Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York on January 15, 2015 · Page A4
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Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York · Page A4

Rochester, New York
Issue Date:
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Page A4
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Page4A Thursday,January15,2015 DemocratandChronicle. com ROCNews The state has agreed to pay $80,000 to settle a l awsuit by a transgender i nmate from Rochester w ho alleged she was beat- e n by corrections officers at the Attica Correctional Facility. Bryan Woodall, who underwent a sex change operation after release from prison and is now Misty LaCroix, claimed she suffered a broken rib and other injuries when beaten by prison guards in 2006. Ajury trial was being held in federal court in R ochester this week and was nearing its end when the settlement was announced Wednesday morning. LaCroix alleged that she was beaten by guards who yelled slurs at her for being transgender. S he originally sued eight prison employees, alleg- i ng some beat her and others did not intervene. Last month her New York City-based attorney, A nthony Cecutti, agreed to drop six officers from the lawsuit and only sue two alleged to have been involved in the beating, G ary Pritchard and Sean W hite. Representing the officers, the state Attorney General’s Office argued that LaCroix’s story fluc- t uated, showing how un- r eliable it was. Medical testimony showed she suffered a broken rib, an injury that the Attorney General’s Office contended could have been self- inflicted. An emergency medical expert, testifying for L aCroix, said it would be v ery unlikely for the spec ific injury to be self-in- f licted. Cecutti said Wednesday that the state had not made serious settlement offers until prison employees testified. LaCroix contacted his office years ago, Cecutti s aid, and he and a col- l eague found the allegations convincing. “We knew that jurors would not easily accept what she had to say,” Cec utti said. “She’s a trans- g ender inmate. She’s a convicted felon. She’s at Attica. We knew it was an uphill battle.” Bias about LaCroix’s t ransgenderism was cent ral to the alleged assault, Cecutti said. She alleged that one officer said, “You’re a (expletive) freak” during the alleged beating, Cecutti said. Officials at the Attorney General’s Office declined to comment. L aCroix was impris- o ned for fatally shooting K ristine Woodall in 1999 a fter LaCroix asked Woodall to castrate him. They were married at the time, and LaCroix wanted to change genders. At the homicide scene, police found a plastic box containing medical supplies, including a scalpel, surgical clamps, a soldering iron and disinfectant. Maintaining that the shooting was accidental, LaCroix was convicted of s econd-degree manslaughter and sentenced to four to 12 years. She was released in 2007. While in prison, she unsuccessfully sued the state, arguing that she should be allowed to wear women’s clothing. U nder the settlement, $50,000 will go for attor- n ey fees. Also, under the so-called “Son of Sam” law, the family of Kristine Woodall may be eligi- b le for much of LaCroix’s award. The law was originally crafted to ensure that criminals do not benefit f rom their crimes, such a s by writing books about their activities. It was later expanded and now includes payments criminals may receive from p rison-based lawsuits. NY to pay $80,000 to settle lawsuit Inmate: She was beaten by officers GARY CRAIG STAFF WRITER "She’s a transgender inmate. She’s a convicted felon. She’s at Attica. We knew it was an uphill battle." ANTHONY CECUTTI ATTORNEY FOR MISTY LACROIX Redmond, a board m ember since 2004, spoke highly of the authority’s accomplishments, but said it’s time to move on. “I’m a big believer that there needs to be new blood and new thoughts,” he said. The decision is unre- l ated to a critical state a uditaired last week on t he authority’s handling o f bonus pay, Redmond said. There is a long process to name members to RGRTA’s board. County lawmakers recommend appointments to the governor, who then chooses which candidates to name to the board. The state Senate then must confirm the governor’s nominations. County lawmakers on T uesday confirmed recommendations from legislature President Jeffrey Adair for eight can- Public bus passengers and taxpayers will soon have at least three new representatives on the board that oversees the Rochester area’s transit system. Monroe County holds f our seats on the 13-mem- b er board that governs t he Rochester-Genesee R egional Transportation Authority. The terms for all four seats had expired, and the County Legislature moved on Tuesday to name at least three new members. Chairman Jim Redmond and member Stephen Carl did not ask to serve again, according to the legislature’s Republican Majority Office. Robert Fischer, a c ounty commissioner since 2012, is seeking another term. The fourth county seat is vacant. d idates — two for each s eat. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to select four people. Candidates include Robert Franklin, the county’s finance director; William Napier, assistant county executive; and Don Jeffries, president and CEO of VisitRoches- t er. R edmond said he and C arl will remain on the b oard until the new appointments clear Albany. RGRTA operates the Regional Transit Service bus system. It has roughly 900 employees and an annual budget of $84 million. Also on Tuesday, the County Legislature confirmed attorney David Van Varick as Republican election commissioner. He will replace Peter Q uinn, who retired. County moves to name RGRTA board members DAVID RILEY STAFF WRITER Cuomo said his prop osal would be another way to cut down on New York’s property taxes, which are among the highest in the nation. T he plan will be part o f his proposed 2015-16 budget and State of the State address next Wednesday, Jan. 21. “You have no long- t erm future if you are t he tax capital of the nation. People are smart, businesses are smart. It’s not the old days where they’re rooted i nto the ground,” Cuomo s aid in an announcement at Hofstra University on Long Island. Homeowners and renters would receive a m aximum credit of $2,000 if the program is fully implemented, Cuomo’s office said. Cuomo said taxes are hurting the state’s comp etitiveness. He enacted a property tax cap in 2011and a property tax rebate last y ear. The credit is valued at up to 50 percent of the a mount by which property taxes exceed the 6 percent burden threshold. It would appear on filers’ income-tax returns. So if a household e arned $100,000 and the p roperty taxes were $7,000, they would get a credit of between $400 a nd $500. The state expects to fund the program — w hich would reach the $1.7 billion pricetag by the fourth year — t hrough an expected $2 billion surplus that Cuo- m o anticipates if the state limits its spending. The state estimated t he plan would benefit 1.3 million taxpayers who would receive an a verage credit of $950 by the time it’s fully imp lemented. The plan would be permanent. In the lower Hudson Valley, which has among the highest property taxes in the nation, Cuo- m o’s office estimated an average $1,119 in property tax savings. The savings would average $781in upstate —which has among the highest property taxes compared with household income in the country, his office said. The plan was met with mixed reaction, a nd it would need approval by the state Legi slature. Supporters have long been calling for a soc alled circuit breaker, w hich ties property taxes to household income. C ritics said the pro- posal is another gimmick t hat doesn’t address the underlying reasons for New York high taxes, such as unfunded mandates. The state already s pends about $3.4 billion a nnually on the STAR rebate program, which provides a break on school taxes. “A property tax circuit b reaker only shifts the property tax burden to all taxpayers. It also fails to deliver property tax relief to businesses across the state,” Greg Biryla, exec- u tive director of Unshackle Upstate, a Rochester- based business group, said in a statement. S till, proponents said the measure would aid homeowners who pay a d isproportionate amount of income toward property taxes. The Fiscal Policy Institute, a labor-backed think tank, has estimated that more than 700,000 house- h olds in New York pay m ore than 10 percent of their income toward property taxes. “ This is moving us in absolutely the right direction to be able to deliver p roperty tax relief to the most overburdened residents of the state,” said R onald Deutsch, the group’s executive direct or. The renters’ credit, meanwhile, would be b ased on an estimate that 13.75 percent of annual gross rent is attributed to p roperty taxes. So the credit would be a vailable to renters with incomes up to $150,000 and when the portion of rent designated for property taxes exceeds six percent of their income. It would mainly benefit r enters in New York City, and those upstate with high rents. Upstate, renters would see a maximum tax break of about $300 a year, state officials said. Some groups and state lawmakers said they would need more details about the plan. Comptroller Thomas D iNapoli, for example, has questioned whether t he state would have a $2 billion surplus in the coming years. “ If it’s paid for by clos- i ng corporate tax loopholes and a modest tax on t he super-rich, we’re mak- ing real progress toward e nding New York’s inequality crisis,” Bill Lipton, director of the union- led Working Families Party, said in a statement. “If i t’s paid for with more c uts to schools and services, then it’s a step backward.” It’s also unclear how the plan would affect var- i ous regions of the state, such as suburban towns that have high taxes but upper-middle-class incomes. “It is essential that any e nacted property tax relief plan ensures all middle-income families in every region of the state re- c eive property tax relief,” Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, RN assau County, said in a statement. The proposal is another way to put pressure on local governments and schools. The tax cap this year l imits the growth in prop- e rty taxes to 1.56 percent. Cuomo and the Legislature last year installed a “ property tax freeze” that keeps taxes flat through a rebate check in c ommunities that stay under the cap, which can be overridden by local b oards or school-budget voters. W hile schools and local governments stress they’ve limited tax inc reases and spending, Cuomo said they need to do more. H e has kept state spending to no more than a 2 percent increase since he took office in 2011. “I’m basically saying you have to find efficiencies and economies of scale, and you have to stop spending the way y ou have been spending,” Cuomo said. “They use the taxpayers as a piggy bank.” Stephen Acquario, executive director of the state Association of Counties, said local governments need state reforms in order to lower local taxes. “To keep reducing the t ax burden, we need to control costs at all levels o f government,” Acquario said. Taxes Continued from Page 1A The pr oposal Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday proposed a $1.7 billion property-tax-credit program that would apply to more than 1 million middle-class homeowners and more than 1million r enters. Homeowners would be eligible if they earn less than $250,000 a year in adjusted gross income and if their communities stay under the property tax cap. Also, a homeowner’s p roperty taxes would have to exceed 6 percent of income in order to be eligible. The plan would need state legislative approval. Homeowners a nd renters would receive a maximum credit of $2,000 if the program is fully implemented. The credit, which would be part of a person’s income-tax returns, is valued at up to 50 percent o f the amount by which property taxes exceed the 6 percent burden threshold.

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