TUPPER LAKE — An anonymous phone call has thrown two of four contested races here into a quandary under the Hatch Act.

The Hatch Act is a federal law that says employees working for “programs financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or a federal agency” cannot be candidates in partisan elections.

Village Police Chief Tom Fee earned Republican support to run for town supervisor, and Water and Sewer Superintendent Robert Fuller initiated a Republican bid for town councilor.

Both had sought legal advice before announcing plans to run for office, and both said they did not knowingly violate the law.



FULLER PULLS OUT

Fuller said he has withdrawn from the race, though it’s too late to have his name taken off the ballot.

“I’m sorry to let down the people that supported me,” he said.

“If we are found in violation under the Hatch Act, which the federal Office of Special Council is reviewing, the consequences are very severe for not only myself but also for the village. They could suspend me or terminate my employment.

“Should they choose not to, they — the village — could be subject to very steep fines. In talking with the prosecuting counsel, I explained to him we had researched it or thought we had.

“In order to remove any of that risk, he asked that I make a public apology and explain I will not be able to accept the position should I be elected to it. The violation is running for the office, not holding the office,” Fuller said.

“I have assured him (the federal attorney) if I were successful, I would not accept the office.

“I can withdraw, but they cannot take my name off the ballot because it is too late. I have given this gentleman my word that whatever he advised me would be what I would do. He’s comfortable with that.”



WAITING FOR ANSWER

Fee said he would wait for legal advice from Washington.

“The question is: Have I violated the Hatch Act by accepting the nomination by the Republican Party for town supervisor? That’s exactly the answer I’m waiting for.

“If the gentleman I spoke with in Washington tells me if he thinks it’s a violation, I’m out of the race; I’m not going to argue it. I’m going to apologize to everybody.”



BALLOTS SET

Kathy M. Fleury, Democratic election commissioner at Franklin County Board of Elections in Malone, said both men’s names will be on the ballot Nov. 3.

“The ballots are printed,” she said, and cannot be changed.

Absentee ballots have already been mailed out.

She noted there is no local law preventing municipal employees from running for office.



E-mail Kim Smith Dedam at:

kdedam@pressrepublican.com

Recommended for you