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Opponent Accuses Orangetown Supervisor of 'Unethical Activity'

Walter Wettje, Jr. challenges Andy Stewart.
Walter Wettje, Jr. challenges Andy Stewart.


Republican Walter Wettje, Jr., who will challenge incumbent Democrat Andy Stewart for Orangetown Supervisor's job this fall, criticized Stewart at Tuesday's town board meeting for his handling of email notifications sent to approximately 3,000 residents about a campaign event in June.
 
Orangetown Councilmen Tom Diviny and Denis Troy previously brought up the issue during a meeting in June, calling on Stewart to take responsibility for the email blast sent out through town resources in advance of the supervisor's golf outing. Stewart said it was an error that goes against town policy, but added that he did not know about the mailing until after it was sent. 

"I was shocked and extremely disappointed that you, Mr. Supervisor, did not take responsibility and hold yourself accountable for the ethics violation by your and your team," Wettje said. "Instead, you brushed it off by saying to Councilor Troy that they were baseless accusations, that you did not know anything about the email distribution and that this was your first attempt at a golf outing.

"I challenge you to write a check to the Town of Orangetown in the amount of $1,500 to cover the cost of postage, envelopes and paper that should have been used to contact these approximately 3,000 residents of the town. I also challenge you tonight, Mr. Supervisor, to be the leader that leads from the front, not the rear holding yourself responsible and accepting responsibility for this unethical activity."

All email blasts sent out to Orangetown's golf mailing list are supposed to go through Parks and Recreation Director Aric Gorton, but Gorton did not see the mailing before it was sent. Stewart said somebody helping him with the event requested that the mailing go out without his knowledge. 

"I did not send the email golf list," said Stewart, directly addressing Wettje. "There was a request that I did not know about. It was sent out against the policy of having emails reviewed by the parks superintendent. There is not a lot more to say about it. It was regrettable. I do not have access to the golf email system to send something like that, so your attempt to paint it as unethical behavior is simply off base and hopefully we can have more substantive conversations when it comes to your candidacy for supervisor."

Deputy Supervisor Allan Ryff is the council's liaison to Orangetown's ethics committee. He said the committee has said there was no substance to the accusation. He asked Michael Mandel, chairman of the committee, to confirm that statement, but Mandel said he did not want to discuss committee business during the meeting.

"If the ethics committee has something to say about it, I would love to hear it," Stewart said.

He added that he was not copied on any of the emails related to the request. 

"It has been informally reviewed by the board of ethics because there are people who would make a political issue out of it," Stewart said.

During the June meeting, Diviny and Troy both asked Stewart to take responsibility for the email blast and apologies. 

"It may or may not have been ethical, but you are responsible for emails that go out from your committee," Diviny said Tuesday night.

Diviny pointed to another email blast this week in advance an event for Stewart Thursday, a barbecue. Diviny said he could have only gotten the email addresses from the town website and asked for an explanation. Orangetown employees were among the recipients of the email.

"The first one went out, you said you didn't know how to run a golf outing," Diviny said. "The second time this happens, it's something questionable."

Stewart said the more recent email blast was a different type of error. He said he sent out the email blast himself, but included a list of town employee emails by accident. He said the list of 194 town employees is one he normally uses for town-related emails, such as storm updates. 

"I absolutely agree that it is not the right thing to send my barbecue event to town employees," Stewart said. "Today I sent out an email saying, 'Oops,' and I removed town employee emails from the list I used. 

"I goofed, loading the email and including the excel sheet that has town email (addresses). That was a mistake. It was regrettable. It was a private email blast that I accidently put town emails into because I'm not perfect. I've done all I can to remedy that, including notifying department heads. Unfortunately, the barbecue message went out to town employees."
Beth Smith August 14, 2013 at 07:51 AM
Seriously? Wettje is challenging Stewart to write a check for mailings that he said should have been used to cover the cost of postage, envelopes and paper instead of an email; which shouldn't have gone out in the first place? This campaign is hilarious already.
Sara S August 14, 2013 at 09:29 AM
Ahhhh I see Wettje has set the tone of his campaign early on. Thank you Mr Wettje, I had just finished telling people I am so grateful to live in Orangetown where we don't have the political ugliness that the other towns in Rockland do and now I read this....
Ann Marie Hahr August 14, 2013 at 10:13 AM
Great job Walter - all the things that are being swept under the rug need to be brought out along with taking responsibility for things that were not started under Mr. Stewart's tenure as Supervisor. The people of Orangetown need to see the better choice and things that are not being done correctly!!!!
VinnyfromCongers August 14, 2013 at 10:34 AM
An opponent for the position of supervisor? What's that??
Rockland Resident August 14, 2013 at 11:14 AM
Wettje is an obnoxious man who has no place in public office. Come watch him referee a basketball game and watch him treat people with total disrespect.
Eileen McDonald August 14, 2013 at 11:48 AM
Glad Mr. Stewart is being called out on something! He is willing to bash his fellow Supervisors, but when he's called out on doing something for his campaign on taxpayer dollars, his response is "Oops"? Talk about being a hypocrite. This man hasn't been in office a full two years yet, and he is obviously not right for it.
NoName August 14, 2013 at 12:43 PM
It is quite easy to let things happen and then say "oops I didnt know about that" and act like you have not accountability. I say yes, pay back the cost of the mailings and email blast. Its the right thing to do. No matter who did it on your behalf.
Dad01 August 14, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Really? I don't even live in Orangetown (Clarkstown), and this is what the opponent is whining about? OMG! Screwed up mailing lists. What's next? Maybe Stewart is involved in some other nefarious activities. Check his pockets for paper clips. Maybe he's pilfering Sweet and Low packets. Is this what the other guy is running on? This is a platform? I love small town politics.
Hawaii August 14, 2013 at 03:57 PM
Rockland Resident is wrong. Wettje is a very good referee and always respects the coaches and players and the great game of basketball. Besides, he's not running for top referee but rather Supervisor. Rock Resident sounds like a coach who never one the big one.
Phil O'Shea August 14, 2013 at 08:37 PM
In response to Mr. Wettje's comment about Andy Stewart's ethics may I ask him that in the race for supervisor why did he file on the Independence Party line? Incumbents Denis Troy and Tom Diviny also filed on the Independence Party line. http://pearlriver.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/orangetown-candidate-petitions-include-few-surprises The reason I bring up the ethics question is that County Legislator Frank Sparaco controls the Independence Party. He reportedly received money from mob sources to run against Zebrowski in a race for NY senator. I also read in The Journal News that their opinion editor referred to the Independence Party as a legal racket set up to give out party endorsements in exchange for patronage jobs. Sparaco was in the press for recording people in Clarkstown and his mother-in-law was sent to prison for illegal activities associated with him taking control of the Independence Party. In Our Town today the editorial page refers to a patronage job "specifically created for legislator Frank Sparaco at taxpayer expense" in Clarkstown. May I ask if Wettje considers the handing out of party endorsements for patronage jobs as "ethical" and whether in exchange for the endorsement of Sparaco's Independence Party has he, Troy or Diviny made any specific promises of patronage jobs in return? Stewart's mistaken email blasts are of no concern to me when I see that Orangetown may become beholden to those controlling the Independence Party.

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