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South Glens Falls cancels unused legal books subscription

SOUTH GLENS FALLS — The village has been maintaining a law library full of topics that no one is reading — including the criminal code — at a cost of about $3,000 a year, Mayor Harry Gutheil said.

For 15 to 20 years, the village has paid for a subscription to get updates every time new laws are passed or existing laws are changed, on any topic. The village recently got a stack of additions and a bill for $1,000.

That got Mayor Harry Gutheil’s attention. He hadn’t known the village was paying for a subscription service, and he said the books were totally unnecessary. The village doesn’t have an in-house attorney, and the attorneys it hires have their own copies of the books. The laws are also available for free online.

Gutheil said he has used the books occasionally. They are crammed behind a dictionary in a cabinet in the village clerk’s office.

“I look at general municipal law every once in a while,” he said. “But I can read them online and at Crandall library.”

At his request, the Village Board voted unanimously Wednesday to cancel the subscription.

“It was a pure waste of taxpayer dollars,” Gutheil said.

The books cost an average of $3,000 a year, he calculated, after looking back at previous bills.

“It’s been going on for 15 to 20 years, or more,” he said.

He told the subscription service that he was returning the latest books and would not pay the bill. The company objected, saying he had to pay for the books already sent.

“We’re appealing that,” Gutheil said. “We’re not going to pay the bill.”

Resident Charlie Granger was frustrated to hear about the books.

“Who is reading them? Who would use these books besides a lawyer?” he asked Gutheil during the meeting.

Gutheil agreed the service should be canceled, but Granger was not appeased. He noted that in the last four years, the village spent $14,000 on law books.

“What the hell are you doing with our money?” he demanded. “What the hell’s been going on?”

Gutheil promised to continue to work on various problems he has found in the last nine months in office, which range from a lack of crucial paperwork on employee benefits to two different versions of the current CSEA labor contract.

“We’ll get there, but it’ll take longer than I expected,” he said.

Faces of war: Who are the men in soldier's WWII sketches?

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Before the Army’s 27th Infantry Division was decimated in a bloody World War II battle, Stan Dube sketched portraits of his fellow soldiers. The 17 drawings were forgotten after the war and stashed in an attic for decades before being found a year ago by his son.

Now, Ira Dube is on a mission to identify the men in his late father’s 75-year-old artwork. So far he has definitively identified two of the soldiers, both New Yorkers who served in the 27th Division’s 105th Infantry Regiment, which suffered heavy casualties in the Battle of Saipan in the Pacific. One was killed on Saipan; the other died in the 1970s.

Because the 27th was a former New York National Guard unit, Dube believes most or all of the other 15 men also were New Yorkers. He recently donated the original sketches to the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in hopes its artifacts and records could be used to help identify more of the soldiers. It’s not known whether any of the men depicted in the artwork are still alive.

“These people need to be remembered,” said Ira Dube, 61, a retired Navy veteran living in Woodland Park, Colorado. “I look at these sketches and I see a hero.”

Dube found the signed sketches in the attic of his sister’s home in Mississippi early last year while they were going through their father’s belongings.

Stan Dube, who died in 2009, was drafted into the Army while studying architecture at Syracuse University, and he put his drawing skills to use by sketching pencil- and charcoal-on-paper portraits of his fellow soldiers while the 27th Division was stationed in Hawaii in 1943.

The sure-handed sketches mostly show young men looking pensively into the distance, though a few crack a smile. Dube drew no backgrounds and barely sketched out his subjects’ shoulders, but he took care to capture his subjects’ eyes and faces.

On all the drawings, Dube put the month, year and his signature in the lower right corner. Three of the soldiers signed their names next to Dube’s: Kenneth Reid, Joseph Joner Kratky and Joe Orbe, who added his nickname, “Solid Jackson.”

Using information he found online, Ira Dube was able to track down Kratky and Orbe’s relatives in upstate New York. Kratky was killed on Saipan in 1944. Orbe, a New York City native, survived the war and died in 1974. Dube hasn’t definitively identified the soldier in the Reid sketch.

The unidentified drawings were delivered to the military museum Dec. 1. Director Courtney Burns said the sketches will be posted on the museum’s website and likely will be displayed in an exhibit this year.

“We may never know who any of them are,” Burns said. “But I think that’s part of the mystery and part of the intrigue of them.”

Wilfred “Spike” Mailloux, a 105th Regiment veteran who was wounded during a massive banzai attack near the end of the Saipan battle, recently perused the sketches at the museum to see whether he recognized any of the soldiers. None looked familiar.

“It was such a long time ago,” said Mailloux, 94, a General Electric retiree from the Albany area who’s one of the last surviving 105th Regiment veterans. “We were young squirts back then.”

Warren County board picks Conover as chairman again

QUEENSBURY — Bolton Supervisor Ronald Conover was chosen by his colleagues to serve a second year as chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors after a short but spirited debate that saw a rare challenge to the Republican majority.

Conover, a Republican, secured votes from 12 of the 18 supervisors who were present, and outlined an agenda for 2018 that included addressing issues that include the saga of the county railroad and emergency medical services problems.

His speech came after he topped Glens Falls 2nd Ward Supervisor Peter McDevitt, a Democrat, in a vote for chairman. McDevitt was nominated by fellow Glens Falls Democratic Supervisor Claudia Braymer, who said McDevitt would bring “fairness and transparency” to the board and prevent decisions from being “rubber-stamped.”

Braymer added that McDevitt will “embrace meaningful debate and discourse.”

Her speech and apparent veiled criticism of Conover upset Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson, who was selected as temporary chairman for the organizational meeting. He called it a “diatribe,” and that comment prompted an objection from McDevitt, who said he was “offended” by it.

Among the six who voted for McDevitt was Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Doug Beaty, a Republican who crossed party lines and said he had been “disappointed” with Conover’s prior year as chairman because of what he perceived as a lack of transparency.

Conover’s leadership of the board in 2017 was praised by Dickinson, who pointed to his efforts to protect Lake George and guide the board through various other issues.

“We are fortunate to have Ron as chairman for a second term,” he said.

McDevitt’s efforts to unseat Conover were likely hindered by the absence of newly elected Glens Falls 1st Ward Supervisor Jack Diamond, who is recovering from surgery, and a vacancy in the 5th Ward supervisor post in light of Matt MacDonald’s resignation last month. The Glens Falls Common Council will fill that vacancy, likely later this month.

Conover announced leadership positions on the board for this year as well, with Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Matt Sokol staying as vice chairman of the board and chairman of the Finance Committee, Stony Creek Supervisor Frank Thomas continuing to serve as county budget officer, Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty to chair the Personnel Committee, Matt Simpson from Horicon as Public Works chairman, Dickinson staying as head of the Occupancy Tax Coordination Committee and Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino leading the Tourism Committee.

His choice to chair the board’s Facilities Committee surprised some, as he chose Diamond, the former Glens Falls mayor, as chairman. First-year supervisors rarely are appointed to chair committees.

Conover outlined a number of priorities for 2018:

Begin discussions to convert the county-owned rail line into a recreational trail, amid financial problems with the current railroad operator and a controversy over storing tanker cars in the Adirondacks. He asked that grants be sought for funding, and conversations begin with the state about best ways to move forward.

Conover also established a committee made up of supervisors, county Sheriff Bud York and Emergency Services Director Brian LaFlure to address emergency medical squad response issues in parts of the county. County leaders have been exploring use of county resources to supplement shorthanded rescue squads. “The existing response systems are being stressed,” he said.

Develop a formal shared services plan per a state request that municipalities share more services.

Sessions ending federal policy that let legal pot flourish

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded an Obama-era policy that paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country, creating new confusion about enforcement and use just three days after a new legalization law went into effect in California.

President Donald Trump’s top law enforcement official announced the change Thursday. Instead of the previous lenient-federal-enforcement policy, Sessions’ new stance will instead let federal prosecutors where marijuana is legal decide how aggressively to enforce longstanding federal law prohibiting it.

Sessions’ plan drew immediate strong objection from Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, one of eight states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Gardner said in a tweet that the Justice Department “has trampled on the will of the voters” in Colorado and other states. He said the action would contradict what Sessions had told him before the attorney general was confirmed and that he was prepared “to take all steps necessary” to fight the step including holding up the confirmation of Justice Department nominees.

Sessions rescinded the policy by president Barack Obama’s Justice Department that has generally barred federal law enforcement officials from interfering with marijuana sales in states where the drug is legal.

“In deciding which marijuana activities to prosecute under these laws with the Department’s finite resources, prosecutors should follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions,” by considering the seriousness of the crime and its impact on the community, Sessions wrote in a one-page memo to the nation’s federal prosecutors.

The move by Trump’s attorney general likely is sure to add to confusion about whether it’s OK to grow, buy or use marijuana in states where the drug is legal.

It comes just after shops opened in California, launching what is expected to become the world’s largest market for legal recreational marijuana and as polls show a solid majority of Americans believe the drug should be legal.

While Sessions has been carrying out a Justice Department agenda that follows Trump’s top priorities on such issues as immigration and opioids, the changes to marijuana policy reflect his own concerns. Trump’s personal views on marijuana remain largely unknown.

Sessions, who has assailed marijuana as comparable to heroin and has blamed it for spikes in violence, had been expected to ramp up enforcement. Marijuana advocates argue that legalizing the drug eliminates the need for a black market and will likely reduce violence, since criminals would no longer control the marijuana trade.

The Obama administration in 2013 announced it would not stand in the way of states that legalize marijuana, so long as officials acted to keep it from migrating to places where it remained outlawed and keep it out of the hands of criminal gangs and children. Sessions is rescinding that memo, written by then-Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, which had cleared up some of the uncertainty about how the federal government would respond as states began allowing sales for recreational and medical purposes.

The marijuana business has since become a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar industry that helps fund some government programs. Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and California’s sales alone are projected to bring in $1 billion annually in tax revenue within several years.

But the Sessions Justice Department believed the Cole memo created a “safe harbor” for marijuana sales that are federally illegal, Justice Department officials said. Sessions in the memo called the Obama guidance “unnecessary.”

Sessions’ policy will let U.S. attorneys across the country decide what kinds of federal resources to devote to marijuana enforcement based on what they see as priorities in their districts. Officials couldn’t say what the ultimate impact will be on the legal industry or whether it will lead to more pot prosecutions.

Nor is it clear how the memo might affect states where marijuana is legal for medical purposes. A congressional amendment blocks the Justice Department from interfering with medical marijuana programs in states where it is allowed. Justice officials said they would follow the law, but would not preclude the possibility of medical-marijuana related prosecutions.

Sessions and some law enforcement officials in states such as Colorado blame legalization for a number of problems, including drug traffickers who have taken advantage of lax marijuana laws to illegally grow and ship the drug across state lines, where it can sell for much more. The decision was a win for marijuana opponents who had been urging Sessions to take action.

“There is no more safe haven with regard to the federal government and marijuana, but it’s also the beginning of the story and not the end,” said Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, who was among several anti-marijuana advocates who met with Sessions last month. “This is a victory. It’s going to dry up a lot of the institutional investment that has gone toward marijuana in the last five years.”

Threats of a federal crackdown have united liberals who object to the human costs of a war on pot with conservatives who see it as a states’ rights issue. Some in law enforcement support a tougher approach, but a bipartisan group of senators in March urged Sessions to uphold existing marijuana policy. Others in Congress have been seeking ways to protect and promote legal pot businesses.

Marijuana advocates quickly condemned Sessions’ move as a return to outdated drug-war policies that unduly affected minorities.

Sessions “wants to maintain a system that has led to tremendous injustice ... and that has wasted federal resources on a huge scale,” said Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “If Sessions thinks that makes sense in terms of prosecutorial priorities, he is in a very bizarre ideological state, or a deeply problematic one.”

A task force Sessions convened to study pot policy made no recommendations for upending the legal industry but instead encouraged Justice Department officials to keep reviewing the Obama administration’s more hands-off approach to marijuana enforcement, something Sessions promised to do since he took office.

The change also reflects yet another way in which Sessions, who served as a federal prosecutor at the height of the drug war in Mobile, Alabama, has reversed Obama-era criminal justice policies that aimed to ease overcrowding in federal prisons and contributed to a rethinking of how drug criminals were prosecuted and sentenced. While his Democratic predecessor Eric Holder told federal prosecutors to avoid seeking long mandatory minimum sentences when charging certain lower-level drug offenders, for example, Sessions issued an order demanding the opposite, telling them to pursue the most serious charges possible against most suspects.