Broadalbin Town Board member Dave Bardascini is one of five elected local officials in New York state that the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism has identified as a current or former member of an anti-government extremist group called the Oath Keepers.
On Friday, Bardascini, a retired Amsterdam police officer, confirmed he was an Oath Keeper at one time.
“I was a member of the Oath Keepers. Was is the key word,” Bardascini said. “I’m not a member of the Oath Keepers. I was, now I’m not. All I’m telling you, I was an Oath Keeper. I haven’t been an Oath Keeper for many years.”
The U.S. Dept. of Justice has accused the Oath Keepers of being a far-right extremist group that played a key role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, prosecuting 11 of its members so far on charges of seditious conspiracy, including Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes III.
This newspaper has not confirmed the identities of the other four elected officials in New York state that the Anti-Defamation League has said were part of a list of 38,000 names obtained from a data cache published by the non-profit journalist collective called the Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets).
Earlier this month, the ADL posted a report and an interactive map, titled “The Oath Keepers Data Leak: Unmasking Extremism in Public Life,” to its website adl.org. According to the report, the names were derived from emails dated from Jan. 13 to Sept. 19, 2021, and chatroom records from “Rocketchat” from June 22 to June 26, 2020, and Feb. 5 to Sept. 19, 2021.
The full data cache has not been released on the organization’s website, and it has been withholding most of the names, choosing only to release the names of elected officials or candidates for office it could independently confirm.
“We have sought to confirm every elected official or 2022 candidate included in the final total, based on public reporting, public statements made by the individual in question, or by comparing the information provided to the Oath Keepers with the official’s public filings, public records, or online posts containing phone numbers, email addresses, or physical addresses,” Jake Hyman, an Anti-Defamation League spokesman, stated in an email to the newspaper.
First elected to the Broadalbin Town Board in 2019, Bardascini has been involved in well-publicized controversies in the past, including having organized a “Rally to Free NY” on May 1, 2020, to protest coronavirus mandates from then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The rally was held at the roundabout where Routes 30 and 29 intersect in Vail Mills. The event was coordinated with other protests in New York state on the same day, including one in Albany.
Prior to the pandemic in February 2020, Bardascini led the Broadalbin Town Board in passing a resolution supporting making Fulton County a so-called Second Amendment Sanctuary County, stating the “2A Sanctuary” would make it so the county government could not fund any regulations of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, also known as the SAFE Act. The resolution did not have any legal effect on the county’s funding streams.
On Friday, when contacted by this newspaper, Bardascini would not elaborate on his reasons for why he ever joined the Oath Keepers nor why he quit. He would not say precisely when he left the group, but said it was “long before” the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, an effort to prevent the lawful transition of power from former President Trump’s administration to the administration of President Biden.
“Because that was my choice, and my reasons for leaving are really none of your business,” Bardascini said.
As a result of the Department of Justice cases against 11 Oath Keepers on seditious-conspiracy, charges, three have pleaded guilty: William Todd Wilson, Joshua James and Brian Ulrich, all of whom have agreed to participate in the ongoing investigation of Jan. 6 as part of plea deals.
Although about 850 people have been arrested and charged with crimes associated with the Jan. 6 insurrection, members of the Oath Keepers were the first people charged with seditious conspiracy. This past June, five members of the Proud Boys, including their former chairman Enrique Tarrio, were also charged with that crime.
U.S. federal law describes seditious conspiracy as when a group of people conspire to overthrow the government of the United States or hinder the execution of its laws, such as the Electoral Count Act, which the riot on Jan. 6 disrupted. Punishment for seditious conspiracy can include up to 20 years in prison.
A 12th person the U.S. Justice Dept. has identified as being an Oath Keeper — Michael Greene, 39, of Indianapolis, Indiana — was also charged with seditious conspiracy on June 24.
“As alleged in the indictments, the Oath Keepers are a large but loosely organized collection of individuals, some of whom are associated with militias,” reads the June 24 press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington D.C. announcing Greene’s arrest.
“Though the Oath Keepers will accept anyone as members, they explicitly focus on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement, and first-responder personnel,” reads the U.S. Attorney’s news release.
The ADL’s report on the Oath Keepers included that the organization has identified 373 individuals in the Oath Keepers database that are currently serving in law enforcement agencies across the country and more than 1,000 individuals ADL believes previously served in law enforcement.
The report says New York state has 45 active law enforcement officers that were listed among the 38,000 names, the highest number of any state, but the ADL has said it will not release the names of the police officers.
“We cannot provide the names of individual law enforcement officers or military personnel as this report is not meant to dox rank-and-file personnel,” reads an email response from Hyman. “ADL has been in contact with each law enforcement agency affected by our report and we continue to work with them in addressing the challenges of extremism within their ranks.”
Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino Friday said no one from the ADL has communicated with him regarding the possibility that the names of any law enforcement officers in Fulton County were included among the 45 the ADL believes it has confirmed to be active law enforcement.
“They did not contact me or my agency and identify anyone to us,” Giardion said. “As a result of the last interview [conducted with this newspaper], I sent them two emails. I said ‘l understand there is a list that identifies current and former members, and I’m asking if you could send me any information on any [Oath Keeper] members in my county that may be involved in law enforcement who work for my agency, or did work for my agency, I’d like to know that.'”
Giardino said he received an automated response from the ADL indicating that someone from the organization would get back to him, but even after sending a second email, he said, that hasn’t happened yet.
The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday voted unanimously to put Giardino in charge of leading a “Threat Assessment and Management Team” assigned the task of creating the county’s state-mandated “Domestic Terrorism Prevention Plan,” which is due to the New York state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) no later than Dec. 31.
Gov. Kathy Hochul issued Executive Order No. 18 on Aug. 9 requiring the creation of the prevention plans to combat “domestic extremists,” defined as individuals or groups that target “critical infrastructure; soft targets and mass gatherings; faith-based institutions, such as churches, synagogues, and mosques; institutions of higher education; people of different races and religions; government facilities and personnel; the media; and perceived ideological opponents.”
Giardino said he doesn’t know how the Threat Assessment and Management Team will chose to address the issue any any local individuals associated with the Oath Keepers.
“I think it’s a little premature to pick one name of a guy who claims he was a prior member and make any conclusions based on that,” Giardino said. “The way I understood our obligation is to set up these teams so we can review the information we received, so we can have a plan of action ahead of time to see if anything triggers it, so membership in an organization may bring questions, but I think what the individual posts on social media, what the individual says publicly, or other actions they take, will be factored into whether some are deemed that they should be looked at.”
Giardino described what he believes is his mandate as leader of the Fulton County’s Threat Assessment and Management Team, which also includes the police chiefs from Gloversville and Johnstown.
“The point is they are trying to cut off these domestic incidents ahead of time, and without more data and having the task force plan in place, I think it would be premature for me to say ‘this meets the criteria and this doesn’t’,” he said. “Some groups I think are higher profile. Obviously, if somebody was a member of the KKK, and had posted things or flyers or things that would be a big red flag, we should look at it, or actual threats, or veiled threats, those would be things we’d look at, but until we have our plan in place and have had our team meetings with our full guidelines, I know that the executive order that they distributed says ‘organizations like this or that’ but it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone in a particular organization agrees with every principle of that organization.”
Giardino’s comments echo a cautioning statement issued by the ADL in its report.
“An individual’s inclusion in the Oath Keeper database is not proof that they were or are still an Oath Keeper, that they hold or held all or some of Oath Keeper ideology or viewpoints, or that they ever actively participated in Oath Keeper activities,” cautions the ADL report. “When reviewing this information, you should bear in mind the possibility that the individual misunderstood the nature of the Oath Keepers. Before taking any action based on this information, an individualized assessment of the individual must take place.”
This report contains material from The Associated Press.