October 4, 2012

Editorial: Misuse of power

Two high-ranking members of the Clinton County Clerk’s Office made unjustifiable errors in judgment related to records searches.

The New York State Inspector General’s Office recently released a report on actions over a number of years. They prove to be a sad indication of misuse of power.

The first involves then-Deputy County Clerk Glenn Olds, who was sought out by Chris Ortloff, a powerful local politician, New York State Parole Board member and former assemblyman. Ortloff asked Olds to use Department of Motor Vehicles records to track down a license-plate number and identify the owner of a car that he said had cut him off in traffic. Olds complied. Turns out, the car was linked to investigator on Ortloff’s trail.

We won’t even address Ortloff’s blame in this, which is abundantly clear. Because of sex charges involving children (for which he is imprisoned) and years of questionable political maneuvering, he has already irretrievably sullied his own name.

But Olds is not without blame. By all reports, he was an efficient worker who was respected by members of the public, but he knew that what he was being asked to do violated policy. Even though he was pushed to do so by a person of authority, he should have resisted. It was a test of his integrity, and he failed. He also lied to investigators at first about what he had done.

The other person to misuse his position was County Clerk John Zurlo. An immensely likable person, Zurlo is known as the consummate politician in that he always remembers names and people and exudes a friendliness that seems to indicate true caring.

So when the inspector general’s report revealed that Zurlo had asked Olds to use DMV records to track down the birth dates and addresses of constituents so he could send them birthday cards, it would be easy to wink and smile.

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