** Originally written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **
When most people tend to think about politics, besides any particular issue the key thing that will come to mind are scandals. Hillary Clinton is currently deeply entrenched in the State Department email scandal. President Obama has any number of scandals in his Administration. Overall that is what pops up in the minds of the masses when it comes to politics. But as Village of Owego Mayor Kevin Millar made clear in a press conference March 11, 2015, scandals and bad politics are hardly just a federal matter.
Mayor Millar spoke today after being made aware of a mailing that was sent to an unknown number of residents of the Village of Owego. The postcard was alleged to have been sent by the Village Public Safety Committee, and lists several options for police enforcement with projected costs. Those receiving the postcard were encouraged to select an option and submit that response. The options included a choice to expand or decrease the size of the police department, as well as to cease it’s operation, with figures for the projected tax consequences of each option. The issue over the police department has been a long-term issue of strong debate in Owego. But there are several problems with this mailing.
First, the Owego Village Public Safety Committee has only had 1 meeting, in February, and the mailing was not discussed or authorized at that time – as stated by Mayor Millar and Police Commissioner Karl Jantz. Second, the projected costs are based on unknown calculations and research. There is no supporting source for the figures, and again the Committee did not approve any such projection. Third, the address where respondents were to send their cards is not for the Village Public Safety Committee. It appears to be an address connected to A Positive Change – a political party that is known to have distinct views about the police department.
What makes the issue even more critical and time sensitive, is the fact that on March 18, 2015, the Village of Owego will hold election for Trustees. Several of those up for election are members of A Positive Change with at least one candidate claiming full support for the mailings and a direct connection to A Positive Change Party. This is part of the reason that Mayor Millar held a press conference – not only highlight the unauthorized nature of the document, but also to combat the potential impact it may have on the upcoming election.
In an phone interview with Mayor Millar (a member of Rebuild Owego Party), we were told that the Attorney General has already been contacted on this issue. Further Mayor Millar has notified the NY Board of Elections into possible violations. While the response from the public received by the Office of the Mayor has so far been positive, Mayor Millar stated,
“Things like this move slowly, so it is unlikely that action will happen before the election. But there may be something done after the election depending on the outcome.”
In a response to our request for comment from the Facebook page for A Positive Change, Lisa L. Curatolo (a 1st Ward Trustee candidate) stated,
“The post card was sent out by the Chairman of the Committee Steven May. It was paid for by Steven May personally. I proudly support Steven May in his efforts to give the village residents options for safe village policing options.”
If candidate Curatolo is correct, and Steven May was responsible for the document then he has several questions that would need to be answered for constituents in Owego.
- How were the dollar amounts circulated in the mailing calculated and from what sources?
- Who authorized the use of the Village Public Safety Committee name?
- Who did the mailings go to? Was that distribution political in nature?
- Who is receiving the responses from residents in Owego? What is being done with the information collected? Where and for how long will that information be held?
Even more troubling is the thought that if candidate Curatolo is correct, then it is possible that Trustee May could be in violation of election law. This could mean even further changes potentially, regardless of election results. Which does not take into account any potential action by the Attorney General.
One resident of Owego that we were in contact with summed up their thoughts on the mailing and issues as,
“I believe these mailings are an inaccurate political ploy to sway the voters in this upcoming vote. This party has intentionally hidden their agendas to stay in office and they don’t support the wants of the village tax payers. To the contrary this mailing proves they are willing to deceive the public.” – Theresa Gosart, member of I Want My OPD
WBNG News quoted another resident, Krista Shaffer, as stating, “This information may look good up front. It could sway my vote, when I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.“
According to the Binghamton Press & Sun, Ann Lockwood, a Trustee and Committee member, stated, “We wanted to put it out for everybody to see, because (the issue) will come to a vote at some point.“
As of our interview, Mayor Millar had not been contacted by any member of the Trustees on this matter. We have been unable to contact Owego Trustee Steven May for comment.