MONTICELLO – The Sullivan County race for district attorney seems to have taken an ugly turn as parties endorsing Acting DA Meagan Galligan look into the alleged actions of Frank LaBuda, the Republican nominee.
LaBuda fired back saying the party bosses are using ‘bullying tactics” that are “entirely about their own political self-preservation after desperately trying and failing to anoint their chosen candidate for district attorney without an election by the people.”
Party leaders, though, said the issue stems from allegedly fraudulent petitions. “There has been some egregious conduct in the filing of independent petitions in the race for DA by Frank LaBuda,” said Steve Vegliante, who chairs Sullivan County’s Democratic committee.
Vegliante, who was joined by other political party leaders at a news conference on the steps of the county courthouse on Tuesday, outlined how the petitions contained outright forgeries and that they had been reviewed and submitted personally by LaBuda.
Galligan has been endorsed by Democratic, Conservative and Independence parties, and they are seeking a public integrity investigation by the state Attorney General into LaBuda’s petitions, which they claim included 882 invalid signatures, out of 1,477 signatures submitted for his candidacy.
The allegations include the forged signatures of Michael Mednick, his wife, Shari, and their address stated as a housing development where they do not reside. It is also believed the signatures of Robert and Maureen Velten and Dennis and Michelle Denenberg are also forgeries.
“We think there’s a clear case for a criminal prosecution here,” said Vegliante, who is an attorney.
LaBuda retired as a Sullivan County court judge in December 2019 during a 22-year tenure marked by long absence when he was under a criminal investigation for injuring his brother, Peter, after allegedly running him over with an ATV.
Len Bernardo, an Independence Party committeeman, called for LaBuda to drop out of the race against Galligan.
“It’s really a terrible issue. The real problem is that we have to do it right,” said Bernardo. “It’s unconscionable. He should resign his candidacy immediately.”
Vegliante said LaBuda switched political parties from Democrat to Republican in February when Galligan received the Democratic endorsement and Governor Cuomo declined to appoint LaBuda as acting DA.
LaBuda forced and won a primary election on the Republican line and had been seeking a second independent line under the name “For the People.”
The former judge said in securing signatures for the third-party line, “some volunteers may not have followed the technical requirements for a petition.”
LaBuda said he welcomes a “full and fair investigation of the Boards of Elections’ practices to register new and other voters, and the party bosses’ attempts to control candidates in this election, by the State Board of Elections as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Voter Fraud for the Southern District of New York.