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Chatham GOP committee turns to county

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CHATHAM–Although there is a full slate of Republican candidates on the town ballot this November, the Town of Chatham Republican Committee currently is not registered with the State Board of Elections.

All donations made to the town GOP committee must go instead to the Columbia County Republican Committee.

Town of Chatham Republican Committee Chairman Mike Blasl, who is running for a seat on the Chatham Town Board, said in the phone interview last week that the committee was too small to register.

The committee held a September event to raise funds for Salvation Army to help with hurricane clean-up. In a press release the committee reported having raised about $300. “The county is going to write the check,” Mr. Blasl said about getting the funds to the Salvation Army.

He also said that the county GOP committee is paying for mailers and road signs. He pointed out that the large cards mailed to voters in the town say that the mailing was paid for by the Columbia County Republican Committee or CCGOP.

County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Virginia Martin said that any group that receives donations or expends monies for a political purpose needs to register with the county Board of Elections and the State Board of Elections. She said that financial disclosures are available at the state’s site at www.elections.ny.gov/CFViewReports.html.

The website lists the donations to and expenditures by the county Republican Committee. The state website lists the Town of Chatham Republican Committee as “inactive.” Mr. Blasl said that happened before he became town chairman.

The committee held its caucus in June and endorsed candidates for Town Board–Mr. Blasl and incumbent Henry Swartz. They also endorsed incumbent Highway Superintendent Joseph Rickert, Town Clerk Beth Anne Rippel and Town Justice Michael Rosen. Mr. Rickert, Ms. Rippel and Judge Rosen are all also endorsed by the Chatham Democrats.

Jason Nastke, Columbia County Board of Elections Republican Commissioner, ran the Republican caucus, according to a press release from the committee.

Chatham Democrats questioned what they see as a lack of transparency on the part of the county Republicans for the filling of contributions and expenditures. Posted on the Chatham Democrats’ Facebook page was the information that the town GOP committee had “terminated” its campaign finance committee. “This means that the Chatham Republican candidates are apparently relying totally on the CCGOP to finance, and disclose, their campaigns and must identify all transactions done on their behalf. But this report indicates no such thing,” The Facebook post points out that the fillings do not say where the funding for the signs comes from and also who funds the town committee website – which still directs people to make donations to the Town of Chatham Republican Committee or the CCGOP.

“The mailer going around was paid for by the CCGOP (as indicated on the postcard),” the post reads. The page goes on to say that “…the expenditure was not recorded on this report. Will it appear on the next one with the cut-off date of 10/23?”

The county Board of Elections confirmed that they recently received a CF-16 form from the county Republicans. With this filling, the Town of Chatham Republican candidates authorize the committee to make all campaign financial disclosures.

An email to the county Republicans was not returned by press time.

Some Chatham Democrats also raise another issue about the GOP ticket. They want to know whether, if he’s elected to the Town Board, Mr. Blasl may also continue to serve as a county coroner. Mr. Blasel currently is one of three elected county coroners.

Mr. Blasl said that he looked into that matter before he agreed to run and was told that as long as one of the positions did not supervise the other he could do both. He pointed out that “Angelo (Nero) had been doing it for years.” Mr. Nero is a county coroner and a trustee in the Village of Valatie. Mr. Nero is not running for re-election for coroner this year.

Chatham Town Councilman Bob Balcom emailed the Columbia Paper with a link to a section of state county law saying, “No county judge, family court judge, surrogate, district attorney, sheriff, county clerk or any elective county officer shall be eligible to hold at the same time any other elective county or town office.”

Asked about this question, Ms. Martin said in an email, “Election law does not speak to the question of an individual holding more than one elected office.”

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email etasdale@columbiapaper.com

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