The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee met on October 20, 2016 to hear the complaints of Brian Pugh, candidate for Trustee, Village of Croton-0n-Hudson, against Mark Aarons & Dan McNatty, candidates for the same position, as well as Croton United Treasurer Joel Gingold & Party Chair Roseann Schuyler. In attendance at the hearing were Brian Pugh, Peter Schuyler, Roseann Schuyler and Joel Gingold.
COMPLAINT #1: Mr. Pugh complains that Facebook posts by Messrs. McNatty and Gingold suggest that savings associated with Sustainable Westchester’s Westchester Power Community Choice Aggregation Program (CCA) are minimal, whereas they are, in reality, an order of magnitude higher, as reported by New York’s Public Service Commission.
This disagreement falls under normal political discourse.
COMPLAINT #2: Mr. Pugh disputes Mr. Gingold’s statements that the Croton Democrats “violated” the Public Service Commission’s order.
The PSC did not consider the Village to be in violation.
COMPLAINT #3: Mr. Pugh complains Mr. Aarons’ assertion that there was a “plan” approved by the former Democratic administration to borrow $8 million and that the Croton United administration had succeeded in reducing this to $1.5 million was incorrect. He states that the Village’s borrowing plan remained virtually unchanged and the Village bonded more than $8 million in 2016. Therefore, Mr. Aarons’ claim of a massive reduction in borrowing under Croton United is misleading.
While there apparently was a plan to reduce the borrowing from $8 million to $1.5 million, the actual borrowing was $8 million.
COMPLAINT #4: Mr. Pugh complains that, “in his Facebook post, [Croton United Trustee] Ken Walsh writes that it was misleading for me to describe myself and Trustee Ann Gallelli as the 2 remaining Democrats on the Village Board as he and Mayor Greg Schmidt are registered Democrats... Ken Walsh, as well as the other Croton United elected officials and candidates, appear on their own “Croton United” ballot line. Therefore, by any fair and reasonable interpretation, Ann and I are the only Democrats on the Board - in the common understanding that we are the only two trustees elected as democrats."
Pugh and Gallelli are in fact the only people listed on the ballot for Trustee as Democrats.
COMPLAINT #5: Mr. Pugh complains that Mr. McNatty lists himself as “treasurer for the Croton Harmon Education Foundation (CHEF) on Facebook,” whereas he is the former treasurer.
Mr. McNatty’s position with CHEF was listed as one of his volunteer activities, and he did not state that he was currently filling that role.
COMPLAINT #6: Mr. Pugh complains that Trustee Walsh claimed, “I provided no reason for voting against the awarding of a contract for upgrades to the Sunset Park Playground,” whereas Board minutes prove this to be false.
Board minutes show Mr. Pugh did provide a reason.
COMPLAINT #7: Mr. Pugh complains that Roseann Schuyler wrote in a letter to the editor of the Gazette that a law passed by the Democrats was the reason for a finding of non-compliance with fair housing law by the Westchester Housing Settlement Monitor, whereas the Monitor identifies the mixed use zoning permitted under the rezoning law as part of the progress made toward compliance.
FINDING: NO FINDING
COMPLAINT #8: Mr. Pugh complains that Croton United describes itself as a “community organization” rather than a “political party,” whereas this description misrepresents and distorts material fact and misleads the public.
Croton United does not meet the legal definition of a political party in New York State, although the average voter could describe it as such.
COMPLAINT #9: Mr. Pugh complains that Mr. Aarons’ Croton United bio states that Mr. Aarons was a co-founder of the New York Public Interest Research Group, whereas NYPRG’s website lists the co-founders as Donald K. Ross and Ralph Nader.
FINDING: NO FINDING
It is not possible to determine the reality of the situation so many years ago.
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.