October 18, 2013

City's largest union backs Calnon for mayor

PLATTSBURGH — The City of Plattsburgh’s largest union is backing James Calnon for mayor, setting off an angry reaction from its former president.

“What?” Denise Nephew, former president of the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees Local 788, loudly exclaimed when she was told about that.

“We’ve never endorsed a candidate before. This isn’t right.”

Union President Chris Bleaux said the union’s Executive Board decided to back Calnon at its Oct. 8 meeting. He said the board members felt that Calnon has treated them fairly during his time as a councilor and mayor pro tem.

He noted that Calnon, as a member of the city’s Health Insurance Task Force, has always been open and honest with union leaders.

“That’s all we ask for,” Bleaux said.

“We are not asking him to throw the checkbook at us.”


Calnon, the Ward 4 councilor, is running for mayor as the Republican and Independence Party candidate. Also running are Ward 2 Councilor Mark Tiffer, as a Democrat, and independent candidate Chris Rosenquest.

Calnon has served as mayor pro tem under Republican Mayor Donald Kasprzak and has worked closely with him since he joined the council in 2007.

Kasprzak has been in numerous public battles with Nephew over issues involving union work duties, health insurance co-payments and salaries.

Nephew was voted out as union president in April of 2012 when Bleaux was elected.

She was not happy to hear that the union was endorsing Calnon, who often shares similar views on issues with Kasprzak.

“He (Bleaux) is just making decisions on his own,” she said.

“He never notified anybody that this was happening. And in the past, he was one of the people who didn’t want to endorse anybody.”


Nephew said there are many in the union who, like her, support Tiffer and other Democratic candidates for council seats.

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