Attorney loses job with public defender’s office

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton County Public Defender Gerard McAuliffe recently fired part-time Assistant Public Defender Russell P. Martin and is seeking his replacement, county officials said.

Martin is still a local attorney with a private practice on Church Street in Gloversville,.

He said Friday he has been a lawyer in New York state since 1986 and served as an assistant public defender in Fulton County from 2001 to Aug. 21 of this year, when he was terminated.

The termination of Martin as one of McAuliffe’s county-paid assistants was confirmed Thursday by Northampton Supervisor Linda Kemper.

“There is a vacant position due to the dismissal of Mr. Martin by Gerard McAuliffe,” Kemper said.

Kemper is the chairwoman of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee, which met last month in executive session with McAuliffe over a personnel matter. Other than to confirm Martin’s dismissal, Kemper declined to say what was discussed in the closed-door session, including a reason for his termination.

Board of Supervisors Chairman William Waldron on Thursday also confirmed the dismissal.

“Other than the fact the public defender let him go, I can’t comment on those reasons,” Waldron said.

McAuliffe on Friday had no comment, only to say he has an opening for an assistant. His office has five assistant public defenders funded by the county. The other positions are filled by: attorneys Michael Smrtic, Michael Poulin, Roger Paul and Allen Day.

Martin said Friday he only missed one court date as an assistant public defender. That was this year in a case transferred to Montgomery County, he said.

Martin worked for the Fulton County Public Defender’s Office based at the Johnstown Professional Office Complex. He mostly served in Fulton County Family Court. The office’s attorneys are assigned to represent indigent defendants in the county’s municipal courts, including city and town courts.

Martin said the reason or reasons he was fired is “not an easy answer.” He said he hasn’t been able to afford a secretary for his private law practice since 2011, something that sometimes hampered his ability to communicate with clients. He said McAuliffe told him it was “mostly a secretarial thing” that may have led to his dismissal.

When he’s in court two or three consecutive days and he can’t check his answering machine, he said he isn’t always able to get back to people. He said he was scheduled to handle an average of five trials per week in September before he was dismissed.

“In Family Court, I have an excellent reputation,” Martin said.

He said the county still owes him two weeks of vacation pay and two weeks of regular pay.

Martin was earning about $35,000 per year in 2013 as a part-time assistant public defender, county records indicated.

He is the chairman of the Johnstown City Republican Committee.

His wife, Helen Martin, is the city’s current 3rd Ward councilwoman and a city mayoral candidate.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected].

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