Letter to the Editor: Deceit and hegemony win out in Italy elections

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

Hegemony is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as being “the social, cultural, ideological or economic influence exerted by a dominant group.” In the the recent Town of Italy election results we can also include familial political influence. This “D and H” faction consists of a group of direct relations, cousins and in-laws which has traditionally controlled the government, money and direction of the town, except during the past two years when new (and non-related) individuals were elected. I am sorry to report the familial special interest group was successful in electing three more family members to offices.

Margaret Dunn (the Town Justice’s sister) and Jeffrey Hicks (Margaret’s nephew and the Justice’s son) were elected to their former positions. Dick Craig (the town clerk’s husband) was elected for town council. It was a messy campaign, as their opponents were subjected to opposition in the form of missing and damaged campaign signs (up to 80 were reported), personal attacks, and a mountain of misleading and erroneous “information.”

Some of this was delivered in a letter from the town clerk, on letterhead “From the Desk of Debbie Craig-Town Clerk/Tax Collector.” She wrote “...some of my family members have been falsely accused...I thought I would take a moment to offer a thought on each of the candidates up for election.”

She was additionally observed standing in the town hall parking lot on election day, meeting and greeting voters for a full half hour, in what could possibly be considered as a direct violation of state statute. Dubious behavior and deception have unfortunately been the hallmark of this year’s town electoral process.

It was reported in Mr. Hicks’ campaign literature that forthcoming FEMA funds for storm related emergency work and FEMA approved funding for storm related repairs of $162,000, was not a reality and were only unapproved applications which I had submitted. I possess the signed FEMA documents to verify the allocations, approximately $26,000 of which is for work already completed. Our town clerk/tax collector and the town board have had copies of these documents since before the elections, but this misconception prevailed. Between this approved grant money and the now $115,000 that Supervisor Jones negotiated out of a $210,000 legal bill which our (then) new board inherited from Mrs. Dunn’s previous administration, our efforts saved the Town of Italy taxpayers over $300,000. A net lessening of our 2010 property taxes was achieved by this and by renegotiating the health care costs of our Highway Department personnel, who have the highest combined pay and benefit package of similar departments in the county.

Dan Schenk, Brad, and our soon to be defunct (according to Mr. Hicks’ campaign literature) Citizens Highway Committee have secured grants for improving run off problems on Sunnyside Road and for paving a five mile corridor of steep dirt roads. There is potential of securing over $900,000 in additional funding. The applications are in the final approval stages. These types of applications were virtually non-existent before our tenure, as was any substantial contribution to the FEMA approved Yates County Hazard Mitigation plan.

It has been a pleasure working with Brad and Dan and I am proud of what we have accomplished. We maintained a standard of values and fairness during the past two years.

During the election, we stuck to the facts and the issues, and refrained from personal attacks. It is unfortunate that misrepresentations and innuendo concerning residency, integrity and, even the marital status of their opponents were fair game for the campaigners from the “D and H” faction. They prevailed, and by a surprisingly large margin. Albeit patently misinformed, the people of Italy have spoken, and due to what I have witnessed as a most negative and misleading political campaign, conducted for the sole benefit of an inter-related familial special interest group, so have I.

Fred Johnstone