The hallmark of our democracy is free and fair elections. How else will we ever get good and decent people to run for office? The acrimony of elections has largely been reserved for Washington and Albany. Locally we were spared the worst of it. No more.
I chose to run for County Executive for the right reasons—I felt I was the right person with the right qualifications to move our community forward and improve the quality of life for the residents of Chemung County.
Unfortunately, within days after my decision to run became public and continuing throughout the election process I have been subjected to a steady onslaught of baseless investigations, lawsuits and dirty political tactics. Easy enough to dismiss as the new normal for public discourse or should we decide enough is enough. This in part is what this election is about as you witness the following:
*Within two weeks after public disclosure of my intent to run, my than expected and current opponent Sheriff Moss commenced a criminal investigation into my use of an authorized county issued fuel card that I had utilized for years. A method of employment expense reimbursement that saved the county money over the IRS mileage reimbursement procedures. Under the fuel card method, personal usage is reported to the IRS and taxes are paid. The Steuben County District Attorney’s office concluded that the use was authorized and there was no wrongdoing. The Chemung County District Attorney informed us that the DA investigator felt that the investigation was politically motivated. The Chemung County Attorney also concluded that there was no conflict between my dual roles with the County and Southern Tier Economic Growth but rather the roles were complimentary, and therefore sharing employment expenses between the two was wholly appropriate.
*Because I along with others were convinced that Sheriff Moss would not stop at this and coupled with his public declaration that I had pilfered county monies, I commenced a legal action against him to hold him accountable for what I believe were his inappropriate actions. His request to dismiss the action was denied by the New York State Supreme Court and it is awaiting review of his appeal of that decision.
*However rather than proceed with a fair competition for County Executive the Sheriff doubled down and decided to raid the First Arena (owned by the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency of which I serve in a staff support role) supposedly to determine if the liquor licenses were current. According to the Sheriff, this action took place based on information that he had received from Nate Cook, the nephew of Tom Freeman, former co-owners of the First Arena. No violations were found but many questions abound as to why the Sheriff was involved in this type of action at that location.
*The Sheriff’s actions regarding the First Arena did not stop there. Based on a criminal complaint filed by none other than Tom Freeman the Sheriff announced that I was the target of yet another criminal investigation this one into the First Arena sale transaction between the CCIDA and Tom Freeman and Nate Cook. At the time of the announcement, the Sheriff stated he was investigating matters of coercion and conflict of interest again targeted at me personally. According to the Chemung County District Attorney, the Sheriff’s Office Investigator found no criminal conduct fixed to me, yet the Sheriff still referred this matter to the Steuben County District Attorney’s Office where the case remains. There has been no finding of conflict of interest by any party against me and in fact, each Legal Counsel of each entity I serve have indicated no such conflict exist. It should be noted that I am not a voting board member of the CCIDA and I did not and do not run the First Arena which at the time of this action had a fulltime General Manager. A number of attorney’s representing all involved parties handled the sale transaction. I do not believe that either Mr. Freeman or Mr. Cook needed to be coerced in to avoiding substantial personal losses.
*Now just a matter of weeks before the election, the same Tom Freeman, who holds my opponents signs on his property, surfaces with more baseless allegations in an effort to smear my name again and get relief from the remaining personal obligation he created and retained at the First Arena sale closing. However, the political implications on this matter extend beyond the obvious already stated here.
*Rodney Strange, Republican Party Chair and stated ally of my opponent admittedly saw fit to deliver the lawsuit to WENY. Fair enough—but Mr. Strange said that the station called him and that is not the truth. According to WENY’s statement to the County Executive, Mr. Strange called them on a blocked number and said he had a tip and when he dropped off the suit he made the statement, “I was never here.” You certainly were there Mr. Strange I am just not sure, why you were trying to hide it.
*How the media receives information is probably not important except when combined with the totality of this chain of events and the next revelation. The Star Gazette has informed me that none other than political operatives’ former democratic Mayor Jim Hare and former democratic County Legislator Andy Patros forwarded the lawsuit to the paper. Not unexpected from them but a more curious finding shows that the cover page of the document they forwarded had neither the date stamp nor index number from the County Clerk’s Office affixed to it. Mr. Hare and Mr. Patros had received a copy of the document before it was even recorded in the Clerk’s office. I think the public and I deserve to know how they received this document and for what purpose?
This unseemly chronology of expected events foreshadowed my decision to run an INDEPENDENCE non-partisan, centric and pragmatic approach to offering our community a different approach to moving forward. The latest 11th hour viciousness of the smears and character assassination against me will not diminish my 30 years of professional and unwavering commitment to our community. The voting public understands right from wrong.