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Schenectady -- Guards fired for alleged off-duty cocaine use stemming from another guard's arrest

By MARV CERMAK, Times Union Staff writer
First published: Friday, December 14, 2001

Five more county correction officers with a total of 58 years service were fired Thursday by Sheriff Harry Buffardi, who said an ongoing investigation of cocaine use by jail guards may result in even more terminations.

The five officers were fired in the wake of last Friday's arrest of Timothy Taber, an eight-year jail guard, who Glenville Police charged with felony possession of 14 grams of cocaine. Buffardi had fired Taber within hours of his arrest.

"We fired the five officers based on statements of other people present while they were using cocaine sometime between last September and up until the Friday arrest of Taber,'' Buffardi said.

He said Taber faces 8 to 25 years in prison if convicted, but no criminal charges were pending against the others. "In the Taber case the police have cocaine as evidence, but in the other cases the cocaine has been consumed, snorted and gone,'' Buffardi said. Officers terminated Thursday were:

Lt. Donald Crandall, 15 years service; Bryan Smith, 13 years; Joseph Capra, 12 years; Kandi Ashburn, 10 years, and Deborah A. Crandall, 8 years.

"Once Taber was arrested we started investigating backward, coming up with information that resulted in the terminations, but there is still a lot of work to do,'' Buffardi said.

He said all the officers are accused of off-duty use of cocaine on one or more occasions. He said there is no indiction that any drugs were ever brought to the workplace or involved others outside of the officers' circle.

"I think we have the major portion of the investigation complete, but I'm continuing to dig,'' Buffardi said. "I've exposed myself to some internal criticism, but I wouldn't let the situation go by the wayside.''

Paul Brown, president of the Schenectady Sheriff's Benevolent Association, said grievances were filed Thursday for the five latest terminations, but he said he had not heard from Taber.

Brown said the union and county must agree on separate arbitrators for each case. "The process will move forward, but it probably will be up to a year before the cases are heard,'' Brown said. "This is a tough time for all of us.''

Buffardi said the investigation showed some of the 130 correction officers knew there were some drug users. "But most of our employees are in total shock. It's important to note that the vast number of our people are dedicated, honest, sincere and professional public servants,'' Buffardi said.

Tabor, 35, and a friend, Andrew Hurd, 35, were charged with third and fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Two Glenville officers on patrol came across the two men sitting in a vehicle outside the River House Tavern on Freemans Bridge Road. The officers charge Taber and Hurd were using a razor blade to cut a pile of cocaine into lines.

submitted  by: Werner Hetzner

source:  Albany Times Union



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