No surprises in county primary


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Crowds are slim on Primary Day as a voter walks to the voting booth in Parker Elementary School staffed by Marilyn Mowry.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Republican voters will have to wait a week to know the winner of the only local primary race held Tuesday.
Votes in the Republican primary for the county coroner position will not be tallied for seven days, said Republican Election Commissioner Bob Howe. The week is needed to allow the Board of Elections enough time to receive absentee ballots, Howe said.
Whitney Meeker, an emergency room nurse at the Cortland Regional Medical Center, filed an opportunity to ballot petition to force a primary; no candidates’ names appeared on the primary ballot — it was strictly write-in.
If Meeker wins the majority of write-in votes, her name will appear on the November ballot, Howe said.
In statewide races, Sen. Hillary Clinton easily beat out Democratic challenger Jonathan B. Tasini in Cortland County, with 942 votes for Clinton and 204 for Tasini, although in this county Clinton came up just short of the 85 percent given to her in the latest statewide projection polls.
Clinton’s Republican opponent in the general election will be former Yonkers mayor John Spencer, who came away a winner from his contest with former Reagan-era Pentagon official Kathleen Troia “KT” McFarland, 443 votes to 329. Spencer had been leading in recent polls, but many voters had been undecided.
The county Board of Elections estimated that about 2,000 residents participated in the primary, which amounts to about 10 percent of the eligible voters as of Aug. 8.
In the Democratic primary for governor between attorney general Eliot Spitzer and Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi, projected front-runner Spitzer trounced his opponent with 1,003 votes to 155 in the county.
In Cortland County, Spitzer even beat his projected statewide returns of 72 percent of the vote, and took home 87 versus Suozzi’s 7 percent.
Four Democrats vied for the position Spitzer was vacating, with former Clinton administration housing secretary Andrew M. Cuomo winning the primary. In Cortland County, he received 664 votes and 60 percent of the vote. Projected second-place finisher Mark Green, a former New York City public advocate, walked away with 243 votes and 22 percent of the vote in the county. The other challengers, Sean Patrick Maloney and Charles G. King, finished with 132 and 66 votes.
In order to comply with the Help America Vote Act, the county had acquired a handicap-accessible voting machine for around $6,000 about a month ago, Howe said. The machine was set up in the County Office Building in the 7th Ward, 1st District of the city.
Howe said three people, one of whom was the inspector, voted using the machine.



County seeing rise in whooping cough cases


Staff Reporter

The five confirmed cases of whooping cough in Cortland County in August were more than the county recorded for all of last year, the county Health Department announced Tuesday.
The department saw one or two cases last year, said Jackie Gailor, public health director of the county Health Department.
“They have a common source probably but we don’t know that for sure,” Gailor said.
The Health Department suspects the likely source attended a gathering in Tompkins County over the summer, where he caught the illness. The source attended other gatherings, and all of the gathering attendees have been notified, she said. She said she couldn’t say where the subsequent gatherings took place within Cortland County.
Whooping cough, which is also known as pertussis, is an infectious disease of the respiratory system. It is characterized by a series of short, convulsive coughs followed by a deep inhalation accompanied by a whooping sound.
Whooping cough is contagious; it can be spread through the air by coughing, hugging, kissing, sharing of food or drink or face-to-face contact within 3 feet.
If left untreated, whooping cough can result in pneumonia, middle ear infection, a loss of appetite, dehydration, seizures, apnea and even death.
The number of diagnosed whooping cough cases has increased in the United States during the past years, Gailor said, and Cortland County seems to be reflecting that trend.
While the root cause of the increase is unknown, the illness has spread as a result of a lack of immunity to the illness. Until recently, a vaccine has only been available to people below age 6, she said.
Another reason for the increase in confirmed cases is the increased diagnosis of the disease, she said.
Whooping cough tends to affect teens, adolescents and adults whose childhood immunizations have worn off. Four of the Cortland County cases involve teens or preteens while one involves an adult, Gailor said.
But the illness can also affect an infant who has not yet received an immunization, which is a series of four shots, she said. In that case, the disease is most serious.
As a result of the illness’ recent presence among teens, preteens and adults, a vaccine has been created for people over age 6, she said. The Health Department is encouraging people ages 11 to 64 to visit their doctor to see if they should get the vaccine. It’s likely that people who never received an immunization as a child or who received one more than five years ago will be recommended to get one, she said.
Whooping cough can be treated with an antibiotic, such as Zithromax. The antibiotic should be taken for five day before the person returns to work or school.
Gailor said most insurance plans probably do not cover the shots, as few insurance plans cover immunizations. She estimated the shots costs less than $100. Low-income families without insurance can get the vaccine free of charge from their physicians, Gailor said.
If children don’t get the vaccine for the first time, and preteens and teens don’t get a new vaccine, then the illness could spread between students at school, Gailor said. That’s a big concern of the Health Department, she said.
“One of our big concerns right now is the fact that school is starting, which puts children and adolescents in close proximity for a period of time and the mode of communication is droplet infection,” she said.
Allyson Thompson, a registered nurse at McGraw High School, said the McGraw school district is aware of the cases of whooping cough. It is working on educational material to send home with students with their parents, she said.
“The nurse at the elementary school and I are trying to work together to make some kind of plan,” she said.
Anyone with questions about whooping cough can call the Health Department at (607) 753-5028 during business hours, which are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For frequently asked questions about whooping cough, people can visit





Bar opposes conflict attorney position

Staff Reporter

The county’s attempt to establish a new attorney position to handle cases that pose a conflict for the Public Defender’s Office is being met by resistance from the Cortland County Bar Association.
A local law that would create the position of conflict attorney has been withdrawn from the legislative agenda twice in the past two months because the Legislature failed to provide proper notice of a public hearing to discuss the law, according to Legislator John Daniels, who chairs the Judiciary Public Safety Committee.
Now the law is being held up by the desire of the Bar Association to weigh in on the proposal, and its belief that the law is not legal.
“The bar heard about the proposed conflict attorney and discussed it — I believe it was at our Thursday, Aug. 17 meeting — and the members present uniformly came out against the concept of a conflict attorney,” said Bar President Bruce Fein.
The Bar Association claims the conflict attorney would supercede state law on how counties are to deal with people who need a defense attorney but can’t afford them, Fein said, an issue that the Bar Association feels renders the position illegal.
County Law Article 18-B, Section 722, requires that each county develop an assigned counsel program for impoverished defendants in criminal and family courts, and offers options for how a county can do so, said County Attorney Richard Van Donsel.
Under that law, the county opted to set up a Public Defender’s Office that would work in coordination with an assigned counsel plan, Van Donsel said.
“The issue becomes whether or not inserting the conflict attorney changes the assigned counsel plan,” he said. “If it is an amendment, then we need to involve the Bar Association and bring them along on this.”
County Administrator Scott Schrader, who authored the proposed law, and Legislative Chairman Marilyn Brown counter that the law is in line with state laws.
Brown pointed out in a letter to Fein mailed Tuesday that two attorney general opinions cited by the Bar Association as instances in which Home Rule Law could not override state law did not compare to the law the county is trying to enact. The proposed Cortland County local law does not attempt a plan contrary to the options set out in Section 722, Brown wrote. Indeed, it is a recognition of the duty of the county Legislature to provide a plan, according to Brown’s letter, which has not yet been received by Fein.
Meanwhile Schrader suggested that legal opinions were not relevant at this point.
“Frankly it’s wholly inappropriate for any attorney to give an opinion on the legality of this law, particularly when there’s a conflict,” Schrader said. “There’s only one way to determine legality and that’s to pass it and then let a judge make the determination on whether or not the law is legal — everything else is just opinion.”