Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Candidate's Campaign 'Hiatus' Questioned by John Lauinger - NY Daily News

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Republican Mike Ricatto is back on the campaign trail, spending big bucks to win the Feb. 24 City Council special election.

But did the deep-pocketed businessman from Ozone Park ever really suspend his campaign, as he vowed to do shortly after a tragic accident involving his campaign bus?

Ricatto, 52, pledged to put his stumping on hold on Jan. 6, the same day the bus - driven by a 22-year-old with a suspended license - struck and killed 9-year-old Ibrihim Ahmed as he walked home from school.

"I have suspended all campaign activities until further notice because the reverence for family loss comes before any politics," Ricatto said that day.

Ricatto is running for the 32nd Council District seat formerly held by state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr.

Ricatto spokesman James McClelland said campaigning did not resume until Jan. 10, the day of Ibrihim's funeral, which the candidate attended.

But during the interval his campaign was supposedly on hold, Ricatto paid a weekly newspaper $900 for ads and a computer consultant to launch his Web site, which went live during that time period.

"Some bills had to be paid," McClelland told the Queens News on Friday. "We didn't want to leave anybody hanging, so we just paid those two bills."

The consultant launched the Web site without the campaign's approval, McClelland said, noting the campaign later changed the site to reflect the hiatus.

Ricatto is running in a crowded, seven-candidate field for the nonpartisan special election.

The day after Ricatto suspended his campaign, McClelland hinted that Ricatto might bow out. "We don't know how we are going to move forward," McClelland told The News on Jan. 7.

But, the next day, Ricatto's campaign submitted a Certificate of Acceptance to the city Board of Elections. The document formally states his candidacy.

When asked about the filing, McClelland initially dodged the question, explaining the campaign office remained open only to notify supporters that a Jan. 8 fund-raiser had been cancelled.

McClelland later said the paperwork was filed to meet a deadline. "If we didn't do it and we decided to go forward, we would be unable to do so," he said.