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Cohoes swears in acting mayor after Morse pleads guilty to federal crime

August 21, 2019 09:28 AM

Cohoes Common Council President Christopher Briggs was sworn in as acting mayor of the City of Cohoes Tuesday night.

The common council unanimously voted to make Briggs mayor and they no longer recognize Shawn Morse as their mayor.

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"This is not anything I ever, ever pursued,” said Briggs. “Don't necessarily want to be standing here as the mayor, I know I'm capable of doing it.”

The special common council meeting came after Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse pleaded guilty to a single charge of wire fraud Tuesday in federal court in Binghamton. The council said many cases studied within New York State law said once someone in public office is convicted of a felony, they automatically vacate their seat.

“It dropped back to the public officer’s law, which doesn't look to others to make its claim so that's really where we stand,” said Briggs. “It's just vacated it's a matter of law."

However, Morse is still holding onto his title of mayor. In Binghamton Tuesday, his attorney said under federal law Morse doesn’t have to step down right now.

"A federal plea of guilty does not become final until there's a judgment entered and a judgment isn't entered until a day of sentence,” said Morse’s attorney William Dreyer. “So if a corporation counsel of the City of Cohoes seeks legal opinion from appropriate authorities, they will find that, that conflicts with state law, that state law says that a plea of guilty is final for purpose of state action.”

Morse is set to be sentenced in December. Briggs said he told Morse over the phone about the council’s plan however he said he was not accepting of it.

“He’s basically reiterated that he felt that he was dealing with federal law and I told him that was not my opinion,” explained Briggs.

So what happens if both Briggs and Morse show up to City Hall for work on Wednesday?

"I'm hoping their won't be any controversy,” said Briggs. “I mean he has the option of going to the court and seeing if somehow they believe that it's different than what our council told us."

But Briggs along with every member of the council said they hope this is the final chapter on what has been a long year for the City of Cohoes.

"I want this literally to be turning the page,” said Briggs. “We've spent two years almost in this negative light. This is a tremendous community.”

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Emily De Vito

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