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Rain issues subpoenas; St. Lawrence County legislators weigh legal options

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary E. Rain made good on her promise to convene a grand jury to investigate misconduct and neglect by county officials by issuing subpoenas to key department heads Monday.

Meanwhile, County Attorney Michael C. Crowe, who was also subpoenaed, met with legislators in closed session to go over options, including the possibility of a special prosecutor.

County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire told legislators at their meeting Monday that Ms. Rain had issued her a subpoena asking for 10 years of records related to asset forfeiture, to include emails, bank statements and other transactions.

County Treasurer Kevin M. Felt and Mr. Crowe received similar subpoenas to bring a decade of records to a grand jury July 29. Others, including information technology interim director Keith J. Zimmerman, Governmental Services Director Michael J. Cunningham and others are also expected to be served.

Legislator Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, questioned whether the officials had the time to complete the request.

“If we do nothing else,” Ms. St. Hilaire said.

Legislator Mark H. Akins, R-Lisbon, asked for a ballpark figure of what the investigation might cost the county, but Ms. St. Hilaire had no immediate answer.

Ms. Rain told Ms. St. Hilaire in a letter June 30 that she was going to have a grand jury investigate “misconduct, nonfeasance and neglect in public office” over failure to re-apply for an Office of Victim Services grant that has paid for two victim advocates.

Ms. Rain has also questioned use of federal and state crime forfeiture funds from the D.A.’s office for equipment in the legislative board room.

Ms. Rain’s accusations have left legislators uncertain on how to proceed.

“Can you represent us in this issue if you’re part of this issue?” Legislator Alex A. MacKinnon, R-Fowler, asked Mr. Crowe before Mr. Crowe suggested a closed-door session under attorney-client privilege.

Mr. Crowe declined comment after he emerged, and legislators said they were asked for confidentiality.

Department heads who waited outside the board room debated whether they should ask the county to hire attorneys for them, find representation on their own, try to squash the subpoenas over uncertainty if they are the target of a criminal investigation and cannot be forced to testify against themselves, or ask Mr. Crowe to request a special prosecutor.

The turmoil has also stalled the work of a county space committee that will recommend how to expand the district attorney’s office into other department areas. Legislators want to avoid the appearance that the investigation is influencing their decision.

“We will continue to procrastinate until we are advised otherwise,” Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction, said.

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