The Clifton Park Republican Committee chairman has resigned, saying in an email to committee members that infighting and backstabbing within the group led to his decision.
Brian Telesh’s resignation, effective Sunday, comes more than a month after allegations that he made anti-gay and anti-Semitic remarks on Facebook and a conservative website long before he became chairman.
In a lengthy email sent Saturday to committee members and provided anonymously to The Daily Gazette, Telesh blasts some “piranha” committee members who he said discussed holding meetings behind his back and spoke to the media after the committee agreed not to comment on the allegations.
“I have said and will continue to say that what the [Times Union] portrayed as my views are not and have never been my views,” he wrote, indicating that the allegations were the result of a smear campaign against him. “I would have expected that my friends and party would have come to my defense and not gone on the attack.”
Telesh has suggested to other media outlets that he didn’t make the Facebook comments and that the comment on the conservative website was made years ago and taken out of context.
Telesh could not be reached Tuesday.
In the email, Telesh defended his stance against gay marriage, saying that’s the platform of the Republican Party. Telesh and other GOP leaders in Saratoga County have been critical of state Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, after he broke ranks last year to vote for legalizing same-sex marriage.
Clifton Park is not in McDonald’s redrawn district.
Although he referred to various people in the committee anonymously as “piranhas” who “create hysteria,” Telesh named two people he said went against him by commenting in an article written in the Community News: longtime town Supervisor Anita Daly and Robert Ritter, who was vice chairman under Telesh but resigned May 30, after the allegations surfaced.
Telesh called that meeting a “failed coup.”
Daly didn’t return a call for comment.
Ritter told The Gazette Tuesday that he never led a coup, but rather advised Telesh to resign and step away from the committee to better serve the party in an important election year.
As soon as it became clear during that meeting that Telesh didn’t plan to step down, Ritter said, he wrote his own resignation from the office of vice chairman on a cocktail napkin and handed it to the secretary, he said. Ritter remains on the committee and has collected petition signatures to run for the seat again in September.
“I resigned quite clearly because Mr. Telesh never admitted or never apologized,” he said. “He made, in my opinion, heinous remarks about a segment of our population.”
Ritter denied that anyone in the committee acts like a piranha.
“We don’t have infighting, and we haven’t had infighting.”
Telesh contended he didn’t even want to be chairman but took the post after other committee members twisted his arm.
“I said NO far more times than I saw yes, which only came after much consternation,” he wrote in the email.
To take the chairmanship, Telesh had to give up his seat on the town Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Assessment Review, both of which he said he enjoyed.