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  • Rich Klein

ENDORSEMENT: LaBuda For Sullivan County District Attorney


Acting District Attorney Meagan Galligan could have put a stop to the two tracks of justice in the District Attorney's Office run by her former boss Jim Farrell.

In fact, on June 2, 2019, she could have - as chief assistant district attorney - made sure that retired Town of Fallsburg Judge Isaac Kantrowitz was arrested on the spot and ultimately charged with felony crimes in the reckless driving deaths of two teenagers with Kantrowitz behind the wheel.

That's because in other cases, including many in which there were no deaths or injuries to victims, Farrell and Galligan locked people up and asked questions later. Their collective record shows it loud and clear.

The grand jury employed by Galligan in the Kantrowitz matter was not an attempt by Galligan to clean up a case that Farrell punted on. It was a deliberate attempt to insure that a connected person received the most lenient punishment possible, with prodding from her former boss Steve Lungen, who coincidentally endorsed her too. But nothing to see here, folks.

Galligan conveniently forgot to tell the audience in her debate that grand juries only receive evidence that the District Attorney WANTS them to see. The families of victims say that Galligan told them she would seek felony charges in the case. But Galligan herself later said that a misdemeanor was all that the current law allowed. That's simply not true and she knows it - but she's betting that Sullivan residents don't look carefully at New York State law and court decisions that mimic that Kantrowitz case.

And, when she said in late August at a news conference that Kantrowitz was only driving 62 mph when the State Police said he was going 70 (in a 45 mph zone) it was a big lie. We know that because The SullivanTimes obtained and published the Accident Reconstruction Report that included a detailed affidavit from Trooper Jesse Flanagan. Even the State Police report detailed specific FELONY charges that Kantrowitz could have faced based on their investigation.

The other key reason that Galligan is unfit for the office is Gerard Dietz, who in the mid 1990s was at the center of multiple federal lawsuits that cost taxpayers a fortune for allegedly beating up people of color as a Village of Monticello Police Officer. Despite public concerns at the time, Farrell brought him into his corrupt office as chief investigator that sent a terrible message to all citizens. And kept him there, as Galligan has done since January.

Since the start of Galligan’s campaign, Dietz has spent many hours on Facebook making scurrilous attacks against people who oppose Galligan's candidacy. Ironically, he said that Galligan "beat down" her opponent. Fine choice of words for a man who multiple victims said beat them down as a cop in Monticello.

It’s clear he is getting paid County taxpayer money and being utilized illegally by Galligan to function as an attack dog on her behalf. Dietz would be disciplined or fired for this kind of behavior in any other County in New York State but not in the low standards of integrity that Farrell created for many years and that Galligan has continued unabashedly.

Frank LaBuda is not a perfect human being or candidate. But, his knowledge of the law and experience in life, far exceeds Galligan’s. LaBuda twice served his country overseas, giving up lucrative law firm dollars to do so. Anyone who served during that early 1990's operation risked their lives. When LaBuda notes that during the Gulf War that oil fields were on fire nearby and Scud missile attacks killed Americans, he wasn't making it tup. I followed the Gulf War very closely during that time because my work for the Anti-Defamation League required me to monitor Scud missile attacks against Israel and the U.S. troops in the Middle East. In fact, 28 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard were killed when struck by one of those missiles.

Every veteran should be honored and not one should ever be told that their service was somehow less patriotic than another. Lungen's unpatriotic attack on LaBuda about his military service is no better than Trump attacking the late hero, Senator John McCain. But that’s what Lungen said and that is something even Galligan should have said was wrong ...not just to LaBuda but to every veteran in Sullivan and beyond.

Judges always come under criticism. During LaBuda’s tenure, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct NEVER censured or recommended his removal,unlike our current County Attorney, Michael McGuire, or Kantrowitz himself or David Schiff and others. There are those in the community who say that LaBuda was too harsh in his sentencing and others who said he saved their lives by giving them a second chance. That shows us that LaBuda did his job well. Did he get reversed? Sure, but many judges do for various reasons. But he was elected three times by the people of Sullivan County. Again, if McGuire can be recommended for removal and become County Attorney (with a boost from Schiff who gave his wife a job), why can't LaBuda become DA?

As for a recent attack from Galligan's side that LaBuda had nothing to do with the D.A.R.E program in Sullivan, he was, in fact, the Stop DWI coordinator that was the precursor to the D.A.R.E. program in Sullivan.

LaBuda switched parties from Democrat to Republican. His reasons were murky but he clearly wanted residents to have a choice.

Galligan, a registered Democrat, received the endorsement of Republican Party BOSSES - but then lost the June Republican primary to LaBuda. But she also accepted the endorsement of someone who posted a meme of someone urinating on the Black Lives Matter Movement. And, who claims to be an active member of the National Rifle Association. Most Democrats, including this one, have a problem with a Democratic candidate who can’t say Black Lives Matter and who brags about the NRA, which long ago lost its way as a Second Amendment lobbyist.

Galligan’s boss, the New York State Attorney General, on August 6 charged the NRA “with illegal conduct because of their diversion of millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization for personal use by senior leadership, awarding contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family, and appearing to dole out lucrative no-show contracts to former employees in order to buy their silence and continued loyalty.” The NRA has also employed racist and anti-Semitic messages to appeal to its members. Galligan’s affection for the NRA’s messages and her inability herself to clearly denounce racism and anti-Semitism is appalling. So, Ms. Galligan, kindly spare us the self righteousness about LaBuda's use of an outdated term to refer to Asian Americans, which was a mistake.

Perhaps the best thing about LaBuda is that he is beholden to no one: not the Sheriff’s Office and not the party bosses in the Republican or Democratic Parties, who have made a cesspool of Sullivan County politics. Galligan has campaigned heavily with Sheriff Mike Schiff and Undersheriff Eric Chaboty, who, like Dietz, spend too much time on politics. Those two chased a towing company out of town to hand a virtual monopoly to Prestige Towing (Galligan’s largest campaign contributor). The same day Chaboty announced an alleged problem with another towing company (April 16) he said he was taking his information to Galligan. Chaboty knew he would have Galligan's ear on anything because he was helping her in this race.

Then there’s the Village of Liberty public works scandal. A few weeks before this election, Galligan got one of the three defendants to plead guilty. That came nearly a year since the launch of her investigation. A good Liberty police officer lost his job over this investigation simply because he wanted to alert his wife to avoid the public works department on the day the arrests were made.

Even if that police officer made a mistake, he likely should not have lost his job over it. And, what has not been talked about much, is another man who reportedly took his own life when Galligan and Dietz threatened him with prosecution in the same public works scandal. We'll never know if the allegations made about him were backed up by solid evidence. What a horrific tragedy.

But nobody asked Galligan about that unintended consequence of her overzealous prosecution to make a name for herself at her first news conference (December 2019). And how many years did Galligan allow a gay couple in Parksville to be bullied, harassed and stalked by Joe Peters? At least four years by our count. Until recently, Galligan made a public statement that the dispute in Parksville had nothing to do with hate crimes but about cats. Yes, I can see why Dems have lined up behind her. (The latest indictment, of course, only applies to actions from 2020).

LaBuda spent almost a decade working for Lungen. If he was so terrible, why did Lungen keep him onboard until LaBuda challenged him for the position? And, before Lungen was around, LaBuda worked for the first full time District Attorney in our County, setting up new policies and procedures in that office that were implemented by Lungen, Farrell and Galligan. Galligan also deliberately misled when she said that LaBuda doesn't care about social media when it comes to law enforcement investigations. What he clearly meant was that he wasn't going to be using it in his personal life. Or use it as a political tool to attack citizens, like Dietz has done regularly.

And even if LaBuda is not up to speed on the very latest technology, that doesn't mean that he would not hire those who are. Yet, his call for local police to wear body cameras is smart because it would protect law enforcement and the community. Galligan, who has tried to portray herself as up with the latest technology and a 21st century prosecutor, has not publicly recommended bodycams and neither have those leaders in law enforcement who are backing her.

Leaders surround themselves with others who have expertise and don't brag that they are the best at everything. Galligan has a healthy ego, for sure, but she has much to learn about humility.

As for the current makeup of the DA's office, we hope that, if elected, LaBuda takes a hard look at the roster of ADA's. What's clear, is that the Democratic candidate for DA has made excuses for not finding people of color in those positions to better reflect the community. She could have been working on that since January. But yes, I can see why Dems have supported her.

LaBuda is right to declare war on the drug DEALERS and not the drug users. He's been very clear about that but Galligan has distorted LaBuda's very clear stance on the drug issue. I disagree on both candidates bragging about how well they can fire a weapon since that is not what we expect or need from DA's. But while Galligan accuses LaBuda of giving a gun permit to someone who later threatened someone, Galligan had to have known about the Kantrowtiz driving record long before June 2, 2019.

It's a small County and Kantrowitz was well known. Fallsburg Police (including Chief Simmie Williams, who spoke at her swearing in celebration as Acting DA) knew about his accidents as did the Sheriff's Office. Galligan SHOULD have known about it as part of her job even if her boss Farrell lied when he said he had no idea in the summer of 2019.

Galligan can talk about how much she cares about the families of Devin Zeininger and Justin Finkel but what did she do when police reports came in on the other Kantrowitz accidents from 2016 through 2018, including one where a woman was nearly killed by Kantrowitz on that same Glen Wild Road?

And where is the investigation that was promised by Farrell - that is now in Galligan's area of responsibility - on the death of Rivka Weinman, 6, in Fallsburg in 2014? She was killed when the son of a very rich and influential Sullivan resident was behind the wheel. But, nothing to see here either, folks.

LaBuda is not beholden to the Schiff/Chaboty/Steve Vegliante (SC Democratic leader) machine that has created a feeling among many residents that there are two tracks of justice in Sullivan. Since January, Galligan had a chance to be her own person and separate from the politics. In fact, The SullivanTimes urged her to do just that when she was made Acting District Attorney.

Sadly, she has not only not distanced herself from the corrupt politics that rules Sullivan, she has fully embraced it. As for LaBuda's attempt to create an independent line? I don't see the Attorney General rushing to prosecute him over that. But if we are going to condemn LaBuda for that, then we must equally condemn Galligan for using taxpayer time to campaign with Schiff/Chaboty/Vegliante in recent months.

Whoever wins, I have a message for both candidates: Black Lives Matter (no more than but not less than others). And, swastikas painted in our communities demand condemnation and prosecution as hate crimes.

Even with her indictment this past week in Parksville, no mention of a hate crime even though the evidence was present. But, nothing to see here either, right?

The SullivanTimes endorses Frank LaBuda for his life experience, including as Sullivan's first chief assistant district attorney for nearly a decade, as a defense lawyer, as a town and county judge and military lawyer.

A win by LaBuda would shut down the corrupt party bosses and give us hope that everyone will be treated equally under the law no matter your wealth or influence.


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