McDonough Sports Complex name holds controversial past

Tyler McNeil

Managing Editor

Marison Topinio2Marison Topinio | The Hudsonian

Over 200,000 campus visitors enter a sports complex named after a former college trustee and ex-convict, Edward F. McDonough, each year.

In 1994, former Brunswick lawmaker David Little often referred to the sports complex as “felony hall” after McDonough was convicted of federal corruption charges.

Little introduced a resolution to the county legislature to rename the structure, three years after the sports complex opened. The vote was 7-2 with nine abstentions.

“He had committed offenses against the public, and it simply didn’t sound equitable to me, or a good example, to have one of your premier facilities being named for a convicted felon,” said Little. He added, having the name remain on the sports complex is not currently a public concern.

About a year later, in 1995, the board of trustees decided to keep the name in an 8-1 vote. At the time, former county executive Henry Zwack mentioned exploring different options to overrule the board’s decision.

Although the decision to change the name never went in the county’s hands, the case ended up changing the way the county operates.

“The McDonough prosecution brought about needed reforms in how the county obtained insurance coverage,” said Richard Crist, director of communications at the County Legislature Majority Office in an email.

According to Crist, the county pays less for insurance coverage than it did over two decades ago.

Over the span of 15 years as county legislature Democratic chairman, McDonough made about $640,000 in an insurance kickback scheme. McDonough was eventually sentenced to 51 months in prison, but was let out after 15 months due to declining health.

“Seeing that McDonough [was] convicted, I’m always thinking, ‘Unfortunately, you have to take the name down,’” said John E. Donohue, city councilman of Troy’s sixth district, which includes Hudson Valley. “[If] you screw up and go to jail, sorry. You might be a good person, but you’ve violated a public trust, so your name shouldn’t be on any public building.”

After spending over two decades on the board of trustees, McDonough helped secure funding for the sports complex, along with structures such as the BTC and the Hudson Hall art room while working with the county and the state.

“He was a constantly involved person with unwavering dedication to the college, higher education and the growth of Hudson Valley Community College,” said George Raneri, Board of Trustees secretary who was appointed in 1981.

As a result of the case, with McDonough having served in the county while on the board, a county ethics law was amended to prohibit party officers from serving in county offices such as Hudson Valley, which was considered a county office.

The law was struck down in 2011 after former county Republican chairman Neil Kelleher was appointed to the board by the county, leading the college to amend their code of ethics.

In 1987, Kelleher, the board of trustees chairman, had his provisional appointment to work for the college signed off by McDonough. Leaving his county position at the time as superintendent of buildings to work for Hudson Valley, Kelleher was eventually able run for the county legislature.

“Seriously speaking, my personal experience is simply indicative of how many lives Ed McDonough touched and indeed had a direct and positive impact on,” said Kelleher at a 2007 ceremony honoring McDonough’s military service around the ten-year anniversary of his death.

McDonough’s contributions to the college earned him the New York State Association of Community College Trustees Distinguished Service Award in 1989. Outside of Hudson Valley, McDonough volunteered as a Catholic Youth Organization basketball coach, Catholic Central High School board member and Knights of Columbus volunteer.

Kelleher said that McDonough’s contributions to Hudson Valley and the community eclipse his conviction. “I don’t see any reason to go and take things off. We’ll be renaming bridges and roads all over this state,” he said.

The McDonough structure is not the only sports complex in the state with past debate over name removal. After State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was convicted of federal corruption charges last year, a petition in Rockville Centre, Nassau County, demanded that the senator’s name be removed from the village’s sports complex.

The most recent name removal debate on campus ensued in 2009 with Joseph L. Bruno Stadium when, Bruno faced federal corruption charges. Two years ago, Bruno was acquitted of all charges.

At the time, Hudson Valley decided to keep the stadium’s name.

“Hudson Valley Community College is extremely grateful for all that the former senator has done for this college and the Capital Region,” said Robert H. Hill II, former board of trustees chairman in a 2009 statement.

According to Dennis Kennedy, director of communications and marketing, the last time the college was questioned about the sports complex’s name was during Bruno’s trials.

“I don’t think there is any movement afoot to make a change at this time,” he said.

Silay Lockett, individual studies student, considers the structure’s name unimportant.

“I don’t really think anything of it,” she said.

Senior student senator A’chynee Edmundson believes the structure’s name is still a concern, regardless of media attention.

“Especially when being convicted, I think [the name] does cast kind of a dark light on Hudson Valley when we’re supposed to be really bright and inviting,” she said.

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