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Reprinted from the Times Union

City official tapped to be Armory security chief

Parking bureau's VanApeldorn to head venue's security; current job status unclear

By Jordan Carleo-Evangelist

Updated 8:47 pm, Wednesday, December 5, 2012

ALBANY — The Washington Avenue Armory has tapped a longtime City Hall insider to lead its security operation as the downtown venue looks to mend its relationship with the city and quell neighborhood complaints.

James VanApeldorn, the head of the city's Parking Violations Bureau, has been named the Armory's new part-time director of security, Armory spokesman Michael Corts confirmed Wednesday.

VanApeldorn, who as of early Wednesday afternoon had not notified the personnel office of any intention to leave the job in the Treasurer's Office, has worked as a part-time security guard at the Armory for at least five years, Corts said. VanApeldorn has worked for the city since 1985.

News of VanApeldorn's promotion comes a week after the Armory and city announced a pact that allows the facility to continue hosting live music events, including controversial dance parties that have vexed neighbors and police.

The Armory and its previous security chief, a retired city police officer, parted ways in the wake of an incident in October in which at least 1,000 young people jostling to get into one of the dance parties clashed with police. Three officers were injured and seven people were arrested. The fracas prompted a city zoning crackdown on the privately owned venue at Washington Avenue and Lark Street, blocking further parties until the two sides reached the new agreement last week.

Two of the conditions are that the Armory must hire a private security firm and that city police must sign off on the venue's security plan. During the talks the city sought a prohibition on city employees working at the Armory, but the Armory resisted that language, according to the venue's lawyer.

VanApeldorn's security job makes him an Armory employee, not an employee of the new firm hired by the Armory, K & S Security of Rensselaer, Corts said.

K & S Security trains the Times Union Center's security staff, and the company's owner, Jack Geary, is also part-time head of security at the Times Union Center for SMG, the firm that manages the South Pearl Street arena for Albany County, General Manager Bob Belber said.

Corts said VanApeldorn's experience at the Armory makes him a good fit for the job.

"What I do know is that Jim knows the ins and outs of the building. He's been there for years. He was the right choice," Corts said. "I think overall Jimmy's professionalism, his demeanor, his ability to identify and remedy issues make him the best possible candidate for the job."

A message left for VanApeldorn at his City Hall office was not immediately returned Wednesday.

As the person responsible for overseeing the city's Parking Violations Bureau, VanApeldorn was among the city employees summoned to testify before the Common Council in its 2009 investigation into the so-called ghost ticket scandal, in which politicians, police officers, their families, friends, business leaders and other VIPs were found to have been issued tens of thousands of special parking tickets that carried no fines.

The freebie tickets were revealed by the Times Union and later confirmed by at least two investigations, including an audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli that found VanApeldorn received at least 34 of them and his wife received at least 121.

City Treasurer Kathy Sheehan, for whom VanApeldorn works, said she had only just learned of his promotion at the Armory and has not yet had an opportunity to discuss with city attorneys whether VanApeldorn's two jobs present a real or apparent conflict.

One potential for the appearance of a conflict, she noted, is that her office takes payments from the Armory when it uses city police for additional security — though VanApeldorn has no involvement in processing those transactions.

"It's a new position for him, and I just have not had the opportunity to sit down and review it," said Sheehan. "I think that it needs to be reviewed internally and that we should look at having a process for reviewing potential conflicts."

Sheehan, who is running for mayor, also noted that while her office processes parking ticket payments, it has no direct role in enforcement, which falls under the police department.

Gregory Teresi, the lawyer for the Armory, acknowledged that during negotiations between the venue and the city, Albany officials pushed for the inclusion of a provision of the agreement that would ban the Armory from hiring city employees.

But Teresi argued to have the language excluded, he said, because it should not be the Armory's responsibility to determine whether city employees are moonlighting.

"Without question, that was a provision they wanted in," Teresi said. "And I said, 'That's an internal city question.'"

Corporation Counsel John Reilly said he had yet to closely examine whether VanApeldorn's security post would conflict with his $47,000-a-year city job. But Reilly said the city prefers to examine each case individually.

Sheehan said she had heard VanApeldorn's presence at the Armory had helped smooth things over with party-wary neighbors.

"I think Jim has been instrumental in trying to keep things operating there in a way that is good for the neighborhood," she said. • 518-454-5445 • @JCEvangelist_TU