EDITORIAL: LABUDA FOR DA IN TUESDAY’S REPUBLICAN PARTY PRIMARY
While it was disappointing to see retired judge Frank LaBuda switch parties recently, at least now Acting District Attorney Meagan Galligan has a staunch opponent.
And not just any opponent.
His service to this country and county for more than 40 years is not something to sneeze about. He served as Chief Assistant District Attorney from 1978 through 1989, became County Court judge in 1997 and in 2007 was appointed acting State Supreme Court justice.
As for any criticism that LaBuda switched parties before announcing his candidacy, it’s a non-starter. That’s because registered Democrat Galligan has clearly embraced the platform of the Republican Party while campaigning with Sheriff Michael Schiff and her former boss, Jim Farrell, now a county court judge.
And aside from both these candidates’ records, Galligan’s unspoken about-face on Democrats and full-throttled embrace of the Republican machine in Sullivan should be cause for concern in both Democratic and Repubican camps.
Galligan has aligned herself with a Sheriff's Office that helped place a disgraced judge recommended for removal from the bench by his peers into the County Attorney's office. That former judge placed people in handcuffs demonstrating a complete ignorance of judicial power.
“The breadth of Judge McGuire’s misconduct is stunning,” said the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. “He wrongfully ordered people to jail and handcuffed Family Court litigants…” Then, McGuire was “untruthful” about what he did, according to the Commission.
How is that about law and order? Galligan has aligned herself with an Undersheriff who maligned a man and his business in front of the Legislature to steer county towing contracts to Prestige Towing. (Chaboty announced that day that he was meeting with Galligan about half baked “felony crimes” when referring to another tow company). How is that about law and order? Galligan has aligned herself with a Sheriff and Undersheriff who have supported a racist, anti-government group called The Oathkeepers, that also spreads conspiracy theories. That’s a recipe for disorder.
Then, there's the little setup in the Village of Liberty. That's the highly publicized "scandal" that Galligan announced in December with Farrell by her side. It was a show-and-tell for Farrell to boost his protege into the spotlight while corralling his buddies in the Village of Liberty to participate in a political stunt that resulted in some tragic consequences.
And while Galligan went to and spoke at a Monticello barbecue a few weeks ago organized by Schiff and Legislature Chair Rob Doherty in an attempt to improve community and race relations, how many African Americans are currently Assistant District Attorneys in Sullivan? ZERO. Let’s remember also that she’s had about five weeks to make a statement that she would try harder to add diversity to her office in the aftermath of the tragic George Floyd murder.
On June 10, 2020, Galligan posted this to her campaign page:
“As I said on Sunday, I agree with the words of former Human Rights Commission Member Lorraine Lopez, who recognized the excellent work of our local police on behalf of our community and likewise urged us all to recognize and denounce racism when we see it.”
We’d like to believe that Galligan would respond similarly to anti-Semitism. But how about the three painted swastikas that showed up in Narrowsburg and Lake Huntington last year? Galligan, like her then-boss, Farrell, was silent.
She clearly has shown little interest in prosecuting hate crimes. Just look back on how much Joe Peters has gotten away with by harassing a gay couple with two businesses in Parksville for the four years in which Galligan has been Chief Assistant DA and you get the picture.
How about bail reform? Is she with Democrats, who want to modify it or with Republicans, who want the whole thing thrown out? A look at her public statements on that leaves it unclear.
In January, she said: "I am pleased that Senator Metzger is joining other lawmakers in recognizing the urgent and pressing need for our Legislature to address the deficiencies of the current 'bail reform' statute. I will continue to advocate for a common sense bail statute that takes into consideration a defendant’s risk of flight and the danger a criminal defendant poses to public safety and vests prosecutors and judges with the discretion to make individualized bail determinations in every case.” Then this “Democrat” went out and appeared in cozy campaign photos with Michael Martucci (Metzger’s opponent in November), who along with Schiff blamed Metzger directly for the controversial bail reform law.
While none of this likely concerns the majority of Republicans, it should give pause to all citizens in Sullivan.
Farrell, as District Attorney, sought the harshest sentences (including many non-violent drug offenders) for those driving under the influence while deciding not to prosecute people like Alan Berman (son of former Empire Resorts CEO) and Isaac Kantrowitz, both who struck and killed children.
Don’t be fooled by Galligan’s very recent announcement about convening a grand jury (presumably in the Kantrowitz matter) and right before her primary day. Where was she in January and February and early March, especially when her office has had the State Police accident reconstruction report since at least the last quarter of 2019? Unless Farrell did not let her see the report, it’s clear Galligan has had at least three months since the day Farrell won election (early November) and before the coronavirus hit in early March.
Someone who really wanted to send a message of independence (from Lungen, who is representing Kantrowitz) or Farrell could have convened a grand jury in the Kantrowitz matter in January or February.
While it would be nice to see the first woman ever in the DA’s office, Republicans and Democrats alike must look at the track record and judgment of the candidate. Galligan, sadly, has appeared to sell her soul to the power structure that is Team Schiff that includes Farrell and McGuire.
Politics aside, LaBuda’s experience as a prosecutor, on the bench and as a major in the military is simply vastly superior to Galligan’s. By some 30 years.
He was key to the first drug courts in Sullivan as well as an arson task force. He wants the stiffest sentences for drug dealers but believes treatment is the best course of action for non violent drug users. Galligan was taught by Farrell to seek the harshest of sentences for many non-violent drug users and addicts. How many people are incarcerated today, some who contracted coronavirus in Schiff's county jail, because Galligan signed off on some of those prosecutions? We'll wait.
When LaBuda joined the District Attorney’s Office, it was the first time this County had a full time DA. Without LaBuda’s leadership in the late 70’s building that office from scratch, Galligan would not be where she is today. His life experience of prosecutor, judge and as a major in the U.S. Army - including time as a war crimes investigator - give him the experience residents should want in their District Attorney.
The SullivanTimes could have easily rooted for a new District Attorney from a younger generation. And, yes, I would have cheered loudly for the first woman to be in the position. But, she's just not the right candidate.
While many sing Galligan's praises for her intellect and abilities as a prosecutor, it is all overshadowed by her allegiance to those who play politics with the rule of law.
A vote for Galligan on Tuesday only strengthens and solidifies the runaway political train that is Team Schiff, that continues to not have the best interest of Sullivan County residents at heart. Some Republicans have already whispered their concerns about Schiff and Chaboty's unchecked power. (Those Republicans need to speak louder when this campaign is over, either way, or they will preside over more angry protests and public comments at the Legislature for the next three years).
Vote for Frank LaBuda for his experience. From Day 1, he would know how to do this job effectively. His experience as a prosecutor, judge and military officer gives him a life experience to make better calls about prosecution than Galligan, who has only learned about the job from Lungen and Farrell.
And sadly, no one has ever seriously or critically examined the track records of Lungen and Farrell. Had they done so, Galligan might have fled to another County to launch her career.
But the fact is, she knows exactly who they are and decided these are her role models.