Today is the first day of hunting season, something we always dread around here because of the noise and the traffic (and the frequent rudeness) hunters engender in our neck of the woods. Walking the dogs this morning, my wife and I spotted a truck parked directly under a “Posted” sign—we know the property owners, and they don’t allow hunting on their property. That’s why they posted signs in the first place. What’s more, their property is a good half-mile away from the public land that is open to hunters. So, we called the town police.

The cop’s first reaction was, “I’m not going in any woods up against a high-powered rifle”. Well, OK—we’re not asking you to do that. How about just leaving a note on the truck saying something like, “A complaint has been received and we’d like to discuss it with you.” He said he would check with his supervisor.

Several hours later, the cop called back. “Everything’s fine,” he said. “I talked to the guy—he’s a big property owner around here, and he doesn’t need to trespass because he has plenty of land of his own.” The cop also said the hunter was on public land. “Well then,” we asked, “why was his truck parked half a mile away, in front of someone else’s property?” “I don’t know,” the cop admitted, “but he said he was on public land, and he’s a big property owner so I believe him.”

Our tax dollars at work. This is an excellent example of local priorities, and the consideration local taxpayers and homeowners can expect to receive if they dare question the presence of a sacred hunter. Nice work, local police department—you’ve just demonstrated that 50 “Posted” signs don’t mean a goddamn thing.

This, to me, is a minor form of corruption—the local cops being preempted by custom and the good old boy network into ignoring the law.

Here’s a more blatant example: municipal attorney Tal Rappleyea (he’s the skinny dude on the left in the photo below).

See no evil
Going along to get along? The Jewett Town Board. Credit: Town of Jewett.

According to this article in the Times-Union, Rappleyea really has a way with a time clock—he’s billed for 26 hours a day, and collected payment for 93.75 hours in a single week. Weeks in excess of 70 hours have also been logged frequently. Asked how he could regularly work such long hours, Rappleyea responded “I’m in pretty good shape”.

Now, this sort of exploitation would be absurd if it were restricted to a single town. But Rappleyea is the attorney for a wide swath of municipalities across Columbia and Greene Counties. To wit: the towns of Austerlitz, Ashland, Cairo, Chatham, Durham, Greenville, Jewett, Lexington, Stuyvesant and Prattsville, and the village of Athens. And now, Germantown as well.

Stuyvesant resident and blogger Will Pflaum smelled a rat and launched his own investigation, spending nearly two years filing Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests and suing to obtain public records. Rappleyea’s extraordinary hours were unearthed as a result. Pflaum suggests that Rappleyea was very likely overbilling the municipalities he purported to serve (jeez, ya think?), but the officials in most of the towns involved apparently perceive no problem.

This is what’s known as “going along to get along,” and it’s rife in our area. Everyone does it, don’t make waves, just mind your own business.

Corruption viewed (if viewed at all) apathetically seems to be the norm around here. Kudos to Mr. Pflaum for digging into this particular instance. We need more people like you to stand up for integrity, challenge “business as usual” and make sure the laws on the books are actually enforced by the people who are supposed to be enforcing them.