MONTGOMERY COUNTY -- A spokesman for the New York State Police confirmed Tuesday that they are investigating whether senior Investigator Walter J. Hadsell had informed his supervising officers of a campaign contribution he had given to Montgomery County sheriff candidate Jeff Smith before investigating and then charging Smith's political opponent, James Glorioso Jr., with felony filing a false instrument.
Smith is the Republican candidate and Glorioso is the Democratic challenger.
Glorioso and a notary hired by his campaign, Kirsten Lemire, of Amsterdam, have both been arrested by state police in connection with Glorioso's petition to run as write-in candidate in the Conservative Party primary on Thursday. Lemire was charged with felony swearing a false statement.
Glorioso and Lemire are due for arraignment in Mohawk Town Court Wednesday.
Hadsell was involved in the investigation of Glorioso and Lemire. New York state finance disclosure forms show he also made a $400 contribution to Smith on July 18, 2017 for participation in a golf tournament that was a fundraiser for Smith's election campaign.
Beau Duffy, the New York State Police director of public information, said the charges against Glorioso were made with the approval of Montgomery County District Attorney Kelli McCoski and under the supervision of officers above Hadsell. However, Duffy said the question of whether Hadsell had disclosed his campaign contribution to Smith to the state police hierarchy was currently "under review."
He said no state police policy requires recusal of an officer in an investigation, although officers are trained to step aside when it is appropriate to do so, although no official definition exists for when then would be.
"There is no specific state police policy regarding known conflicts of interest, but members are expected to exercise good judgment when investigating any case," he said.
The complaint that prompted the state police to investigate Glorioso's campaign came from the Montgomery County Board of Elections. That complaint came after a hearing at which the board upheld nine of the 25 objections made against Glorioso's 42 petition signatures, dropping him below the 34 needed to be placed on the ballot. The objections were made by Conservative Party member Cheryl Reese, who is also the clerk of the Montgomery County Legislature and supervisor for the town of Minden.
Reese's objections were supported by information gathered by Benedict Close Jr., a private investigator and a resident of Northville, who interviewed some of the people who had signed Glorioso's ballot petition.
The charges against Glorioso and Lemire stem from allegations that Lemire did not witness all of the signatures she notarized, and that one of the signers of Glorioso's petition, Hector Perez, signed the petition on behalf of his autistic son, Frankie Perez.
Smith has admitted to hiring a private investigator for $100, an expense that said will appear in a future campaign disclosure form, but he has not confirmed hiring Close.
Close confirmed for The Daily Gazette on Aug. 27 that he was hired to investigate the Glorioso campaign, but would not say by whom he was hired.
Campaign finance disclosure forms also show one of Montgomery County's election commissioners, Republican Terrance Smith, of Amsterdam, contributed $100 to Jeff Smith's campaign on Sept. 16. Terrance Smith told The Gazette on Sept. 3 that the contribution was likely made by his wife, Rosemary Smith, chairwoman of the Montgomery County Republican Party, without his knowledge. When asked whether he participated in the Board of Elections decision to file a criminal complaint against Glorioso, Terrance Smith replied, "No comment."
Glorioso and Jeff Smith provided statements reacting to the New York State Police having no official "known conflicts of interest" policy.
Glorioso said he believes it was bad judgment for law enforcement to arrest him for a mistake that rarely results in arrests.
"I didn’t do anything wrong to be arrested by one of Jeff’s supporters and it’s certainly unprofessional for Jeff to make a statement to the media that he has reviewed all of the evidence and deemed me guilty before we have even seen the evidence or went to trial," Glorioso said. "This is exactly the reason why I feel I am the best option to be the next sheriff. I pride myself on having no personal or political ties that would possibly create conflicts of interests like in this case, which right now is exactly what Montgomery County residents need."
Both Duffy and Jeff Smith pointed out that there have been other similar cases in the greater Capital Region of arrests related to Conservative Party petitions. In Queensbury, Supervisor John Strough and his wife, Christianne, were arrested by state police in March. John Strough was charged with a misdemeanor count of second-degree offering a false instrument and Christine charged with three misdemeanor counts of making false statements on a nominating petition.
Glorioso's felony charge puts his eligibility to serve as sheriff in jeopardy. If convicted of a felony, he can not serve as sheriff.
Jeff Smith outlined the circumstances of Hadsell's contribution to his campaign. "A year ago when I conducted a golf tournament fundraiser there were no announced opponents in my election to become sheriff of Montgomery County. We had no idea that if I had an opponent that that opponent would commit a felony. There were many police officers at that golf tournament. I've been a first responder in this county for 30 years. I have relationships with many first responders," he said. "A bipartisan board of elections contacted the state police, which is a non-political entity that conducted a criminal investigation, and I have all of the confidence in the world in their abilities."