Crucetti resigns as Albany County health commissioner

Times Union | January 20, 2015 | Column by Jordan Carleo-Evangelist

Dr. James Crucetti is resigning his post as Albany County health commissioner next week after 25 years with the Health Department — 22 of them as the county’s top doctor.

Dr. Crucetti, left, and McCoy

In a letter submitted to County Executive Dan McCoy Thursday, Crucetti, a Delmar resident in his early 60s, says his last day will be Jan. 29. In the interim he will be succeeded by Dr. Christine Compton, who has worked with the county Health Department since 2009.

Crucetti’s resignation letter, which doesn’t cite a reason for his departure, is devoted mostly to talking up Compton’s qualifications.

From his letter:

“It has been a great honor and privilege to serve as Commissioner of Health for the citizens of Albany County,” Crucetti wrote. “I appreciate the opportunity I’ve had to work with many of your staff for the past three years. As I reflect upon the time prior to your administration, I am deeply grateful for the steadfast support from former County Executives Michael Breslin and Michael Hoblock. I am also very thankful for the consistent and strong support from Albany County’s honorable legislative officials and distinguished members of the Board of Health throughout my terms as Commissioner. Equally important, I am very fortunate to have worked with so many outstanding employees of the Albany County Department of Health who have served the public in an exemplary manner. Their unwavering commitment to public health has made the department one of the best in New York State.” 

For much of his career, Crucetti’s reputation has been as a low-key and well-respected public official. But his relationship with McCoy’s three-year-old administration has at times been rocky.

A little less than a year ago, he became integral to McCoy’s vocal opposition to expansion of the oil infrastructure at the Port of Albany when, under Crucetti’s authority as health commissioner, McCoy’s administration issued a moratorium last March on a plan by Massachusetts-based Global Partners to expand its processing facility.

The move won McCoy national media attention and praise from environmental groups.

But within a month Crucetti became involved in a sharp email exchange, eventually copied to dozens of county officials, with County Attorney Thomas Marcelle over whether to hire an outside consultant to study the potential impacts of the Global proposal.

Crucetti initially supported that idea but backed off when the state Department of Environmental Conservation somewhat belatedly became more involved in the issue, prompting Marcelle to accuse Crucetti of yielding to the  ”allure that comes with the transfer of accountability and devotion of effort.”

Crucetti fired back calling the remark “wrong and unfair.”

“At no time did I ever think that working in conjunction with NYS DEC or the NYS DOH would relieve me and the Board of Health of our responsibilities,” he wrote.

Thereafter, Crucetti appeared to have been on the margins on the oil trains issue, with McCoy leaning instead on Peter Iwanowicz, the head of Environmental Advocates of New York, who the executive tapped to lead a special advisory committee on the issue.

Most recently, Crucetti briefly appeared at McCoy’s public hearing for a law banning the sale of toys containing certain toxic substances but did not speak. Crucetti never took a public position on the law, which requires enforcement by the Health Department’s environmental division.

The health commissioner is appointed by the county executive subject to confirmation by the County Legislature. The post is the highest-paid salaried position in the county, budgeted at nearly $166,000 last year.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the County Legislature’s special charter review committee endorsed a change that would transfer the appointment of the health commissioner to lawmakers.

“Dr. Crucetti is a fine person,” said longtime legislative Majority Leader Frank Commisso. ”It’s a great loss to the county.”

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Crucetti resigns as Albany County health commissioner
PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.