Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina has filed a lawsuit against the Democratic Committee’s campaign manager for libel and slander regarding statements in a press release over a petition controversy more than 20 years ago in Orange County.
In the lawsuit, filed August 11 in state Supreme Court by Catalina’s daughter attorney Andrea Catalina, whom he shares a law office with in Peekskill, Catalina is seeking $250,000 in damages and a full retraction by Matthew Clausen for “repeated acts of defamation” and doing “permanent harm” to his professional and personal reputation.”
At issue is language contained in an August 7 press release unveiled at a press conference where Democratic candidates commented on a Westchester Board of Elections ruling invalidating signatures for Luis Segarra and Robert Sullivan, registered Democrats running with Republican Catalina for Common Council and seeking to force a Democratic primary.
With Clausen listed as the contact person for the Democrats, the release included a paragraph about Catalina, which stated, in part, “When running for office while he lived in Orange County, Catalina was brought up on charges, including 21 misdemeanor counts and 1 felony count for perjury, over fraudulently obtained signatures on nominating petitions. He eventually settled the case under a plea arrangement with the District Attorney.”
On August 11, Clausen issued a change to the paragraph which read, in part, “When running for office while he lived in Orange County, Catalina pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct to avoid being charged with 21 misdemeanor counts and possible felony counts, including perjury, over fraudulently obtained signatures on nominating petitions. He eventually settled the case under a plea arrangement with the District Attorney, according to news sources.”
In the lawsuit, Catalina stated similar allegations arose in the 2013 and 2015 campaigns and were proven false. Catalina contended Clausen alleging he “had been charged with a felony count of perjury over fraudulently obtaining signatures on nominating petitions” was “outside of the context of political discourse.”
Catalina stated in the lawsuit he spoke to Clausen on August 7 and 8 demanding a full retraction but since one was not issued he proceeded with legal action.
Clausen did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.