – albeit, with pay; since March, without pay – by the Otsego County Board of Representatives.
The sheriff claimed a “witchhunt” was in progress; that his downfall was intended, not his son’s.
If Ezekiel was right
about sons and fathers, his declaration should be equally valid for wives
That said, it’s legitimate for open-minded citizens to question the role of Kathy Clark, R-Otego, former county board chair – and a tough-minded and determined one – in engineering her husband, Bob Fernandez’s, challenge to Devlin after Fernandez’s retirement from the state police.
In New York State, the sheriff’s position – as with county clerk – is a constitutional office, filled by election, not appointment by a county board. There’s good reason for ensuring a sheriff’s independence: to keep law enforcement and politics separate.
Clark championing of her husband sought to breach that sensible divide.
Further problematic was the engineering of Fernandez’s Democratic endorsement. It grew out of a longtime personal friendship between Kathy Clark and Oneonta’s former Democratic mayor, Kim Muller, who for the time being is county Democratic chair. (She expects to step down when the county committee meets in early October.)
There’s no secret. Both acknowledge close ties between their families going back decades, when their children played in the same soccer league. Still, as you can imagine, the Fernandez endorsement has caused a rift among the Democratic rank and file.
For his part, Devlin has argued he didn’t trust the county board, under Kathy Clark’s chairmanship, to fairly investigate his son.
To his credit, when David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Middlefield, succeeded Clark this past Jan. 3, Devlin then reached out to Bliss, and in March agreed to recuse himself, allowing the board chair to order a medical examination of the son to determine if he is fit to continue as a jail guard.
The good news is: A process is in place. In interview this week, Bliss said the medical examination by a downstate physician who specializes in matters involving law-enforcement personnel is expected by mid-month.
Once the report is submitted, Bliss, in consultation with the county’s personnel lawyers and County Attorney Ellen Coccoma will decide on an appropriate course of action. He said he will keep county reps advised of developments and welcome inputs.
If the decision is made to discipline Ros Devlin, “the officer still has rights,” the board chair said. The younger Devlin could challenge any decision in court. Meanwhile, he will remain off the job without pay.
The bad news, from the perspective if the electorate, it’s unlikely the situation will be resolved before the Nov. 6 general election, Bliss said.
All this matters right now because the first match-up between Devlin and Fernandez comes Thursday, Sept. 13, in a local Republican primary. (That’s Thursday, not Tuesday, which is 9/11 and Rosh Hashanah.) The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. across Otsego County for registered Republicans.
The vote will not necessarily settle anything. If Devlin, endorsed by the Republican county committee last March, wins, Fernandez has the Democratic county committee endorsement; he will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot anyhow.
If Fernandez were to win the Republican primary, Devlin would still appear on three lines – Conservative, Independent and Reform – on the November ballot.
The world is an imperfect place, as we know from our lives and experiences. We often have to choose between imperfect options, and this is one of those cases.
Yet, on the one hand, there is due process, independent of Sheriff Devlin’s control, that we can hope will resolve thinking people’s concerns – either clearing Ros Devlin, or removing him from his position permanently.
On the other hand, there is no due process, only cronyism and the potential that an alliance between husband and wife will inject politics into law enforcement.
For now, the only option is to vote for due process. For the time being, that option is Richard J. Devlin Jr.
Democrats Debate Over ‘Distinction’ In Sheriff Race
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – While Democrats have allowed Republican and county sheriff’s candidate Bob Fernandez to run on the Democratic ballot line in the Nov. 6 general election, it seems they fell short of an outright “endorsement.”
“Mr. Fernandez has not received the endorsement of the OCDO,” Mike Henrici, the Democratic county election commissioner and county committee secretary emailed after this week’s Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal hit the streets. “…He does not appear as an endorsed candidate on the OCDC website or anywhere else. In fact, no motion has even been made in the committee to even consider an endorsement.”
Editorial, June 15, 2018
ISN’T IT TIME
FOR A CHANGE?
Elect Len Carson County Sheriff.
Able, Proven Public Servant
Would Change Conversation
When you think about it, with the amount of baggage both Republican and Democratic designees for county sheriff are carrying, 2018 would be a great opportunity for a third person to run as an independent.
You may have a favorite candidate of your own, but how about someone like Len Carson, the Oneonta Republican who narrowly lost reelection to his seat on the Otsego County Board of Representatives last November despite distinguishing himself as bright, level-headed and forward-thinking during his tenure.
Just that term – “an Oneonta Republican” – speaks to his ability to reach across party lines in the Democrat-dominated city.
He’s a veteran – an able president of the Oneonta Vets’ Club – a distinguished firefighter and EMS leader, who in retirement from the Oneonta Fire Department founded DC Marketing,
the electronic billboard company.
And still a young man – in his 50s – he remains creatively involved in civic life as a future-looking member of the Oneonta Airport Commission.
As a former county rep, he knows his way around county government, and,
as former chairman of the county board’s Public
Safety Committee, the sheriff’s department.
Plus, in the turmoil in the sheriff’s department of his final year, he no doubt learned more about its inner workings than he wished.
There are positives for Carson in the negatives.
Incumbent Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr., the Republican nominee, while often serving ably, has been embroiled in controversy for 18 months now, unable to resolve serious allegations surrounding his son, Ros.
Ros was accused of threatening an “incident” at Milford or Oneonta schools so he, unhindered, could commit suicide in front of a supervisor critical of him.
It might happen, but it’s conceivable the case will still be hanging out there on Nov. 6, when voters go to the polls. If so, would you want to vote for Devlin?
The Democratic designee, retired state trooper Bob Fernandez, has an albatross hanging around his neck: As county board chair, his wife, Kathy Clark, R-Otego, did significant damage to the welfare of her constituents, evident dramatically in the past few days when two top executives of the county nursing home – privatizing it was one of her signature achievements – were hauled into court on felony charges of endangering patients.
Plus, some Republicans believe that Clark led the charge against Devlin to open the way for her husband’s candidacy? With that nagging question, would you want to vote for Fernandez when you go into the polling booths Nov. 6.
The positives for Carson are also in the positives.
While defeated for reelection by a mere five votes, Carson left office squeaky clean. He was generally admired by his colleagues, and very well may have been elected county board chairman if only three voters had cast ballots the other way.
There’s plenty of time to run as an independent. The independent candidate would have to collect a mere 795 signatures. He and his no-doubt many supporters could begin circulating petitions July 10, and submit them by Aug. 14-21.
Plus, a three-way race means someone could win with perhaps as little as 35 percent of balloting; a quarter of the county’s population lives in Carson’s home city.
We have a president who’s seeking to drain what he calls “the swamp” of Washington D.C. – Godspeed! But we have a little swamp here, and – arguably – both Devlin and Fernandez are part of it.
Let’s drain our little swamp. Elect Len Carson sheriff of Otsego County on Nov. 6, 2018.
ONEONTA – Retired state trooper Bob Fernandez plans to challenge incumbent Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. in a Sept. 19 primary for the Republican nomination, he announced at his official campaign kickoff Saturday at the Oneonta Vets Club.
“We really are going to try to turn this sheriff’s office around,” Fernandez told a crowd of well-wishers. “We going to make it a better office, a more cooperative office within our community, and use the resources that are available to us in order to safeguard our communities.”
In early March, the Otsego County Republican Committee, meeting in Milford, endorsed Devlin over Fernandez, who is husband of former county Board Chairman Kathy Clark, R-Otego.
ONEONTA – Retired state trooper Bob Fernandez of Otego is announcing his candidacy for Otsego County sheriff at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 28, at the Oneonta Veterans Club on Chestnut Street.
“The people of Otsego County deserve a professional law enforcement leader with experience and integrity,” he said in announcing the date.
Fernandez is challenging incumbent Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr.
Fernandez Plans Primary Challenge
MILFORD – The Otsego County Republican Committee endorsed county Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. Saturday for a fourth term, according to county Chairman Vice Casale.
Casale said retired state trooper Bob Fernandez said he will circulate petitions to primary Devlin in a Sept. 10 primary.
The GOP chair said the secret ballot garnered 2-1 support for Devlin. Fernandez said the actual count was 42-27.
Will County Board Chair Clark Sit In?
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Two unopened boxes of personnel records from the county Sheriff’s Department have been turned over to the county board’s Public Safety & Legal Affairs Committee and will be opened and catalogued tomorrow afternoon, according to the committee’s chairman, Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla.
Frazier said today he has invited his committee members, plus county Rep. Andrew Stammel, D-Town of Oneonta – who, as an attorney, has “a unique skill set” – to review the latest material, along with County Attorney Ellen Coccoma and perhaps the county’s labor lawyer, Matt Ryan.