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Is there more to Harlem indictment?

Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2008

After the recent indictment of Harlem's public works director for violations of the federal Clean Water Act, two key questions hang in the air:

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Is there another shoe? If so, when will it drop?

Until two months ago, some people were trying to imply that the shoe was on other feet - specifically, of former Mayor Scott Dean and city attorney and state Rep. Barry Fleming, while both were in the middle of campaigns for higher offices.

The history of this issue goes back six years when the city fired a contractor it had hired to perform cleanup work at the city's sewer plant. That contractor is suing the city, and found an ally in a candidate who ran against Dean this summer for Columbia County Commission. The two have been spreading stories about "corruption" in Harlem.

Their campaign built to a feverish pitch before the July 15 primary, with Dean and Fleming as the targets. But no media in the area bit. As one local writer put it, if it was a story before July 15, it would still be a story after.

Federal officials did, however, find something to chew on - securing the indictments against Cason, who once had overseen operation of the sewer plant.

The small-potatoes charges allege that Cason improperly drained water from a sewage pond and failed to follow rules for filling out paperwork for the plant - hardly the grand conspiracy spun by the city's critics.

The question remains, however, of whether Cason's indictment is the end of the investigation, or just the beginning. The conspiracy theorists claim it's just a start; naturally, city officials say the charges already are overblown and won't go further.

Either way, we'll find out if another shoe drops.



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