Rancor in Rushville centers on former tire building

Julie Sherwood Gatehouse Media
The Imperial Wrestling Club equipment and material got moved out of the Martin Tire Building in Rushville on Feb. 19. Use of that building, denied by the Village Board, has been a central point in disputes in the village of Rushville — ill feelings that recently have been roiled by an anonymous email and an apparently fake Facebook page.

A tiny village, straddling two towns and two counties in among the most rural areas of Ontario and Yates counties, has given birth to a big controversy.

The battle — rooted in the use of the village-owned Martin Tire building and a former mayor’s efforts to bring a vote to dissolve the village — has risen to a new height, or perhaps a new low. Online comments by a person claiming to be “Ali Burchard” on Facebook, posted after articles on the village issues were published in local newspapers, attacked former mayor Jon Bagley. Bagley is on the hot seat with the current Village Board, and an ally of Bagley shot back in the online exchange.

The attack comments were taken down later in the day. Also deleted was a fake Facebook page for “Ali Burchard” that used a headshot photo of a woman in Pennsylvania who doesn’t have a Facebook page, but whose photo was snatched from an online notice about a professional award she won.

Feb. 19, it appeared one chapter in the long battle over use of the Martin building was over when the Imperial Wrestling Club moved out. But attorneys for the club and the village have yet to settle financial matters regarding the club’s use of the building that came about when Bagley made a handshake deal as mayor.

What’s more, the attorney representing Imperial Wrestling Club received an anonymous email from an unknown source, with an email address that gets kicked back. The email to attorney John Schuppenhauer begins, “You really need to get your client under control… These complete lies and harassment on Facebook.” It went on to refer to signing papers, and stated “If I was the Mayor I would sue her for harassment. This is totally unacceptable. The Club has been decent, but she has been so immature and out of control. I understand there is freedom of speech, but usually that includes truths NOT lie after lie, disrespect after disrespect, makes me sick to my stomach.”

The “she” implied in the email is Jessica Smith, a Middlesex resident who helped Bagley obtain signatures on a petition for a vote on dissolving the village. Smith also does paperwork for Bagley in his real estate business and for Imperial Wrestling Club.

When asked about his response to the anonymous email, Schuppenhauer emailed back that the email was received on his desktop email — as opposed to his central office email — which he uses to communicate with clients or with other attorneys, banks, realtors, or business people that he may have business transactions with.

“Thus there are many people that have this email address,” he said. “The author of the email, however, seemed to know exactly what was to happen on Sunday when the Imperial Wrestling Club (IWC) was removing property pursuant to an arrangement that had been negotiated into the early evening hours Friday, and also seemed to know that the person about whom the email was sent was affiliated with my client, the Imperial Wrestling Club.”

“I have never received from nor have I ever sent an email to this email address,” he said. “As regards the Imperial Wrestling Club matter with the Village of Rushville, I have communicated with my clients and with the Village Attorney using this address. Anyone to whom a recipient forwarded any emails may have then obtained my email address.”

Schuppenhauer asked the writer to identify themself, and added he found the email “rather surprising and alarming… further, it was a direct attack on an individual, that made some rather caustic comments about her, accusing her of ‘lies and harassment’ and calling her ‘immature and out of control,’ and stating that if he or she were the Mayor he would sue her for harassment.

“I cannot speculate as to who the author of the email is, but surmise that this person had knowledge of the arrangement that was reached on Friday between the IWC and the Village of Rushville, and an acute sensitivity to and interest in the outcome thereof.”

After the Feb. 6 Village Board meeting, Smith had filed a complaint with Yates County Sheriff’s Office alleging harassment over remarks Village Board member Holly Krossber made during the meeting — targeting Smith for involvement with Bagley’s petition effort.

Smith said she suspected Krossber might be behind the anonymous bashing.

Krossber said Wednesday she knew nothing about an “Ali Burchard,” and she made her own claims of being harassed. Now in her first term on the Village Board, Krossber said before last year’s election, she collected signatures alongside Bagley as Bagley was running for re-election as mayor and they got along fine. But after Bagley lost the election, she felt he turned against her and the board, pursuing the dissolution vote and not cooperating with attempts to negotiate a plan for IWC use of the Martin building. Krossber said the IWC had no certificate of occupancy and no liability insurance, among other problems she believes also risked the safety of the kids involved with the wrestling club.

“I think it could have been worked out,” said board member Kim Payne. But according to Payne, instead of responding to a proposal from the Village Board, the club “went to the media.”

“They didn’t want to talk,” Payne said.

For his part, Bagley has said the new board put up roadblocks and was against the club using the Martin building from the beginning. As IWC moved its belongings from the Martin building to 2625 Main St. in Gorham, which Bagley recently bought for club use, he said the club spent thousands of dollars and volunteer labor to upgrade the building to give kids “an opportunity.”

Bagley recently also addressed claims his effort to dissolve the village is because he lost the election. Not true, he said. Bagley said he sees value for village residents in dissolving, but when he was mayor “I didn’t think of it,” he said.