MILTON – Supervisor Dan Lewza is considering running this year for state Assembly, if, as expected, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco runs for the Senate. [Read more…]
The 113th District has been without an Assembly member all of this year, since the resignation of Republican Tony Jordan to become Washington County district attorney. [Read more…]
By PATRICIA OLDER
While embattled Milton supervisor Frank Thompson alleges his FOIL requests are the reason Dan Lewza left his position as chief of staff for Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin R-Schaghticoke, and they must have “something to hide,” both Lewza and McLaughlin dismiss the allegations, calling the accusations “the act of a desperate guy.”
“Frank is desperate,” said Lewza, who has been on McLaughlin’s staff since the first of the year. “I think he is doing everything he can to try and discredit me.”
Lewza is the GOP-endorsed candidate for Milton supervisor. Thompson, who is running for his fifth term, did not get the backing of the Republican committee, but filed a petition to be on the September ballot.
Earlier this month, Thompson submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Law for time and attendance records as well as all emails between Lewza and Saratoga County Republican Chairman Jasper Nolan from May 1 forward. Lewza received the Republican endorsement May 18.
Thompson also asked for the emails and time and attendance sheets for assembly employees Bernadette VanDenise Perez and Bruce Couture. Perez is working on Lewza’s campaign.
While he was given the time sheets and attendance records, his request for the emails was denied and Thompson said he thinks that is because his request uncovered something, prompting Lewza to resign.
“Today I learned that my opponent is no longer employed by the NY State Assembly, and I believe that this is the direct result of information uncovered as a result of my foil request,” wrote Thompson in a press release dated Tuesday, Aug. 16, “… I do not believe the timing of these two events is a coincidence. If there is nothing to hide and no one to protect, then the Assembly should release the emails.”
But both Lewza and his former boss adamantly deny his leaving was in any connected to the FOIL request.
“The last couple of months I have been getting more and more phone calls and requests for time that are related to the campaign,” said Lewza, adding that it was becoming increasingly difficult to divide his time between his job and his campaign. “This race is important to me,” said Lewza. “And Milton is important to me. My leaving had nothing to do with Frank’s request.”
Backing his former chief of staff, McLaughlin said Thompson’s allegations are “laughable.”
“That’s absurd,” said McLaughlin. “His leaving had less than zero to do with the FOIL request.”
Lewza said he asked McLaughlin on Thursday, Aug. 4, if he could meet with him the following Monday to discuss a leave of absence.
“We had discussed it May 19,” said Lewza. “But Steve asked me to stay on.” Lewza received the GOP endorsement May 18. “Then on Friday [Aug. 5] we received the FOIL request,” said Lewza.
McLaughlin agreed, noting he and Lewza had discussed on several occasions the possibility Lewza would have to leave to focus on the campaign.
“My policy is generally not to discuss personnel issues, said McLaughlin. “We certainly talked about [Lewza leaving] several times. He left on good terms and the FOIL request had nothing to do with his leaving.”
He said he though the FOIL request was “silly,” and Thompson is grasping at straws. “He’s desperate,” said McLaughlin.
As for Thompson’s allegations the assembly, McLaughlin, and Lewza are trying to “hide something,” McLaughlin said they have no control over the FOIL requests.
“Actually the assembly majority makes the decision,” said McLaughlin, who said he faxed it to the assembly attorney, who in turned worked with the assembly to determine what was legal to release.
“Thompson is asking for personal emails,” said McLaughlin. “The only thing legal [to release] was the time sheets and attendance records and he got those.”
Lewza said Thompson’s allegations there is a conspiracy to hide something was unfounded.
“Nobody is trying to cover up anything,” said Lewza. “This is the action of a desperate man. I want to discuss the issues and all he wants to do is try to sling dirt.”
FOIL guru and executive director for the New York State committee for open government, Robert J. Freeman, agreed Thompson had received all he was entitled to saying the denial of the emails is within the guidelines of the law.
“In my opinion, it would not fall under the category of accessible records,” said Freeman, explaining the state legislature operates differently in relation to public records from other governmental bodies.
“The state legislature operates under different provisions,” said Freeman. “While other governmental bodies and municipalities have laws which say all governmental records are public record, the state legislature [law] say the following categories are public record and lists those categories.”
It has been a difficult year for Thompson.
In April, his wife, Deborah Thompson, was arrested and charged with felony grand theft for allegedly stealing more than $30,000 from an elderly woman she was guardian of. He was named in the criminal investigation as well, but was later cleared of any involvement or wrongdoing.
In May, he failed to gain the endorsement of the Republican committee and a formal complaint was filed with the town board requesting an ethics investigation.
In July, he came under investigation, along with his wife, by the state’s tax and finance department for tax returns the couple filed during the time it was alleged Mrs. Thompson had stolen the money.
In August, Thompson again came under investigation by the district attorney’s office for possible improprieties on his annual financial disclosure forms.
While the actual scope of the investigation is sealed, Thompson’s financial disclosure forms show in 2005, he listed his wife working for Belmont Management Co., managers of the apartment complex where the victim had lived. The forms require disclosure of “…any office, trusteeship, or position of any nature, whether compensated or not…” of any entity which is doing business with, or has done business with, the town of Milton.
Milton sold water to Belmont.
Even though Mrs. Thompson continued to be employed by Belmont, Thompson lists her as retired in subsequent disclosure forms.
Special prosecutor, Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira, said while she cannot comment on the open investigation, if it is determined Thompson filed false information on his forms, the crime could range from a low grade misdemeanor to a Class A felony, depending on the severity of the crime.
The primary is Tuesday, Sept. 6.