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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Allegation Uninvestigated After Judge's Final Decision


DISCLAIMER: This blog is not officially affiliated with or endorsed by Clinton County, NY.


(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - 2/26/14


Knock, knock.

Who's there?

Governmental official.  Or someone who claims to be one.

Better ask for credentials.  There's all sorts of stories out there about individuals passing themselves off as official representatives to get what they want.  Did you hear the story about the private investigator who needed a urine sample for DNA testing from the target of his investigation?  He got it by knocking on the person's door, saying that he was from the Health Department and that there was a problem with the water system.

Such acts of impersonation are called pretexting.

Normally strange visitors are who they claim to be but you never know.  The urine specimen story happened elsewhere but pretexting can happen anywhere.

Locally some people have alleged that a Republican candidate passed himself off as Clinton County Board of Elections representative while investigating possible fraud with certain absentee ballots.

Backgrounder:

Election season, Plattsburgh area, fall 2014.  Controversy erupted when Republican candidates challenged the validity of absentee ballots canvassed by volunteers from the Working Families Party (WFP).  Martin Mannix, Clinton County Chairman of the Democratic Party, held a new conference on November 20th, stating the Republican challenge was more about voter intimidation than fraud.

Two separate investigations, city and town, were initiated by Republican Party members.  In the City of Plattsburgh (COP) the municipal police interviewed a number of people including WFP volunteers who canvassed for the absentee ballots.  Some are taken to the station for questioning.

Dealing with the Town of Plattsburgh (TOP) election a petition was filed in the New York State Supreme Court by Tom Metz, a Republican candidate for an open seat on the Town Board.  When the petition was refiled he was joined by another Republican candidate, Bill Brudvig, also running for a Town Board seat.

Named as respondents were Susan Castine and Greg Campbell, as Commissioners of the Clinton County Board of Elections, and Michael Cashman and Paul Lamoy, as Candidates for the Public Office of Town Council, Town of Plattsburgh.  (Cashman and Lamoy ran with endorsements from both the Democratic and Working Families parties.)

Some absentee voters were subpoenaed and had to appear in Court.  This meant taking time off from their jobs and family duties.

In his decision dated January 21, 2014 the Honorable John T. Ellis, J.S.C., ruled that some of the ballots were invalid but also found no wrongdoing by the respondents in the petition.  

(A scanned PDF copy of his decision can be found here: https://app.box.com/s/1sc0qkubq0ibc808huoy .)

He also wrote:

"Initially, the court notes that there was testimony from some of the voters to indicate the petitioner went door to door stating he was from the Board of Elections and he wanted to ask questions about the absentee ballots filed by various voters.  The information he gathered then was placed into the affidavit supporting the Petition before the Court."

Regarding the alleged activity Judge Ellis stated the Court didn't make a finding and wasn't required or requested to make one.

He continued: "Without deciding whether or not [the allegation] is true, the Court doesn't want to encourage investigations by candidates claiming to be from the Board of Elections in order to elicit information about the voters' personal lives to substantiate reasons to invalidate absentee ballots."

Besides being a TOP councilor Tom Wood also serves as Clinton County Chairman of Working Families Party.  In a phone interview he told me he heard the testimony from absentee voters and had also spoken with voters outside court who stated that a candidate was passing himself off as an official from the Board of Elections.  He added that to pursue the truth behind the allegation would have involved spending money that he and the Working Families Party doesn't have.

I find it ironical that absentee ballot voters, common citizens, had to testify in court while the candidate who initiated the action isn't required or requested to testify about his alleged pretexting.

But that's how the system works.  No $, no chance of getting to the truth, good or bad.

For example, imagine how much its costs to test DNA in a urine specimen.


*  *  *

NOTE: In an article scheduled for the first issue of the alternative newspaper, UnderCurrents, Working Families Party member William Cowan will provide more details about the absentee ballot investigations.  Email for more info on UnderCurrents: editorundercurrents@primelink1.net .

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