From the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee:
The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee met on October 22, 2013 to hear the complaints of Ron Belmont, candidate for Supervisor of the Town of Harrison, against Joan Walsh, candidate for the same position, and the Joan Walsh Team. Mr. Belmont was represented by Frank P. Allegretti and himself. Ms. Walsh represented herself.
COMPLAINT: Mr. Belmont complained that campaign literature put out by Joan Walsh and the Joan Walsh Team asks the following rhetorical questions: “…what happened to the proposed MTA development in the Halstead Avenue commuter lots? The proposal went out to bid in Fall 2011. Builders sent in bids. Who won the bid? What modifications were agreed to? When will construction start? When will the tax dollars start coming in? ….Why haven’t there been updates by the Town Board?” He stated that there is a confidentiality agreement with the MTA that prohibits all Town Board members from public discussion of details of the project.
In addition Mr. Belmont complained that a newspaper advertisement by Ms. Walsh and the Walsh Team asks: “If the Board is seeking revenue, why haven’t they approved the MTA project?”
Ms. Walsh was aware that some of the questions incorporated into the palm card could not be responded to by Mr. Belmont (and the Town Board) because of an MTA Confidentiality Agreement that bound Mr. Belmont (and the Town Board) from discussing any plans. Ms. Walsh is also a signatory to the Confidentiality Agreement in connection with her previous elective office in Harrison.
COMPLAINT: Mr. Belmont complained that Ms. Walsh’s campaign literature falsely and misleadingly states that “New bonds mean increasing interest payments and increased taxes,” while Mr. Belmont states that, according to the Comptroller, bonds approved in 2012 and 2013 have not increased either total debt service or the interest portion of the debt service.
New bonds do not necessarily mean higher taxes, particularly in a case such as this that includes opportunities to refinance existing bonds with overall lower interest rates.
COMPLAINT: Mr. Belmont complained that a Joan Walsh Team flyer provides false and exaggerated figures related to the bonding of the Town of Harrison. It states that more bonding would bring “our new debt total, so far, to $71,365,968,” while Mr. Belmont claims that the total bond debt is actually $64,732,838.
FINDING: No Finding
The information provided was inconclusive. It appeared that the numbers each party provided were from different time periods.
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.