State news in brief

Grinch steals three Christmas trees

ROME (AP) — State police are looking for the Grinch who stole three painted Christmas trees from a central New York farm.

Troopers say the trees were reported stolen Monday from a field at Henderberg’s Christmas Tree Farm in Rome in Oneida County. Police say the trees — two blue ones and a turquoise — are worth $240.

Owner Jay Henderberg says this is the first year he has experimented with coloring his Christmas trees using a spray-painted food-grade dye. Henderberg says he was inspired by colorful artificial trees sold at department stores.

Trial: Man killed 2 women 2 years apart

ALBANY (AP) — Jury selection is getting underway for a former city of Albany employee who’s charged with killing two women within a two-year period.

Thirty-year-old Edward Mero faces trial in an Albany courtroom on two counts of second-degree murder.

Authorities say he was working for the city’s water department when he killed his roommate, Megan Cunningham, in January 2014. Prosecutors say he killed Shelby Countermine in December 2014.

He was charged with both slayings earlier this year.

Jury selection is scheduled to start Wednesday.

Cunningham’s body was found inside the Albany home she shared with Mero. The discovery was made after a fire broke out at the home. At the time the blaze wasn’t deemed suspicious.

Countermine’s remains were found in May 2015 in a shallow grave outside Albany.

Toxins at site of 1777 British surrender

SCHUYLERVILLE (AP) — Officials are pushing the federal government to test for possible toxic contamination in an upstate New York park built where the British surrendered after a key Revolutionary War battle.

The Saratogian reports leaders in the village of Schuylerville say the Environmental Protection Agency should determine if a 2016 flood along the upper Hudson River left behind industrial chemicals known as PCBs in a children’s playground there.

General Electric has removed tons of contaminated sediment from that stretch of the river. The EPA has said more dredging doesn’t seem necessary for now.

State officials say tests done on silt deposited in the park by flooding showed high levels of PCBs.

The park site is where Gen. John Burgoyne’s army surrendered to the Americans after the Battles of Saratoga in 1777.

Hundreds attend Hinchey funeral

SAUGERTIES (AP) — Hundreds of mourners have paid their final respects to former U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a New York Democrat who served in the statehouse and Congress.

Funeral services for the longtime Hudson Valley congressman were held Wednesday at St. John the Evangelist Church in Saugerties (SAW’-ger-teez).

Hinchey died last Wednesday at age 79. He was known for pressing to protect the environment during a career that spanned from the era of the Love Canal toxic waste site to the recent debate over natural gas fracking.

Hinchey had been battling a terminal neurological disorder.

He was remembered during the service as a devoted family man, a die-hard New York Yankees fan and a dedicated public official who served 20 years in Congress and 18 years in the Assembly representing constituents in the Hudson Valley.

Lawmaker asked for nude photos

ALBANY (AP) — A New York state lawmaker has been sanctioned by a legislative ethics committee that concluded he asked a female legislative staffer for nude photos and leaked her name when she filed a harassment complaint.

The committee also determined that Republican Assemblyman Steven McLaughlin, of Rensselaer, lied to an investigator when he said he had no knowledge about the allegations, which were first reported last year.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie made the committee’s findings public and formally sanctioned McLaughlin on Wednesday.

McLaughlin denied the allegations and called the findings and resulting sanctions “a pathetic political hit job.” He said he has asked the local prosecutor to review the case to see if his rights were violated.

“A despicable element (in) the New York state Assembly sunk to a new low when it used its Committee on Ethics and Guidance as a political weapon to release untrue, baseless and legally infirm allegations against me in an attempt to negatively impact my career as a public servant,” he said in a statement emailed to reporters.

The staffer is not named in the committee’s findings. McLaughlin was specifically directed not to identify her, but the investigation determined that he did so last year, revealing the woman’s name to a second staffer who then spread the information to other legislative employees. McLaughlin also mentioned details about the allegations that the Ethics Committee said confirmed the woman’s story.

In its findings, the committee noted the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of those who report harassment so they feel they can speak out without fear of reprisal or embarrassment.

The sanctions — which include a prohibition on hiring interns — will have little practical effect on McLaughlin, whose term ends in about a month. He was elected county executive earlier this month in Rensselaer County, across the Hudson River from Albany.


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