Sunday, December 21, 2008

2 Election Board Panelists May Have Broken Rules by Greg B. Smith - NY Daily News

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Board of elections commissioners are not supposed to run for office while they're on the board - but that didn't stop two of them from doing just that.

Commissioners Anthony Como and Jay Savino actively campaigned for office while raising money from board employees, a Daily News investigation found.

Commissioners oversee the voting process and could have enormous influence on election outcome. They certify results, approve hiring of poll workers and maintain ballot machines and certify petitions of candidates.

Como, a Queens Republican appointed commissioner in 2005, set up a campaign committee to run for a City Council seat on Jan. 16, records show.

On his committee authorization application, Como signed a sworn affidavit saying: "I am a candidate for election to the office as stated above."

Though still a commissioner, he immediately began raising a steady flow of small checks, usually $100 to $250, records show.

He also began spending what he raised, hiring campaign workers, renting a campaign headquarters in Ozone Park and sending out a mailing, records show.

He appeared at candidates' nights, sparring with rivals at a Glendale Property Owners Association event April 3.

Around that time, eight board employees made $100 to $250 donations totaling $1,000 to Como, records show. At the time, Como was one of 10 commissioners who vote on board employees' appointments, promotions and sick pay.

The law says no public servant "shall compel, induce or request any subordinate public servant to pay any political assessment, subscription or contribution."

A district leader who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Como sent out a letter seeking financial support for his Council campaign and that numerous Republican board employees got it.

John Ward, the $87,490-a-year finance officer for the board and a Queens Republican district leader, said he couldn't recall receiving such a letter.

Nonetheless, Ward wrote a $250 check to Como's Council campaign on March 31. He was vague when asked how he knew to write a check: "I think I heard he was having some sort of a meet-and-greet in his neighborhood. Not a fund-raiser or anything. Just some neighborhood people coming by. I knew him before he was a commissioner. I went by and wrote him a check."

Four other board employees - all Queens Republicans - wrote $100 checks to Como's campaign at the same time as Ward. None returned calls seeking comment.

A flyer obtained by The News invites people to a "Campaign Kickoff" at "Como For City Council Headquarters" in Glendale. It's dated March 29, while Como was still a commissioner.