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Letter: Cunningham comes with conflicts

Editor, The Spotlight:

Bethlehem Democrat Committee Chairman Matt Clyne is telling registered Democrats that Town Board candidate Jack Cunningham has the full support of the Democratic Committee for the open Town Board seat. Bethlehem Democrats ought to be wary of this endorsement, just as they were last year when the same committee unanimously endorsed Independent/Democratic/Republican candidate Kyle Kotary for Town Supervisor. Instead, Democrats should evaluate carefully Mr. Cunningham’s record, and the possible conflict of interest that would accompany a Cunningham victory, and consider casting a primary ballot for Democrat Bill Reinhardt.

Describing his motivation for seeking the position, Cunningham explains, “... the reason I’m running is to focus on some of the major financial issues facing the town. We’re heading into financial budget issues and we’re going to have to start taking aggressive steps to address that and still maintain the core mission of the Town.”

Indeed the Town faces significant financial challenges. However, voters ought to recall that Mr. Cunningham was in a position to begin correcting this problem four years ago but failed to do so. In the fourth quarter of 2008, then Town Supervisor Cunningham and the Town Board approved a 4 percent raise for Town employees ( for the 2009 budget ). They did so over the objections of many Bethlehem residents who, at public hearings to address the issue, voiced their concerns that the proposed raise was - at the very least - untimely (recall that in 2008 the market was down 37 percent-- the single largest annual market decline since 1931).

Mr. Cunningham holds a senior position in the Town of Colonie (Department of Public Works, Bureau of Engineering – Commissioner). His hiring required Colonie to take the extraordinary step of amending its employment law to hire a non-resident. Colonie competes with Bethlehem in a number of areas including economic development projects and grants. Count me among those who are concerned as to where Mr. Cunningham’s loyalties lie; in Bethlehem or in Colonie? Recently when discussing Mr. Cunningham’s candidacy, a voter raised this perceived - if not actual - conflict of interest, opining to me that Mr. Cunningham would “…likely be on the Shaker sideline of a Shaker vs. Bethlehem football game.”

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