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KATHLEEN PHALEN-TOMASELLI, kphalen-tomaselli@poststar.com  

Incumbent John Strough, D-Queensbury, gets word that he was re-elected to the Queensbury town supervisor seat Tuesday night while waiting for results at the Lawrence Street Tavern in Glens Falls.


Local
Notorious escapee Joel O'Keefe to be released from prison

A “wanted poster” picture of Joel O’Keefe, from 1994.

Editor's Note: O'Keefe's criminal history was corrected. 

Joel O’Keefe, the felon and accused sex offender whose escape from police touched off a massive manhunt 23 years ago, is scheduled to be released from state prison later this month.

O’Keefe is to be released from Five Points Correctional Facility in central New York on Nov. 25, according to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision website.

“We received a notice last night that he is being released later this month,” Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy said.

The notice indicates he is being released to 383 Broadway in Fort Edward, which is the address for the Washington County Municipal Center, and the county Department of Social Services.

It is common for prison inmates who are considered indigent to be released to the assistance of their local Department of Social Services, which locates temporary housing for them, typically at an area motel.

He will be supervised by parole officers, but will not have to register as a sex offender because a sex charge filed against him was dropped.

Police said they understood the Argyle native planned to return to Argyle when a residence that was acceptable to his parole officer was found.

Murphy’s office shared the state notice of release with other law enforcement agencies around the region late Monday.

Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said his office also received the state notice, and because of concerns that were expressed by law enforcement, was looking into O’Keefe’s release status.

“I have requested some information from DOCCS,” Jordan said.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision acknowledged O’Keefe’s release could come at Nov. 25 “at the earliest.” The agency would not say whether a residence approved by parole staff had been located for him.

O’Keefe, 57, escaped from State Police in September 1994 as he was being transported back to jail from a court appearance, resulting in a massive manhunt. He had been arrested weeks earlier for a sexual assault and burglary in Saratoga County.

He remained on the lam for 13 days before he was caught at a Subway sandwich shop in Bennington, Vermont, when a clerk recognized him as the notorious escapee.

He ultimately pleaded guilty to felony counts of burglary, criminal possession of a weapon and escape. A sodomy charge was dropped as part of a plea deal.

The DOCCS website indicated that O’Keefe was being “conditionally” released and not paroled. Inmates become eligible for conditional release when they serve two-thirds of their sentence without disciplinary issues.

O’Keefe, though, had a number of major disciplinary issues in prison, including at least three contraband-related escape attempts. He has been denied parole on at least three occasions.

He was prosecuted twice in 2000 for possessing items including a grappling hook, handmade rope and a device to pick locks at Clinton Correctional Facility, which prison officials contended were to be used for an escape try.

O’Keefe also was charged in 2001 after he somehow came into possession of a toy gun painted black while in Southport Correctional Facility, and pointed it at corrections officers who were transporting him. They disarmed him.

He pleaded guilty in three different prison cases and received an additional 4 1/2 to 9 years in prison on top of the 10- to 20-year term he received for the 1994 sexual assault and escape.

DOCCS said that history behind bars did have an effect on his conditional release eligibility.

“O’Keefe’s disciplinary infractions while in DOCCS custody did result in a delay of his conditional release date,” a spokesperson for the agency wrote in an email.

In all, he will have served more than 23 years in jail or prison, of a 14 1/2- to 29-year prison term, when he comes up for release.

O’Keefe had an extensive criminal record, including at least one felony conviction, before his 1994 arrests.


Local
Cambridge takes teacher off suspension

CAMBRIDGE — The health teacher at the center of a controversy at the school will be back in the classroom Thursday, according to a letter posted on the district website.

A letter signed by both Superintendent Vince Canini and Principal Catherine Gross informs parents of Jacqueline Hall’s students that she will be returning to school Thursday after being put on a paid leave of absence last week.

Hall was suspended while the district investigated a 42-page handout regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. The packet was given out by a representative of the Pride Center of the Capital Region during a visit to seventh- and 10th-grade classes.

While the letter pointed out the subject matter and topics “are all in accordance with the New York state required health curriculum,” it acknowledged parents’ concerns that some of the material was not age-appropriate.

The letter says the school is taking three steps “to ensure transparent communication between the health teacher and parents.”

The school administration will monitor the class curriculum, including the supporting materials being used.

Hall has been instructed to send weekly updates to students and families, regarding topics for the upcoming week, and to post the information on her school webpage.

“This is to ensure that parents are aware of topics being discussed so they can support such instruction at home in whatever manner they choose,” the letter reads.

Permission forms will be sent home at least one week in advance whenever any films with a rating of PG or higher are going to be shown.

At the end of the letter, the two administrators say they welcome feedback and parental support.

Originally, the presenter from the Pride Center was scheduled for a second day, but that visit was canceled.


Local
Dan Hall elected Glens Falls mayor

GLENS FALLS — Dan Hall will be the 22nd mayor of Glens Falls after capturing nearly 65 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election.

Hall, the Democratic councilor-at-large, was elected with 1,911 votes over Republican Tim Guy, who had 585, and Green Party candidate Rich Cirino, who had 458, according to unofficial results.

Hall said he is excited and attributed the victory to hard work.

“We walked a lot of streets, knocked on a lot of doors, enjoyed meeting a lot of people,” he said Tuesday at the Democrats’ celebration at Lawrence Street Tavern.

Hall said voters were familiar with him because of his background as a business owner and service as councilor-at-large for the past nine years.

Hall said he hopes to “keep the momentum going.”

“Just keep things moving in the right direction. I think we’ve got a real good team,” he said.

The campaign was civil and low-key with the main issues being abandoned and neglected properties, taxes and spending, infrastructure and downtown redevelopment.

The man Hall will succeed, Jack Diamond, is barred from seeking re-election to the mayor’s position by term limits. He was excited about his successor.

“He was the right candidate and the voters supported that, demonstrated that,” Diamond said. “He’s had nine years of being prepared for this. It’s going to be a smooth transition.”

The incumbent councilors ran as a bipartisan unity ticket.

Two Common Council races appeared to be too close to call. First Ward Councilor Jim Campinell, the Democrat, holds a four-vote lead over challenger Phillip Underwood, who had the Republican and Independence Party lines. Campinell had 164 votes compared with Underwood’s 160.

Democrat Diana Palmer, who works as a therapist, was leading 462-439 over Republican Rachel Murray, who owns an insurance adjusting firm.

There were 61 absentee ballots sent out in Ward 1 and 31 had been returned as of Monday morning. In Ward 3, there were 57 absentee ballots and 41 returned so far.

Campinell was confident he would prevail after the absentee ballots are counted, which he said is what happened in his previous run.

He is not sure why the race was this close. He said the current council works well together to move Glens Falls forward.

“We don’t always agree, but we hash it out,” he said.

Some people may have not wanted the unity ticket and could have been looking for a fresh voice, he said.

Republican Endieveri came out on top in a three-way race with Democrat Steve Baratta and Green Party candidate Ben Lapham. Endieveri, a restaurant owner, received 148 votes to win a second term over Democrat Steve Baratta, with 100 votes, and Green Party candidate Ben Lapham, with 73.

Endieveri said he was motivated to work harder on the campaign trail.

“I’m very driven by the fact that I did not get endorsed by The Post-Star,” he said.

Ward 3 Councilor Jane Reid, the Republican candidate, was elected councilor-at-large over Green Party nominee Robin Barkenhagen by a margin of 1,721-932.


Local
breaking
Queensbury's Strough wins re-election

QUEENSBURY — Democratic Supervisor John Strough won a hard-fought third term Tuesday despite focused Republican opposition.

“My grandfather told me nice will always win over nasty, and I guess that old maxim holds true,” Strough said as Democrats celebrated a three-seat sweep on the Town Board.

The new majority will help him “get a lot of wonderful things done” in the next term, he said.

Strough had 4,049 votes in unofficial results, while Republican challenger Rachel Seeber had 2,927 votes.

Turnout was tremendous, poll workers said.

“As busy as a state election. Not as busy as a presidential, but close,” said poll worker Dodi Robinson.

Other off-year elections in Queensbury have brought out about 5,000 voters. This time, 6,976 voters cast ballots in the supervisor race.

Strough had been criticized for failing to make public a scathing state audit. When Town Board members asked about it, he said the town had passed the audit, which was not true. However, he had resolved the concerns in the audit by the time the board asked about it. When he was criticized, he said he wished he had given the audit to the Town Board and noted that Republicans had searched his tenure to find only one mistake.

Voters apparently forgave him.

“He had a hiccup with that problem. I don’t see it as major,” said voter Paul L. Pontiff.

He and others turned against Seeber because of the town GOP’s politicking. One man even said it was the first time in his life that he had voted for a Democrat.

Many voters said Tuesday they were disturbed by the way in which Republican leaders ran the Queensbury election campaign. Town Republican Chairman Doug Irish, a member of the Town Board, refused to resign after he moved to North Carolina.

But the bigger problem occurred when the Republican Committee tried to oust Republican Tony Metivier, the Ward 1 councilman who had broken with his party on one vote last year. The committee threw its support behind newcomer Hal Bain.

Bain quickly signaled to the committee that he wanted to drop out — but it was after the date by which they could replace him on the ballot. So Irish pitched a scheme, via email, in which committee members would try to get Bain elected and then allow him to resign after he won. The Republicans would then be able to replace him with someone they preferred, rather than Metivier.

Democrats uncovered this plan when they filed a Freedom of Information request for Irish’s town email account, discovering the emails in which he and a leading member of the town’s official law firm had discussed it. After it was revealed, Irish resigned from the Town Board, the attorney resigned his leadership position as vice chairman of the Queensbury Republican Committee, and Bain announced he was dropping out of the Ward 1 race.

But voters blamed all the Republicans.

“I think it casts a very poor light on the Republican Party in Queensbury,” said voter Wayne Woodcock, who voted for Strough. “John has always been very helpful and has always been available.”

“I thought it was very corrupt,” said voter Martha Butler, who also chose Strough.

Others said they were personally impressed when Seeber came to their doors.

“She seemed more for the working person. And listens. Not just someone who is a political figure,” said voter Melissa Van Order, who voted for Seeber.

One voter had a hard time choosing between the two, after Seeber came to his house.

“She explained her spiel, and I liked that,” said voter Marty Lacatena. “Though I have to say, in all my years as a voter, Strough put out a phenomenal pamphlet.”

In the end, he chose Seeber.

“For a little bit of change,” he said.