Saratoga County

Builder’s donation in supervisor race $4K over limit

A major Halfmoon developer who contributed $6,000 to town Supervisor Melinda Wormuth’s campaigns exc

A major Halfmoon developer who contributed $6,000 to town Supervisor Melinda Wormuth’s campaigns exceeded campaign finance limits by $4,000 over the course of two separate elections, state records indicate.

Bruce Tanski, of Bruce Tanski Construction and Development, made three separate donations to Wormuth’s campaign committee, Friends of Mindy Wormuth, from 2007 to 2009, according to the state Board of Elections website: $2,000 in 2007, $1,500 in 2008 and $2,500 in 2009. Because of the size of Halfmoon and the lack of primary opponents for Wormuth, he should have been limited to $1,000 for each two-year-election cycle.

“We take full responsibility,” said Wormuth, who said Tanski was refunded $4,000 on Friday. She added that her campaign is changing its finance practices, including the hiring of a new treasurer who has read up on campaign finance laws.

“Obviously we weren’t doing enough,” Wormuth said. “It was an oversight on my part. We are reviewing things.”

State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin said it is the responsibility of the donor and the campaign treasurer to keep track of contribution limits. He noted that the state had no penalties or fees associated with exceeding the limit, but that a county district attorney could prosecute a misdemeanor offense if it was determined that a mistake was knowing and willful.

Democrat Deanna Stephenson, who is running against Wormuth, said she filed a complaint with the state board about a month ago relating to Tanski’s contributions. In the process of researching her own filing requirements, Stephenson said she looked at Wormuth’s filings and saw a red flag. “I was just learning the limits,” she said. “That seemed like a lot of money.”

The board would not comment on whether they were investigating Wormuth’s campaign and Tanski’s contributions, but Stephenson said she received a notification last Saturday about an investigation.

“The behavior in my opinion, is reprehensible,” Stephenson said. “It gives a bad perception because [Tanski] is the main developer in Halfmoon … It would raise a flag.” She added that any business going before the Town Board should have a fair chance, and this could create the perception of influence.

Based on Wormuth’s filings with the state, an overwhelming majority of her individual and corporate donations come from people or companies involved in construction or development. In the case of William Lucarelli, chief operating officer of Clough Harbour & Associates, he and his company donated multiple times to Wormuth since 2007 but did not exceed the state limit. Lucarelli could not be reached for comment for this story.

Wormuth rejected the idea that contributions to her campaign could buy favorable treatment and argued that some of her contributors have had the town rule against them. “I don’t see a connection at all,” she said. “These are business people who appreciate the way the town is run and appreciate good leadership.”

Wormuth said that some of her contributors will either have business before her or may come before her in public forums, but stressed: “To me, it’s not an issue.”

In the campaign against Stephenson, Wormuth she said she will be getting more small donations than large ones, citing the 250 people who turned up for a recent event. She added that her support is widespread, with people who can’t donate helping out by giving time or by posting a sign on their lawn.

Based on information culled from the state records, Tanski is a regular contributor to Saratoga County Republican politicians. Based on filings from 2000 to 2011, the contributions to Wormuth represent his only violation.

Additionally, he gave $2,000 in two years to the Halfmoon Republican Club and $3,000 to the Halfmoon Republican Committee over three years.

He did not return a voice message left at his work.

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