Friday, January 19, 2007

Cyber-fascist

Kudos to Latham resident Hugh Skerker for sticking it to the neofascists in Colonie. Now, maybe the town's taxpayers will finally stick it to der Kommandant Brizzell, the deeply entrenched town supervisor who thought it proper to wage a cyber witch-hunt to roost the former paramedic for sending her critical e-mails.

After nearly a year of senseless legal sparring, the former EMS worker walked away from his job with a cool quarter-mill dangling from his pocket. And rightly so, after the bumbling town officers used just about every furtive method in the book to sniff out and punish him for simply used the freedom of speech in tandem with the freedom of the internet to voice his discontent.

True, the town's insurance policy will cover about $101,000 worth of this settlement, meaning John Q. Public will be responsible for a paltry $124,000. Fellow EMS volunteer Bill Gardner banged the town for a $21,000 after making a similar claim, bringing the total claims against the town to $246,000, plus court fees and so on and so forth.

Of course, there's also a nice fee for the town's private attorney. And then there there's the imminent increase in insurance premiums, which will undoubtedly follow such egregious conduct by town officials. Just ask Montgomery County and their keystone kop, Michael Amato.

No, freedom isn't free. It costs folks like you and me.

It's more troubling that Brizzell and Arnis Zilgme, the town's smitten attorney who cooked up the whole scheme, are both still in office after unlawfully obtaining private account information from a private company without even a vague right to do so. Laughably, the Zilgme claims not to have known that his powers as the town's attorney didn't include the right to forge documents from the county District Attorney's office and then dupe Time-Warner into turning over Internet records.

In fact, when words like "alter" and "subpoena" are used in the same sentence, generally they are often accompanied by terms such as "charges" and "indictments." Also bothersome is the fact that Time-Warner rolled over and surrendered records with making a peep as to the legal basis for the request. Even the Colonie Police said Skerker's e-mails didn't contain vulgar or threatening language and were therefore did not warrant a criminal investigation, which should have been reason enough for Brizzell to drop any town government involvement.

Then again, Brizzell was the "heir apparent" to the last Colonie supervisor, who served nearly two decades himself. And when your among the list of only three town supervisors serving over the span of more than half a century, being entrenched has its privileges. In this case, it's to wage an illegal investigation with taxpayer money, then putting the town in legal jeopardy for no other reason than to find out who's bitching about the ambulance service.

Speaking of the ambulance service, what ever became of Skerker and Gardner's previously allegations of cronyism, misconduct and mismanagement in the EMS department? If the claims carried enough water to spur a whole federal court battle, then perhaps they might warrant an actual unbiased investigation.

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