A Flower Hill trustee running for mayor has filed an ethics complaint with the village alleging that the village administrator is favoring one side in March’s election.
In an email to residents sent Thursday morning, attorney Kate Maguire Hirsch, representing the Liberty Party, accused Ronnie Shatzkamer, who serves as village administrator and chief election officer of Flower Hill, of giving assistance to the Flower Hill Party in the upcoming village elections for mayor and three trustee spots.
Hirsch has filed a complaint on Shatzkamer to the village’s ethics committee.
The accusation comes two days after the Nassau County Board of Elections, deciding on a petition objection filed by Hirsch last week, ruled the Flower Hill Party’s nominating petitions valid.
“I am disappointed to report that in denying my objection the Nassau County Board of Elections completely ignored my challenge to the improper activity occurring in Village Hall,” Hirsch wrote in the email. “The objection I filed to my opponent’s petition was based on my suspicion that the Village Administrator was working with the Flower Hill Party on their campaign, including assisting with the petition…It is [Shatzkamer’s] responsibility to prepare ballots, obtain the voting machines, hire poll workers and the like. On the contrary, she absolutely should not campaign on behalf of any Village candidate, especially on Village time.”
Text messages obtained by Hirsch through a Freedom of Information Law request show conversations with Shatzkamer, Flower Hill Party mayoral candidate and Deputy Mayor Brian Herrington, and Flower Hill Party trustee candidate and sitting Mayor Robert McNamara. Hirsch claims them as proof of Shatzkamer’s “collusion” with the party.
“The Village Administrator’s texts show that during regular work hours and from her office at Village Hall, the Village Administrator solicited the assistance of one of my neighbors to help the Flower Hill Party ‘any way she can’ at the expense of the Liberty Party; provided Brian Herrington (at his express request) with the names and private cell phone numbers of multiple Village residents and/or Officials who she believed could possibly help his campaign; researched voter rolls on behalf of Robert McNamara to assist with the preparation of the Flower Hill Party Petition; coordinated media coverage of Brian Herrington’s campaign; alerted Brian Herrington of private meetings I had with Village residents to discuss my campaign; and supervised Village staff who provided notification to her of my activities so that she could relay any information to Brian Herrington,” Hirsch wrote.
Hirsch also said that she received the results of her FOIL the day after the Board of Election’s decision was announced.
“My challenge was based on my legitimate concern that I, along with my fellow Liberty Party candidates, do not stand a chance in this election if the person running it wants to see our opponents win,” Hirsch wrote. “Though I have been a Village Trustee for over three years, the Village Administrator stymied my legitimate FOIL requests that would have uncovered this collusion and supported my claim to the Board of Election. When I did receive the text evidence just [Wednesday], it left me stunned and in disbelief over the corruption my opponents and the Village Staff have engaged in over a Village election for a volunteer position.”
Hirsch, an attorney, also said in the email that she hopes her ethics complaint will be “fairly and unbiasedly reviewed and decided.”
“I intend to campaign with renewed vigor and determination from now until March 18, 2020,” Hirsch wrote. “My platform will be centered on a solemn promise that if elected Mayor, I will root out the corruption at Village Hall and provide a fair and level playing field for all residents in whatever dealings they have with the Village. As taxpayers of this Village, all residents are entitled to be treated fairly and with dignity and respect.”
Shatzkamer submitted a statement to Blank Slate Media responding to the accusation.
“The bipartisan Nassau County Board of Elections found Ms. Hirsch’s complaint has no merit,” Shatzkamer said. “I am confident that the Village Board of Ethics will do the same.”
Herrington called the allegations “false” in a statement to Blank Slate Media.
“For over twenty years, I have worked in the public and private sector, including many high-profile elections, and I have never encountered such vitriol and twisting of the facts,” Herrington said. “Unfortunately, it seems that is the world we live in today and it is seeping into our Village politics. In all my years of public service, I have never, ever been accused of corruption or misusing any position.”
The deputy mayor further said that the texts were “taken out of context” and that they did not “provide a complete and total understanding” of the situation.
“Twisting this into corruption or collusion type accusations is just unwarranted and damaging to our hard-working Village staff, ” Herrington said.
Herrington also said that he welcomes “an unbiased review of the facts.”
“I believe in open and fair elections and allowing the people to decide who should represent them, not commissions or courts,” Herrington said. “This is why the Flower Hill Party chose not to contest or object to our opponent’s petitions, even though a review by the Board of Elections could have revealed errors or disqualified Liberty Party signatures.
“Even after having Republican and Democratic Election Commissioners at the Nassau County Board of Elections validate our petitions it seems that Ms. Hirsch is trying to find new ways to attempt to knock us off the ballot or smear someone’s reputation instead of running on her platform,” he continued. “My team continues to focus on communicating our vision for the Village, which includes transparent government, and we look forward to hearing the voters’ voice on Election Day.”
In response to Herrington’s statement, Hirsch told Blank Slate Media that she was “disappointed” that “Herrington refuses to be transparent.”
“There can be no question that these communications conclusively demonstrate that the Chief Election Officer of Flower Hill is working hand in hand with Brian to help him win this election,” Hirsch said. “Now, instead of owning up to what he did, Brian is trying to deflect attention from his own misdeeds by taking cheap and insulting shots at me, someone he has worked with for over three years and whose assistance he sought in this election only two months ago. Brian and the Flower Hill Party have a well-financed political machine at work. He is receiving campaign donations from across Long Island, including from PACs, to ensure his success in this election for a volunteer position in our community.
“I, along with my running mates, are running an old-fashioned campaign to get out the vote by getting out into the community, speaking with residents and finding out what is on their minds. We have not taken one cent in donations.” she continued. “I only hope that from this point forward Brian utilizes his resources to run a fair and open campaign so that we can let the system work the way it is supposed to – by letting the residents of Flower Hill decide who they want to run their Village.”
The Liberty Party slate includes trustee candidates Jay Silverman, Jeffrey Greilsheimer and Diane Turner.
The slate will go up against representatives of the Flower Hill Party, which include sitting Trustees Randall Rosenbaum and Gary Lewandowski, in addition to McNamara, for trustee positions.
The Village of Flower Hill’s election will take place on March 18, from 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.