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GDO Files complaint against G’town Republican Committee

Germantown Dems claim GOP failed to file campaign contribution

      Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2013 12:30 am

By Joe Gentile Columbia-Greene Media |

Germantown Democrats filed a complaint Wednesday alleging municipal Republicans broke state election law in 2009 by not reporting a $1,550 contribution from the county GOP committee.

In its nine-page complaint filed Wednesday, with both the county and state boards of election, against the Germantown Republican Committee, the Germantown Democratic Organization alleged Germantown Republicans “operated with disregard for the governing New York State Election Law” by not reporting a $1,550 contribution made to them in October 2009.

 However, the complaint also claims the committee that Democrats accused of displaying an “indifference for the authority of the [New York State] and Columbia County Board of the Elections” was unregistered.

Labeled as Exhibit B, aJune 5 Freedom of Information Law response to a May request by Germantown resident Arthur Schiff claimed that after “a diligent search of our records,” state Director of Public Information John Conklin had no evidence from its Board of Elections to indicate the Germantown Republican Committee filed the required campaign financial disclosure forms for 2009, or had its candidates’ authorization to assist their elections or nominations, other than through campaign contributions.

The committee treasurer , identified by Republican Committee Chairman [George] Sharpe Sr. as Joe Phelan, also neglected that year to complete the state’s Committee Registration/Treasurer and Bank Information form, specifying that “[a]ny committee that files with a local board of elections and that raises or spends or expects to raise or spend more than $1,000 in a calendar year” must submit their financial disclosure reports to the New York State Board of Elections, said Kay Abraham, president of the Germantown Democratic Organization.

According to Wednesday’s complaint, “By not filing, the Committee has not established itself as a recognized organization with legitimacy to function in a campaign and has designated no Treasurer to be accountable for handling funds.”

Columbia County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Virginia Martin commented that she fully intends to notify county Republican Commissioner Jason Nastke of the complaint.

“If they’ve not filed, they need to file,” Martin said.

She added, though, that at the county level, the Board of Elections mainly manages voter registration, ballots and other election logistics, straight through election night as the votes are counted.

“It’s the state that’s in charge of compliance,” Martin said. “Candidates and committees do have to file initial filings with us, but they do also have to file them with the state if they’re going to raise of spend more than $1,000.”

Abraham said her group wants an immediate investigation so that Germantown residents not “be left in the dark as to how the Germantown Republican Committee finances its campaigns.” Independent research by Schiff, a Germantown Democratic Organization member, first brought the information to light in May as Democrats unearthed additional evidence to corroborate his findings.

“The whole filing process is very difficult,” Abraham said. “But, the law applies to everybody.”

Election committees essentially are responsible for self-reporting their figures to the state Board of Elections, she added. While being four years old, the situation addressed in the Democrats’ complaint, signed by Abraham and Virginia Sibbison, the organization’s secretary and treasurer, was one the Germantown Democratic Organization strongly felt “we couldn’t sit on forever,” Abraham said.

“We just wanted the Republican committee to be following the same rules as we are,” she added.

Punishment for anybody, under New York state election law, “who willingly and knowingly” disobeys its provisions may significantly impact both treasurers and candidates.

Accordingly, “Any person who knowingly and willfully fails to file a statement required to be filed” within the 10 days after any filing deadline “shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Individuals who fail to file a required statement could also pay the state a civil penalty of no more than $1,000. Those who fail to file three or more times, within an election cycle, could be fined up to $10,000.

Meanwhile, Sharpe said he, Phelan and their lawyer are going through the Columbia County Republican Committee to “completely comply with the state Board of Elections.

“I really don’t know what went wrong or why things didn’t get filed.”

He did, though, defend Phelan as “a very exceptional, honest man,” ready to correct any filing errors.

Their $1,550 contribution, Sharpe added, was deposited by Phelan at the Germantown First Niagara branch, and likely used to buy yard signs.

“We have the opportunity to now inform the public of the challenge,” Sharpe said. “We’ll discuss it in public so there are no secrets.”

Columbia County Republican Committee Chairman Greg Fingar co

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