Prominent Halfmoon land developer Bruce Tanski pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor election law violation Friday in Saratoga County Court.
Tanski, involved in a scandal that last year caused the Halfmoon town supervisor to resign, is expected to be sentenced to three years’ probation and community service on Jan. 16.
Tanski entered the plea before Judge Jerry J. Scarano after initially being indicted in August on a felony charge that could have sent him to prison, as well as misdemeanor charges.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office said Tanski pleaded guilty to making a campaign contribution under a false name, a violation of election law.
Specifically, on April 2, 2013, he admitted using another person to contribute $1,000 of his own money to Friends of Mindy Wormuth, the former Halfmoon supervisor’s re-election campaign committee. At the time, Wormuth had lost the support of the town Republican Committee, but was planning to still run for re-election. She later dropped those plans.
Tanski, 68, was indicted on charges of using false donors during 2013 to funnel $6,000 in contributions to Wormuth’s re-election campaign, including a felony charge of filing a false business record. He allegedly used six “straw donors” to funnel separate $1,000 contributions to Wormuth’s campaign, having already contributed as much as he was legally allowed.
State and federal law enforcement have been probing Halfmoon politics for nearly three years, though Wormuth and Tanski and two alleged straw donors are the only people to face charges.
“Public corruption undermines faith in government and confidence in our public officials,” Schneiderman said in a statement on the plea. “Today’s guilty plea is the latest example of our commitment to ensuring there is one set of rules for everyone and to rooting out public corruption wherever and whenever we see it.”
Tanski’s attorney, William Dreyer of Albany, said there would be no comment on the plea.
Tanski has contributed close to $140,000 to Republican candidates and party committees since 2008. Democrats in Halfmoon have said this raises questions about his influence. Among those who have received significant donations are state Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, a former town supervisor and Saratoga County clerk.
Over the last 40 years, Tanski and his company, Tanski Construction & Development, have built large apartment and single-family homes throughout the town and in other communities, as well as developing commercial projects, including the Fairways of Halfmoon golf course and surrounding 150-home housing development. He also owns a large apartment complex in Wilton.
The Republican Party has total control over government in Halfmoon, which has been among the fastest-growing towns in the Capital Region for more than two decades. Tanski frequently has development proposals before town review boards.
He was a member of the town Republican Committee, though he resigned in August following his indictment.
On Friday, co-defendants Katina Fogarty of Colonie and Nicholas DiNova Jr. of Halfmoon, two of the alleged straw donors, entered pleas that will have their misdemeanor charges dismissed if they stay out of trouble for six months. Fogarty works for Tanski, while DiNova is described as a business associate.
The plea is the latest development in an ongoing political scandal in Halfmoon that last year forced Wormuth’s resignation. Wormuth, 47, was accused in 2013 of influence peddling, as well as taking thousands of dollars given to her campaign for her personal use. She resigned in November 2013, a month after her arrest.
Wormuth’s federal trial on an influence-peddling charge is scheduled to start Nov. 24 before Judge Gary L. Sharpe in U.S. District Court in Albany. On Friday, however, both prosecutors and defense attorneys asked the judge for an additional 30 days to prepare for the trial.
Also Friday, federal Magistrate Judge Randolph F. Treece issued an order preventing the public release of Wormuth’s medical record, though it was discussed in an open court hearing Oct. 15. The Times-Union and Daily Gazette had sought audio recordings of the hearing, but those requests were denied.
The hearing was held after a pretrial services officer visiting Wormuth’s home Sept. 30 suspected she had been drinking, according to Treece, and she called her attorney rather than submit to a test. Wormuth’s release conditions include that she refrain from excessive alcohol use and comply with any requests for mental health evaluations.
Wormuth’s conditions of release were not changed following the hearing.
Wormuth may also face a state trial on the charges of converting $6,200 in campaign donations to personal use.