Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saland "Responds" to Ethics Complaint

Senator Stephen Saland has recently responded to the ethics complaint filed by Hudson City Democratic Committee Chair, Victor Mendolia and Lloyd Hamilton, a Dutchess County Firefighter.
Saland dismissed the charge as an "outrageous lie" then tried to imply that Mr Hamilton is not a firefighter, telling the Mid-Hudson News, that he wrote to the (ethics) commission on Friday, saying the complaint came from a "Democrat chairman or committeeman and a Democrat activist who says he is a firefighter”

The Senator said the allegations are “a lie and completely without merit.”

But the facts speak for themselves.

Lloyd Hamilton is indeed a volunteer Firefighter with the Hillside Fire Department in Rhinebeck and has been for 25 years.

Mr. Hamilton did not understand why a sign supporting a political candidate would be posted in the front case of his Fire Company's firehouse.
When he asked his superior officer about it, he was told that the sign was “payback” for grants that the Senator secured for the Fire Department. That is when he decided to come forward. “Firefighters should not be subject to this kind of political pressure.” he said.

Following Saland's comments to the press, Mr. Hamilton issued an open letter to the Senator which can be viewed by clicking:

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Separately, on October 20, 2010 the following letter was given to Mr. Mendolia by a concerned Columbia County resident. The letter is written by James Van Deusen, Fire Coordinator for Columbia County. In it, Mr. Van Deusen clearly states "Senator Saland has asked for your help by putting a message of Support on your outside signs." He added, "The Senator has over the years supported your Fire Co. with grants and monies."
Exhibit - Request from Saland on Official Columbia County document urging messages of support at Firehouses...                                                            
The source of the letter was shocked at the Senator's request. Particularly since it was on Columbia County letterhead and the request was made by a government official. Presumably the time and costs involved with printing, mailing and distributing the requests were paid for by taxpayers as well.

Firehouses are public property and Fire Departments are public agencies. As such, they are prohibited from participating or advocating in any way in partisan elections.

Senator Saland knows that.

He just thinks that the rules don't apply to him.

It is no coincidence that Senator Saland always asks for a "message of support" just prior to Election Day.

But it shouldn't come as any surprise either. Anyone who lives in his district knows that Saland has long campaigned for office using an inordinate amount of thinly veiled "legislative reports". These are nothing more than campaign literature which he prints and mails with taxpayer's money. In fact he spent more than $125,000 on postage costs alone last year, all on the public's dime.

The fact that many firehouses also serve as election poll sites or are very near them, makes these signs particularly egregious. Since in some instances they could be considered electioneering.

In exchange for giving the Fire Companies grants, the Senator expects expressions of support for his candidacy at election time, without question or dissent.

This is nothing less than a quid pro quo.

The loose interpretation of quid pro quo is: I give you something that you want, and you give me something that I want. But not only is it wrong for someone in a position of power to use that power for personal gain. It is also illegal.

So rather than posturing with faux indignation, Senator Saland should be apologizing to his constituents for having over-stepped his boundaries as a legislator.

30 years in Albany seems to have that effect on a lot of people.

You can read the full ethics complaint along 
with the supporting documents by clicking below