Update: O'Mara apologizes for secretly recorded outburst
This updated article includes comments from Joseph Campbell of Gas Free Seneca.
State Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, has issued an apology after a secretly recorded video of his angry outburst at an opponent of Crestwood’s planned LPG storage facility on Seneca Lake was published online by an Albany newspaper.
The video, posted on the Albany Times-Union’s “Capitol Confidential” blog at http://tinyurl.com/lzl4b2p , shows O’Mara and his wife sitting in a vehicle at night, being asked questions by an unidentified man about O’Mara’s support for the LPG facility.
The incident occurred Dec. 13, but it was not clear where it happened.
O’Mara calmly answers the man’s repeated questions about the potential safety risks of the proposed facility for several minutes. Near the end of the video, O’Mara’s wife interjects.
“We love this area,” she says. “He grew up here, his whole life, and protects this area. He would never, ever support anything that would contaminate this area.”
The man then says “hmmm, that’s interesting” in a skeptical tone, which enrages O’Mara.
“What do you mean, ‘that’s interesting?’” O’Mara says, getting out of the car. “What the (expletive) do you mean, ‘that’s interesting?’”
O’Mara then yells profanities and insults at the man.
“I’ve had enough of you and your kind, get the (expletive) out of here! I’ve had enough,” O’Mara yells.
O’Mara issued a statement of apology Tuesday after his tirade caught the attention of the Albany media.
He said he was usually happy to speak with constituents, but didn’t like being approached in his car in a parking lot at night.
“It soon became obvious that this individual’s intent was not to have a brief or friendly discussion and be on his way. Truthfully, it began to feel a little threatening with this person leaning into our car, at close proximity for several minutes and becoming condescending to my wife,” O’Mara said in the statement.
“In hindsight, and especially in light of the fact that he was surreptitiously recording the exchange, I should not have attempted to respond to an unidentified stranger who was clearly looking to give me and my wife a hard time for his own purposes. He picked the wrong time and the wrong place to pull a stunt — a dimly lit parking lot while leaning into someone’s vehicle to secretly record a conversation,” the statement continues.
“It’s regrettable that the exchange ultimately turned heated and, as an elected official, I regret the words and tone that were used. I still don’t like the underhanded tactics, but I should know better,” O’Mara’s statement concludes.
The link to the Times-Union article and the video had been distributed by Gas Free Seneca Tuesday afternoon.
Joseph Campbell of Gas Free Seneca says while that organization did not create the video or orchestrate the creation of the video, he has received mostly “favorable” comments for distributing the link. “As always, nothing regarding gas storage happens around here without the perception that Gas Free Seneca is responsible,” Campbell responded in a Wednesday email.
In a statement released Wednesday Campbell wrote:
“For the past four years Gas Free Seneca has reposted news articles pertaining to the gas storage issue on Seneca Lake on a regular basis. This situation is no different.
“What is different this time is we now know Senator O'Mara's position on the issue. Gas Free Seneca, and scores of Senator O'Mara's constituents, have repeatedly asked the Senator for his assistance in stopping this threat to the Finger Lakes region. Up until the release of the video in question, Senator O'Mara claimed to be ‘neutral’ on the gas storage projects. We now know his position and it is not one of neutrality. Senator O'Mara supports the gas storage projects proposed for Seneca Lake. We felt obligated to let people know this.
"We believe it is unfortunate that the video has become such a divisive issue for some. We also believe it is most important for all of us to keep our focus on doing what we can to keep the gas storage threat at bay. That is our plan. We hope it is yours as well.”
Crestwood’s LPG facility is still under review by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Approximately 170 protesters have been arrested over the past several months outside the company’s property along State Route 14 near Watkins Glen.
O’Mara represents the state’s 53rd Senate District, which includes Steuben, Chemung, Schuyler and Yates counties, as well as part of Tompkins County.