The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee met on October 20, 2016 to hear the complaints of Mark Aarons, candidate for Trustee of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, against Brian Pugh and Ann Gallelli, candidates for the same position, and the Croton Democratic Committee. Mr. Aarons was represented by Joel Gingold, Peter Schuyler, and Roseann Schuyler. Mr. Pugh represented himself and Ms. Gallelli.
COMPLAINT: Mr. Aarons complains that an insert in the Gazette, placed by the Croton Democrats, stated that one of their accomplishments was: “Enabling your Tax Freeze checks by meeting the Tax Cap (and better) for past 3 years.”
Mr. Pugh agreed that the statement was incorrect; that the tax cap was met for the past two years, not three. In that same issue, Mr. Pugh had published a letter that included the two year figure. He stated that the error was unintentional and corrected it with an ad in the next issue of the Gazette, on Facebook, and on the crotondems.org website. The Committee appreciates that the error has been corrected.
COMPLAINT: Mr. Aarons complains that when the Democrats used the word “enabling” in their ad, they were taking credit for the accomplishment, implying that the budget was solely the result of their efforts.
The comments were part of normal political discourse.
COMPLAINT: Mr. Aarons complains that Mr. Pugh and the Croton Democrats posted on their Facebook page a statement that reads: “Misleading the public is nothing new for the Croton United Party’s team. Check out the Fair Campaign Practices Committee’s findings against Dr. Mayor Schmidt for a misleading mailer from his last campaign.” Mr. Aarons contends that it was not Dr. Schmidt’s last campaign as he last campaigned in 2015 and the above statement references 2010.
The Committee’s guidelines state, “The Candidate will not abuse the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee process in order to obtain political advantage.” Dr. Schmidt campaigned in 2010 and in 2015.
COMPLAINT: Mr. Aarons complains that a post on Mr. Pugh’s Facebook page purported to show that Croton United was associated with the Croton Republican Party by inserting a link to crotongop.com below a photo of him, whereas he contends it is not, nor has it ever been, associated with the Croton Republican Party.
The crotongop.com link gave the inaccurate impression that Croton United was related to the Croton Republican Party, when that is not the case.
Members: Susan P. Guma, [Chair], Miriam Cohen [Coordinator], Paul C. Atkinson, Nick Beilenson, Elizabeth Bermel, Gisele Castro, Daniel S. Franklin, Jr., Victor J. Goldberg, LaRuth Gray, Joan Grangenois-Thomas, Lee Kinnally, Robert C. Kirkwood, Polly Kuhn, Carole Princer Levy, Philip M. Maley, Harry Phillips III, Joy Rosenzweig, Susan Schwarz, Evelyn M. Stock.
Party representatives (ex officio): Republican Party, Democratic Party, Conservative Party, Working Families Party, Independence Party, Green Party, Reform Party
The purpose of the Westchester Fair Campaign Committee is to promote a climate in which candidates conduct honest and fair campaigns. The Committee encourages candidates to conduct campaigns openly and fairly, to discuss issues, to refrain from dishonest and defamatory attacks, and not to use campaign materials that distort the facts.
The Committee does not sit as a censor of political discussion nor as a body to enforce election law or make legal decisions. Its task is to accept written complaints about alleged unfair campaign practices and to determine whether the action complained about is indeed unfair. Among other things, the Committee will consider to be unfair any campaign practice that is a misstatement of a material fact or that misleads the public.
The Committee has no power to compel anyone to stop doing what it has found to be unfair. If the Committee acts on a complaint, it will release its findings to inform the public. The Committee may choose not to consider a complaint; in that case, a hearing is not held and the parties to the complaint are notified.
Statement of Principles of the Committee, as stated in its Manual, is available at www.faircampaignpractices.org. The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee believes that candidates should conduct their campaigns in accordance with the following principles:
- The candidate will conduct a campaign for public office openly and fairly. The candidate will discuss the issues and participate in fair debate with respect to her/his views and qualifications.
- The candidate will neither engage in nor be involved with unfair or misleading attacks upon the character of an opponent, nor will the candidate engage in invasions of personal privacy unrelated to fitness for office.
- The candidate will not participate in or condone an appeal to prejudice.
- The candidate will neither use nor be involved with the use of any campaign material or advertisements that misrepresent or distorts the facts.
- The candidate will clearly identify by name the source of all advertisements and campaign literature published and distributed.
- The candidate will not abuse the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee process in order to obtain political advantage.
- The candidate will publicly repudiate materials or actions from any individual or group that would violate the Statement of Principles.