Pressure Mounts On Cohoes Mayor To Step Down

Dec 19, 2017

New details in the allegations of domestic violence against Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse have been published. But the embattled Democrat has continued resisting calls to resign. 

In a series of reports, the Times Union painted a picture of the powerful Albany County Democrat as having a history of physical incidents with women dating back three decades. It came to a head following a 911 call from the Cohoes mayor's wife, where she reportedly told a dispatcher Morse had grabbed her by the neck and tossed her to the ground. Morse denied any wrongdoing, saying his family was going through a difficult time with their daughter.

State Assemblywoman and fellow Democrat Pat Fahy of Albany was among the first to call for Morse to step down. Morse fired back in an interview with WAMC News last week.   "She doesn't know me, she doesn't know any of the facts."

Morse stood his ground, even as state Assemblyman John McDonald, a former Cohoes mayor himself, confirmed Times Union reporting that the mayor once walked into McDonald’s family pharmacy, grabbed a female employee by the hair, and dragged her out of the building.   "Why did John McDonald not call the cops then? Why has it never been brought up in any fashion for the last 34 years of my life?"

One Times Union story detailed a city woman's harrowing relationship with the mayor. The woman was not named in the initial piece, which Morse blasted as a fabrication. Morse claims he never "harmed" or "hit" any women.

On Monday the Times Union published a letter written by the previously anonymous alleged abuse victim, who made a bold move: she revealed her name.  Colleen Keller has a child with Morse.

Cohoes Common Council Member Randy Koniowka, a Morse critic who has called for his resignation, says she took a brave step forward.   "Where you have him now denying that this ever happened, I think she felt like you know 'enough was enough. I need to speak out.’  And I think the climate today, the Me Too Movement, the Believe Women movement, this is empowering women all over to say 'I need to tell my story.'"

In her letter Keller states that during a three-year period of romantic involvement in the 1990s, she suffered various episodes of abuse at Morse's hands. She says Morse ignored restraining orders, and at various times when police were called, they simply told him to 'go home.' The so-called “Grant Street girlfriend” says she moved out of Cohoes for her own safety.   "I don't know how you can be the representative of a community and have treated other human beings the way that this man has treated other human beings, women in particular. Also men. He does have a criminal history of assaulting men as well."

Morse, who could not be reached for comment, has insisted he will not step down. The New York State Police continue to investigate the 911 call that started it all.

Koniowka says the council doesn't have the legal authority to remove the mayor. Morse gathered a large group of supporters at the most recent council meeting. If Morse were to step down, the council president, Chris Briggs, would take over as acting mayor until a special election.