Judge Freezes Finances of Corrections Union

TROY, NY &#8211 A judge granted an injunction Tuesday freezing Sheriff’s Employees Association of Rensselaer County union’s finances while the leadership is being investigated after complaints by members of mismanagement.

Acting state Supreme Court Judge Christian Hummel also gave union leaders 10 days to produce the organizations financial documents.

Hummel’s order follows the Nov. 18 filing of a petition by 28 Rensselear County Jail correction officers that asks Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate and dissolve their union for alleged rules violations and lack of financial accountability by its leadership.

SEARCO has represented corrections officers at the county jail since its inception on Dec. 21, 2004.

Earlier this month, the Times Union reported on audio recordings of phone calls made at the jail that appeared to show union leaders planning campaign events for Gary Gordon, the Democrat who was trying to unseat Sheriff Jack Mahar, and discussing the possibility of fixing traffic tickets.

Gordon, who lost the election to Sheriff Jack Mahar, has said he did not fix tickets, but only informed people on what to expect when the go to court.
Mahar launched an internal investigation of the phone calls. He has also asked for state and federal authorities to investigate.

In the petition filed with Schneiderman’s office, the breakaway union members say they are upset with the leadership of union President Mark Piche and Vice President Kevin Rogers. It accuses them of not following union bylaws. The petition also accuses union leaders of failing to hold elections, file annual reports and hold membership meetings. It also said there is no oversight of the spending of union dues.

Neither Piche nor Rogers could be reached for comment. An Albany law firm representing the union refused comment on the petition and the judge’s order.

Hummel’s order sets a Dec. 20 hearing date for Piche, Rogers and their attorneys to answer the charges in court.

The Attorney General’s office refused comment.

From The Times-Union.