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NISKAYUNA: Big Apple firm defends suit

A New York City law firm has been tapped to defend Niskayuna against a $2 million federal lawsuit alleging the town has discriminated against a longtime police sergeant because she is a woman.

In a brief four-paragraph letter to federal Magistrate Judge Randolph Treece, Carl Sandel with the Manhattan-based firm of Morris, Duffy, Alonso and Faley asked to have until May 29 to answer charges that the town violated federal law when it failed to promote Frances Wall to lieutenant on several different occasions.

The town's lawyer was originally scheduled to respond last month, but in his April 23 letter to the judge, Sandel said the delay was necessary to allow enough time to investigate the complaint properly.

In her complaint, the 47-year-old Wall runs through a chronology of events in which she was repeatedly passed over for promotion despite scoring higher on civil service exams than other competitors who were promoted. In legal papers, her attorney even cites one example of someone being picked over her, even though that person had not taken the exam.

Both critics and supporters of the current town administration declined to comment on the selection of an out-of-town law firm to defend Niskayuna in the case.

"I am sure that this firm was selected by our former insurance carrier," said town board member Bill Chapman. "I don't think the town board had anything to do with it."

Michael Mansion, a local lawyer and chairman of the town's Republican Party, agreed that the town might not have had a choice in selecting the firm representing the town. But Mansion, a frequent critic of the all-Democratic town board, did suggest that the handling of promotions in the Niskayuna police department have often been a topic of discussion in town.

"People have been talking about the possibility of this situation going to court for quite a long time," he said. "I can remember hearing about this maybe a year-and-a-half ago."

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