- Rich Klein
EXCLUSIVE: Galligan, Farrell Want Jared Hart In DA's Office To Stop A Campaign By McGuire
Updated: May 3, 2022
County Court Judge Jim Farrell and embattled District Attorney Meagan Galligan have been working quietly to recruit Kauneonga Lake criminal defense attorney Jared Hart to the DA's office as a senior district attorney, a source with intimate knowledge of the situation told The SullivanTimes on Monday.
The scheme was recently hatched to position Hart to later move easily into the Acting District Attorney's position when Galligan formally announces that she is running to become a judge in the 3rd Judicial District.
The source said that the idea to bring Hart into the DA's office is at least partially to prevent County Attorney Michael McGuire - the former disgraced County Court judge removed from the bench by the New York Court of Appeals - from running and winning the next election for District Attorney.
That election would take place in November 2024.
Hart, who donated $500 to Farrell's campaign for county judge in 2019 and a member of the Board of Directors of the Sullivan County Bar Association, said late Monday in an email reply to The SullivanTimes:
"I do not have a comment on this but I would never seek public office for the purpose of blocking another person from doing so."
Multiple sources have told The SullivanTimes over the past year that Galligan has a serious backlog of murder and other felony cases that have yet to be prosecuted. They include the brutal death of Swan Lake resident Ira Zolchonock in May 2021. No one has been arrested in that case.
Since Galligan became Acting DA in 2020 and DA in 2021, she has struggled to retain assistant district attorneys, including a few who worked for years under then-DA Farrell. She has said publicly to the County Legislature in seeking to fill vacant positione that ADA's left Sullivan for other counties where they could earn more money. However, multiple sources in the court system have said that she is a poor manager and that some of the ADA's who have departed did not like her management style.
One high-level departure from Galligan's office was Robert L. Zangla, who was once the chief assistant DA under Farrell. Zangla took a pay cut to leave Galligan's office and go to work for McGuire last year.
In addition, Gerard Dietz, the veteran senior investigator for the DA's office first hired by Farrell following a long career as police officer in the Village of Monticello, retired in 2021. But, sources said that Dietz departed at that time because he was unhappy that Galligan prosecuted Monticello Police Officer Thomas Benjamin in a taser incident involving a Black man on a motorbike.
Despite McGuire's tarnished record as a disgraced judge and who has been harshly criticized for his behavior as County Attorney, he reportedly has already locked up the all-important political support of Sheriff Michael Schiff and his Republican machine ("Team Schiff") that controls elections in Sullivan County. Undersheriff Eric Chaboty is also intimately involved in local GOP politics. McGuire's wife, Corrine, is also an employee in Schiff's office, who reportedly beat out 10 other civil servants for the job.
Team Schiff and the Sullivan County Republican Committee wholeheartedly cross-endorsed Galligan, a Democrat, in 2020, enabling her to defeat Republican candidate Frank LaBuda, who had reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 as county court judge.
Meanwhile, Farrell's reported involvement to recruit Hart appears to be a violation of Part 100 of the Office of Court Administration's Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.
Below is a key excerpt from those rules that pertain to the current situation:
Section 100.5 A judge or candidate for elective judicial office shall refrain from inappropriate political activity.
(A) Incumbent Judges and Others Running for Public Election to Judicial Office.
(1) Neither a sitting judge nor a candidate for public election to judicial office shall directly or indirectly engage in any political activity except (i) as otherwise authorized by this section or by law, (ii) to vote and to identify himself or herself as a member of a political party, and (iii) on behalf of measures to improve the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. Prohibited political activity shall include:
(a) acting as a leader or holding an office in a political organization;
(b) except as provided in Section 100.5(A)(3), being a member of a political organization other than enrollment and membership in a political party;
(c) engaging in any partisan political activity, provided that nothing in this section shall prohibit a judge or candidate from participating in his or her own campaign for elective judicial office or shall restrict a non-judge holder of public office in the exercise of the functions of that office;
(d) participating in any political campaign for any office or permitting his or her name to be used in connection with any activity of a political organization;
(e) publicly endorsing or publicly opposing (other than by running against) another candidate for public office;
(f) making speeches on behalf of a political organization or another candidate;
(g) attending political gatherings;
(h) soliciting funds for, paying an assessment to, or making a contribution to a political organization or candidate; or
(i) purchasing tickets for politically sponsored dinners or other functions, including any such function for a non-political purpose.
Aside from the high-profile case of Isaac Kantrowitz - in which Galligan lied about the speed the former judge was driving at when he struck and killed two teenagers in Rock Hill in 2019 -
two people who did not want to be identified told The SullivanTimes that she has also been ineffective at communicating with other families of crime victims since becoming DA.
(THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY)