CLIFTON PARK – The chairman of the Clifton Park Republican Committee issued a statement indicating it was perfectly acceptable for the GOP incumbent candidate for town justice to accept an endorsement from the county sheriff.
On Sunday, Democratic and Working Families Party lines candidate Jennifer Jeram issued a statement calling into question incumbent Town Justice James Hughes’ acceptance of an endorsement from Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo, considering Zurlo’s office presents criminal and traffic cases to Hughes.
Jeffery Jones called Jeram’s statement “a blatant act of a desperate campaign trying to create the appearance of a conflict where there is none.”
Hughes and Zurlo didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Hughes has served as town justice since 1982. He has not had an opponent since 1997.
Jones said that Jeram questioning “the ethics of a highly-regarded jurist with no history of ethics violations and to imply a nefarious quid pro quo with a well-regarded law enforcement officer, is disgusting.”
“As an attorney, Ms. Jeram should be ashamed of herself for implying any improprieties or illegalities,” the statement read. “In doing so, Ms. Jeram reprehensibly questions the professionalism and the integrity of all men and women in uniform of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department.”
Jeram, an attorney in the state court system, said she hadn’t attempted to imply a nefarious quid pro quo – nor does she believe anything of the sort.
“I have said from Day 1 that I respect my opponent and all his years of service – that is still the case – but we all make mistakes on occasion and I believe this was a mistake on his part,” she said.
Jones’s statement pointed out that the New York Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics clarifies that a judicial candidate may personally seek and/or accept the support and endorsement of a wide variety of persons and entities, including, but not limited to politicians and candidates for non-judicial office.
But Jeram said the rules of judicial conduct provide that a judge is to avoid the appearance of impropriety in all of his or her activities and act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
“In my opinion, a Town Judge’s acceptance of an endorsement from the very Sheriff whose office appears before him on a regular basis creates the appearance of impropriety, and discourages public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary,” Jeram said.
Jeram said she didn’t imply any illegalities, nor does she believe the endorsement is illegal.
But it was improper for Hughes to accept it, she asserted.
“I am not questioning the professionalism and integrity of all men and women in uniform of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department,” Jeram countered. “To anyone who knows me, that statement is laughable. I work side by side every day with Court Officers and Sheriff’s Deputies and I have great respect for them and their jobs – ask any one of them.”
The election is Nov. 2.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.