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Nov 1, 2011 4:52 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Democrats' Complaint About Budget Officer Forwarded To Ethics Board

Nov 1, 2011 5:40 PM

The East Hampton Town Board of Ethics will review emails sent by Budget Officer Len Bernard to the state comptroller’s office and auditors regarding supervisor candidate Zachary Cohen, after the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee charged that Mr. Bernard had used his work computer for political purposes.

Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, a Republican who appointed Mr. Bernard in 2010, said on Tuesday that he stands by the budget officer but forwarded the Democrats’ complaint to the Board of Ethics that morning.

“I am clearly going to stand up and come to the defense of Len Bernard,” Mr. Wilkinson said, “not as partisan defense, but as defense of a person that worked for the government accounting office in Washington, D.C., for a person that worked for the financial offices of Brookhaven, for a person that worked for the Sag Harbor School District, for a person that worked for two administrations in this town.”

Last week, Mr. Bernard sent reporters a batch of emails he received from Ira McCracken, a chief examiner for the state comptroller’s local office, and David M. Tellier, a partner with the accounting firm Nawrocki Smith LLP, over the last year in which the auditors said Mr. Cohen did not work with them or contribute to their analyses of the town’s finances. Mr. Bernard released the correspondences in an attempt to counter claims Mr. Cohen has made throughout his campaign, including in stories that appeared in newspapers last week.

On Monday, Democratic Committee Chairwoman Jeanne Frankl called for an investigation by the Board of Ethics into what she called “political and campaign activity conducted by Town Budget Officer Len Bernard on town time from his town office using the town computer system or on his town phone.” Any findings of wrongdoing, she said, should be passed on to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

“This is what Zach Cohen has been talking about all during his campaign,” Ms. Frankl said in a press release. “The budget office is being run by a political operative and not a financial professional with a non-partisan approach to managing the Town’s finances. Mr. Bernard has used the influence of his official role as the town’s budget officer in an attempt to harm Zach Cohen’s campaign.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Bernard defended his correspondence with the state comptroller’s office, saying he was complying 
with a request made by Mr. McCracken on May 2 asking Mr. Bernard to “please keep us updated regarding Mr. Cohen’s assertions.” He called the Democrats’ complaint a “hoax” and “diversion” that bespeaks desperation on the part of their campaign.

“It wasn’t political,” Mr. Bernard said. “I was doing my 
job. That’s what’s so frustrating.” He added that the idea that he could incite the comptroller’s 
office to do anything is laughable.

Mr. Bernard said he received a campaign pamphlet from the Democratic Committee in September in which Mr. Cohen was described as a “financial analyst” for the state comptroller’s office. He said he alerted Mr. McCracken’s office to the pamphlet in an email. On September 30, the comptroller’s office sent a cease-and-desist letter to Mr. Cohen demanding that he stop referring to himself as a financial analyst for the department. The next week, Mr. Cohen’s campaign contacted the comptroller’s office and said it would no longer refer to “relationships” with the department, according to a copy of an email from Mr. McCracken.

In an October 10 email to Mr. McCracken, cited by the Democratic Committee as an example of Mr. Bernard trying “to incite the state comptroller against Mr. Cohen,” Mr. Bernard said Mr. Cohen had denied receiving the cease-and-desist letter. “This is getting more out of hand,” Mr. Bernard wrote. “He will not stop. If you can’t give me a copy of the letter, can you at least give me the date it was signed and mailed to him? That would help in stopping the lies and misinformation that he is perpetrating on the public. I have never seen someone fabricate a relationship with an independent investigative agency to garner votes in a local election.”

Mr. Cohen received the cease-and-desist letter on October 5, and told a reporter that day that he was unaware of it because it was still in his mailbox at the time. The reporter then told Mr. Bernard that Mr. Cohen was unaware of the letter, according to Mr. Bernard.

Mr. Bernard, a Republican, said he was honoring Mr. McCracken’s request that he be kept up-to-date about Mr. Cohen’s claims. “I was asked by the comptroller to keep him informed and I did,” he said. He acknowledged using his work computer to correspond with Mr. McCracken about Mr. Cohen, but said it was part of his official duties.

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Cohen got caught - period. He did not obviously know the comptroller was on to him for many months before printing the misleading information and sending it to everyone in the town. In predictable fashion he attacks the person who was asked to be the messenger for the comptroller. I guess the question is: What if Bernard refused to keep the comptroller's office apprised of Cohen's claims as the comptroller requested? Where would that leave Bernard? And what if Bernard did not question Cohen's ...more
By hohum123 (91), springs on Nov 1, 11 6:33 PM
So Southampton ethics panel dismisses case against ATH for using town hall as a sound stage for her political film -- using town computers, desks, telephones, etc. for props because the use did not result in the production or distribution of campaign literature; but the Democrats in East Hampton want this guy investigated because he e-mailed the State Comptroller with official business about and he communicated to the press about stuff they were writing that was wrong about the town and the state ...more
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Nov 5, 11 11:00 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Nov 5, 11 11:00 PM
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