PLATTSBURGH — Clinton County Legislator Simon L. Conroy (D-Area 4), who has been serving a jail sentence on a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge since early July, will resign effective Sept. 30.
Conroy's attorney, Nicholas Evanovich III of Albany-based firm LaMarche Safranko Law PLLC, hand-delivered the letter of resignation Thursday morning.
"My personal life is now in need of my full attention," Conroy wrote. "I believe it best to focus my efforts on family, friends, loved ones, and my own physical and mental wellness.
"To do so, I will not be asking those in my area for their vote this November, and also I am resigning effective Sept. 30, 2021."
Conroy, 46, said he is resigning so that whoever is elected to his seat — David Bezio and James Monty will be on the ballot — can be sworn in without delay. However, since his position was already scheduled for election this year, it was not immediately clear whether the vacancy could indeed be filled upon certification of the election results, as if there had been a special election, or on Jan. 1, when the term starts.
County Administrator Michael Zurlo said the county is consulting with its attorney on the matter.
HONORED TO SERVE
In the letter, Conroy first highlighted signs of progress in the area, then wrote about how he served Area 4, which encompasses most of the Town of Plattsburgh and part of Beekmantown, and all Clinton County residents "with great pride, dedication and passion" and an aim toward improving people's lives.
After stating his intention to resign, Conroy referenced his concerns about children growing up in poverty and argued for the necessity of reducing childhood trauma and crisis.
"Addressing their environmental and mental health strains today ensures less despair, addiction and arrest tomorrow," he wrote.
"It has truly been an honor serving to help oversee and guide the direction of our local government. Thank you."
Evanovich said he is glad Conroy is taking the time to focus on himself and his family. He believes most people would agree that Conroy is an out-of-the-box thinker, and someone who is smart and likes to try things that are different.
But over the last few years, as he was struggling, it was hard for him to wrap his head around the fact that there was more to it than his usual thought process, the attorney said.
"It was harder for him to see the forest through the trees during that time because he prided himself so much on thinking differently," he said.
"Obviously these last few years have been far more difficult and not the right way to do those things, but he gets that I think and I really think that he’s committed to getting healthy and then coming back as what we remember, which is three decades as a person that we would all want as our neighbor."
JOB NOT WASTED
Multiple officials said they wanted the best for Conroy and his family.
"It was a pleasure to work for him," Zurlo said. "I wish him well in all his future endeavors."
Legislator Patty Waldron (D-Area 6), who like Conroy and Wendell Hughes (D-Area 8) also represents part of the Town of Plattsburgh, said she was proud that Conroy had decided to take care of himself and his family.
"I don’t think his job as a county legislator was wasted. There were many things that he added to our group," including new and authentic ideas, she said. Waldron added that what Conroy went through is probably a gentle reminder that anyone can struggle with their behavioral health.
Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Michael Cashman thanked Waldron and Hughes for being accessible and helpful "filling the much-needed gaps in representation during this period of time."
"I very early on thought (Conroy) should relinquish his position, but I’m not here to finger wag," he said.
"I’m glad that he has come to this conclusion, but I’m most thankful to Legislator Waldron and Legislator Hughes who have extended themselves time and time again, making themselves available on numerous topics."
CANDIDATES WEIGH IN
Bezio, a chief linemen at the City of Plattsburgh Municipal Lighting Department who is running on both the Democratic and Working Families party lines, had called for Conroy to resign in May. He said Conroy was 100% right to do so now in order to get himself back in good health.
"I think it’s the proper thing to do. Legislators are called 'the honorable' with their name associated with it, so I guess that’s the honorable thing to do, so that’s great."
Republican and Conservative candidate Monty, a retired State Police investigator, said the people of Clinton County hadn't been served by Conroy's absence.
"I’m glad he’s finally made a decision for the betterment of the people of Area 4 and the people of Clinton County. I guarantee you that if I get elected you won’t find me in a similar situation."
County Legislature Chair Mark Henry (R-Area 3) said the legislature will broach the topic of Conroy's seat at the very first opportunity, though he was not sure how much discussion there would be as he was sure the legislature would do whatever the legal opinion advised.
He said the legislature will not consider appointing someone to the seat, and feels comfortable navigating the last three months of the year without an Area 4 legislator if necessary.
"We have done it for much longer than that already."
Plattsburgh City Police arrested Conroy in connection with incidents that occurred in the city in September 2019. Those led to guilty pleas in January 2020 to fourth-degree stalking and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors, and an agreement that he serve a year of interim probation before his sentencing.
Then in December 2020, State Police arrested him on multiple charges in connection with a traffic stop in the Town of Plattsburgh. Those included second-degree obstruction of governmental administration, a misdemeanor, which Conroy later denied.
In January, he failed to appear for his sentencing on the stalking and resisting arrest charges. Conroy has said he traveled to Mexico during that time to deal with delinquent tenants at a property there, and that medical circumstances prevented him from boarding a flight to make it back in time for the court appearance.
His absence constituted a violation of his interim probation. When he returned to the area in early March, City Police arrested him on a bench warrant and he was jailed for a few weeks.
In the first few days of that stint at Clinton County Jail, Conroy was accused of damaging a fire alarm sprinkler head, intentionally plugging up toilets and flooding cell areas, and using ink to write on painted walls, actions he later characterized as either accidental or a "nonviolent protest" of his conditions.
As a result, he was charged with third-degree criminal mischief, a felony; two counts of fourth-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor; and one count of making graffiti, a misdemeanor.
LATE OCTOBER RELEASE
Conroy pleaded guilty in May to violations of probation, for which he received probation sentences, and fourth-degree criminal mischief and speeding in satisfaction of all other charges related to both the traffic stop and jail incidents.
The misdemeanor netted him a 180-day jail sentence, of which his former attorney Kristofer Michaud had anticipated he would serve 99 days once one-third was shaved off for good behavior and 21 days of time served were factored in.
The felony dropped, Conroy remained in his seat when his sentence began in early July.
Evanovich told the Press-Republican that Conroy had pending violations of probation and a minor driving infraction that were resolved in court Thursday morning.
His probation has been revoked so, when he is finished serving his jail sentence, he will be done with any court requirements. According to Evanovich, by everyone's calculation his criminal mischief sentence will end Oct. 15, and another 10 days tacked on due to the probation violations will bring his likely release date to Oct. 25.
Email Cara Chapman: