Bob Conner/The Ballston Journal Online LLC

Malta GOP Politics Regress to Vicious Dysfunction

Well that didn’t take long. After last year’s elections, I was inclined to think someone at the Malta Republican Committee — maybe Chairman Ted Willette or Vice Chairman Nick Wilock — was a political guru, the Karl Rove or Lee Atwater of Saratoga County.

Now, though, the GOP leadership, including newly elected Supervisor Vince DeLucia, looks more like The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

Take that hoary old Democratic charge, the alleged Republican War on Women. On the state or national level, it’s complete nonsense. But here in Malta, the GOP leadership team finds itself at bitter odds this week with three of the most prominent women in local politics, Cynthia Young, Tara Thomas and Maggi Ruisi.

Young ran for supervisor on the Democratic line in the last three elections, losing in 2013 by only one vote. This week she was not reappointed after eight years as an alternate member of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Thomas and Ruisi are Republicans, but the GOP Committee is trying to force them out for alleged “disloyalty,” according to an ominous email sent to them both by Willette, which I’ll print in full at the end of this post. The back story is that the GOP committee last year declined to back Thomas and fellow Republican Peter Klotz for re-election, instead supporting Tim Dunn and Craig Warner, who won the primary. Thomas had a minor party line in the general election, kept running and lost. Ruisi backed her.

So then Willette demanded that Ruisi and Thomas quit the committee. Ruisi did so, and also told me: “Frankly, I’m disgusted at this email. To use intimidation and threats of ‘unpleasantness’ to coerce a resignation is distressing. It was the main reason I gave my resignation. I do not want to be associated with a group that would endorse this type of behavior.”

Thomas is not resigning. She said: “Mr. Willette is a weak leader who tries to bully and intimidate women in the party.  He is also clearly trying to create a cozy environment between developers and town board members, something that I do not support.  He is the one who should be removed for disloyalty to the party for alienating female officials, abandoning incumbents, dividing the party and promoting bad public policy. He will have to answer for his actions.”

Ah, Malta. For many years, every elected official has been in the same party, which has done nothing to stop them feuding with each other.

Young thinks she was replaced on the Zoning Board for political reasons, and I agree, whether or not DeLucia saw it that way. He unconvincingly cites geographic diversity and seeking “new blood” as reasons to replace her, while also letting drop that he holds some grudges from the campaign but denying that it was a political decision. DeLucia confirmed that Willette proposed two Zoning Board alternates, Leonard Smith and Stanley Wilock, to replace Young. Both are Republicans, and Wilock is the father of Willette’s vice chairman.

The Zoning Board chairman, David Savage, also was replaced. Young said he is a Republican, but had signs at his house last year supporting her candidacy (and Klotz’s). DeLucia said he knew nothing about the signs of Savage, whom I couldn’t reach for comment.

DeLucia declined to get very involved in the GOP Committee dispute, although he said Willette was entitled to enforce rules if members have violated by-laws. DeLucia is not a committee member

“I am very politically naïve,” the supervisor said. “I’m a babe in the woods.” I said if that’s true, he had better wise up. He declined to concede that it was a bad idea to ditch Young.

I post below the complete text of Willette’s email to Thomas and Ruisi:

“It is indisputable that during the 2015 election cycle you violated a gross number of Saratoga County Republican Committee bylaws. Some of the infractions include not collecting the minimum number of required signatures for endorsed candidates and not supporting endorsed Republican candidates for town office – in fact working for and supporting our opposition. There were several other bylaws violated and I would be happy to supply the specific sections.

“As you know from previous years, the Malta Republican Committee has vigorously sought disloyalty charges against committee members who have been disloyal to the Party, and the Committee has been successful removing them from the organization. We would be on very solid ground moving forward with disloyalty charges against you.

“You may avoid the unpleasantness of facing disloyalty charges by resigning from the Malta Republican Committee. If I do not receive your resignation or a reply to this email by Sunday, January 10, we the Committee will consider you have in fact resigned.

“Respectfully,

Ted Willette
Chairman”

Thomas doesn’t plan on replying, but said that does not mean she will have resigned from the committee.

I also post Willette’s first response to my contact today:

“Hi Bob,
“Thank you for your email. It was nice to meet you on Monday as well.
“All Malta Republican Committee actions and correspondence is confidential. It’s disappointing that former, and clearly disgruntled, committee members do not possess the personal integrity to up-hold the committee by-laws. As such, I cannot comment on Malta Republican Committee business further. However, I would be happy to furnish you a copy of the Malta Republican Committee by-laws, which can be made public.
“As Chairman, I proposed a number of recommendations with respect to town committee assignments. But, that’s all they were – recommendations. The Town Board makes the final decision on all committee assignments.
Best,
Ted Willette”
And finally, here is Willette’s response to Ruisi’s statement (I got Thomas’ statement later and didn’t send it to him):
“I wish Maggi well in her future endeavors.”
However, Ruisi remains on the Town Board, where she and DeLucia will have to work together.

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Reporter Bob Conner has worked 21 years in various positions at the Gazette of Schenectady, and before that four years as a reporter at the Glens Falls Post-Star. He won two first-place writing awards from the New York Associated Press Association for newspapers with circulation between 50,000 and 250,000. Bob has a Phi Beta Kappa bachelor’s degree in journalism from New York University, and an associate’s degree in chemical dependency counseling from HVCC. He is a published author and is currently writing a historical novel about the last four months in the life of Ulysses S.Grant


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