Andreoli’s Investigations Stir a Debate in Syracuse
By Charles Kaiser, September 3, 1979
SYRACUSE—Since 1976, when Governor Carey made Peter D. Andreoli the special prosecutor for Onondaga County, three special grand juries have indicted the County Executive, a former district attorney, the Republican county chairman, a former assistant district attorney, a current assistant district attorney, a former Republican election commissioner, a Republican state senator, the former county attorney, three insurance agents, a deputy county comptroller, a former town supervisor, a truck manufacturer and the nation’s largest insurance brokerage.
The grand juries charged that county employees had been victimized for decades by a conspiracy that compelled them to contribute percentages of their salaries to the local Republican Party. A similar relationship was alleged to exist between the county and many of its contractors.
Appointment Stirred Uproar
From the moment Mr. Andreoli’s appointment was announced, the local Republican establishment has been in an uproar over the decision of the Democratic Governor to supersede the authority of the local District Attorney, a Republican, for an investigation of political corruption in one of the state’s most Republican counties.
There are nearly twice as many registered Republicans as there are Democrats in Onondaga County. In the last six elections, no Republican candidate for Governor or President has ever carried the county by a majority of less than 14,000 or about 10 percent of the total vote.
John H. Mulroy, a Republican, has held the office of County Executive since it was created 18 years ago. And, while the Democrats did gain control of the County Legislature last year, winning 14 seats to the Republicans 10, it was the first time that had happened since the county was founded in 1794.
Two months ago, Ralph I. Greenhouse, former county attorney [who became the “former” when he resigned the day before he was sentenced], pleaded guilty to coercion, conspiracy and attempted grand larceny. He implicated three other prominent Republicans in the alleged conspiracy: Mr. Mulroy, Richard Hanlon, the Republican Party chairman, and Richard Hennessy Jr., the District Attorney. Mr. Hennessy has not been formally accused of any crime.
The cases against Mr. Mulroy and Mr. Hanlon have not yet come to trial.
Despite Mr. Greenhouse’s confession, many people in the county say they think Mr. Andreoli’s appointment was a mistake, and believe he is unnecessarily blackening the city’s reputation.
No ‘Major Revelations’ Seen
Russell Carlson, president of the Onondaga Savings Bank, said the special prosecutor’s allegations “are very serious,” but added, “there haven’t been any major revelations.”
“What has been proven seems to me to have been rather scant,” the bank president said.
When Robert Abrams came here last year in his election campaign for Attorney General, the questions that local newspaper editors asked first was, “Will you fire Peter Andreoli if you are elected?”
Mr. Abrams resisted these pressures and now praises Mr. Andreoli as a “highly professional prosecutor.”
For three years in a row, the Onondaga establishment has prevailed upon the Republican-controlled State Senate to eliminate the budget for Mr. Andreoli’s 23-person staff. To keep the office operating, Governor Carey has financed the special prosecutor through grants from the Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, making Mr. Andreoli the only assistant state attorney general with a staff paid entirely by the Federal Government.
Mr. Mulroy also filed suit in State Supreme Court in an effort to have the Governor’s executive order creating Mr. Andreoli’s office declared invalid. When that was rejected by the state courts, Mr. Hennessy filed a similar action in Federal Court. It was also unsuccessful.
Judge’s Comment Stirs Dispute
Some figures in the local criminal justice establishment have expressed hostility toward Mr. Andreoli. One of them, Patrick J. Cunningham, a local County Court judge, noted in passing while sentencing a sex offender: “We need another sodomizer in Attica like we need another Peter Andreoli in Onondaga County.”
All people share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions that affect their lives together.