Almost a year to the day in which Conservative Party Water Contractor and Vice President of Casale Excavating Charles "JR" Casale was charged with trespass and harassment during an election day encounter at the home of Democratic Committee member CB Smith, a town justice from Schaghticoke found the defendant guilty on two counts arising from the incident.
Mr. Casale was angry at lawn sign placed at Smith's residence that rings as true today as the day it was displayed. It read "Your Casale Excavation Team-Evers Desso Spain" and was an effort to explain that the contractor's political deal making and control of Conservative Party endorsements of these three candidates as an effort to enhance his business opportunities through political control and influence of the town board. The Chairman of the Conservative Party is Michael Casale of Casale Excavating.
Since the election of this town board, we have witnessed its caving in to the demands of the contractor for more money in the overspent Water 14 project rather than fight the demands on behalf on taxpayers. Recently, the town board authorized a settlement that would force every homeowner to pony up another 1 million dollars to Casale Excavating for overruns in Water 14. Even folks who do not live in the district will be forced to pay for the mismanagement and lack of financial oversight on a district that had a 6.4 million dollar contract which will now exceed 8 million dollars.
Election Day 2007 saw these signs appear in town warning voters of the four way political deal which had attempted to remove voter choice in the election by placing the same candidates on all party lines, Democrat, Republican, Conservative and Independence. While it is not unusual for contractors to contribute to political candidates in parties, it is unusual to find a contractor running a major political party by chairing it and then using the endorsement process to gain influence and control of the elected town board to enhance their business opportunities.
The lawn sign tried to make that point and caused Charles Casale to become sufficiently angry to assail both CB Smith and his wife at their home on election day 2007. Police were called and an arrest was made.
While it took a year to finally get the case to trial, the district attorney's office presented the case to a Schaghticoke town justice after North Greenbush judges disqualified themselves. It was said that to date, the legal bills in this case have reached $10,000 which likely does not include the price of the trial.
To his credit, Mr. Casale did offer a public apology for the incident which all agreed appeared sincere. Town residents, however, should not have to fear anyone whom they criticize because of their work or political maneuvering and for now, it appears that message weighs heavily on the contractor for Water 14.
One interesting sworn disclosure involved the infamous billboard placed on Main Avenue a few years back by a mysterious group called "Why?" The billboard attacked CB Smith for "delaying" water district 14 without explaining that the alleged delay was the exercise of the right to vote on the permissive referendum. At the time, Mr. Casale denied any knowledge of the billboard's financial source to the Times Union.
Mr. Casale admitted under cross examination by the district attorney that he in fact paid for the billboard. Despite his paying for the billboard attacking CB Smith, it was apparently a different story when Mr. Smith put up a small lawn sign critical of the Casale team. A double standard of acceptability appears to exist. Mr. Smith did not go to Mr. Casale's property , trespassing and harassing him or his family. And while Mr. Casale has apologized for this incident, voters should begin to see the larger issue arising from the influence a contractor can buy on a municipal board by using control of a political party and its endorsement process to enhance business dealings with that municipality. That was the point of the lawn sign battle of 2007 and will likely remain a vibrant issue in the 2009 town elections.
The Troy Record printed a story Saturday on the trial which you can read here.