The Putnam Examiner

Flap Made Over Endorsement from County Office in Clerk’s Race

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While it’s not much of a surprise who the current Putnam County Clerk endorsed to fill his seat after he retired when his term runs out, the manner in which Dennis Sant formally backed Republican Michael Bartolotti for county clerk raised eyebrows among Democrats.

Sant, a Republican who has served as clerk for the past 13 years, sent out a press release from his office using official county letterhead, which some considered unethical because it’s a political endorsement using taxpayer resources. The press release, sent out on Oct. 9, contained the clerk office phone number and address. It also had the official county seal on it and was similar to other releases sent out by the office that have no political bearing, like warnings of phone scans or events the clerk’s office is holding.

The issue was raised at a debate between Bartolotti, who is the first deputy clerk looking to replace his boss, and Democrat Lithgow Osborne, a Philipstown resident. Southeast Councilwoman and Democratic Chairwoman in Southeast, Lynne Eckardt, who is working on Osborne’s campaign, questioned Bartolotti about the endorsement and whether it was ethical to have it come from a county office.

Bartolotti responded by stating Sant is “entitled” to use his letterhead as the county clerk. But his opponent didn’t see it that way.

“Using public money, public time, public letterhead for campaign purposes is illegal and unethical,” Osborne said.

Osborne continued to blast the use of county resources to endorse a candidate.

“I am truly surprised that Michael Bartolotti has “no problem” with Denis Sant using Clerk’s stationary and other county resources to endorse his candidacy. As a public servant and as the Deputy County Clerk he should be keenly aware of this breech of ethics,” Osborne stated in an email to The Putnam Examiner. “I’m afraid it doesn’t reflect well on him as a lawyer either. This problem has occurred in Putnam County before and that incident seems not to have made any impression what so ever. We must hold ourselves to the highest standard we can. We serve the citizens of Putnam County and they need to know that they can trust us in all matters.”

Bartolotti, when reached for comment, deferred to Sant.

Sant, when reached, said when he became aware there was a complaint with the endorsement coming out of his office, it was taken off the clerk’s website.

Instead of staying on the defensive though, Sant went on the offensive, explaining the debate overall seemed to heavily attack Bartolotti, while Osborne didn’t face as difficult questions.

“Not one question was asked of Mr. Osborne, the biggest question being would he give pistol permit privacy to the media,” Sant said, alluding to the controversy with The Journal News attempting to get pistol permit records that was denied by Sant’s office. “The important things aren’t asked.”

Sant also said it would have been worth Osborne answering if he would keep the DMV at a county level, unlike other counties that use the state.

County Executive MaryEllen Odell faced the grief for a similar action when she sent out an endorsement supporting Republican state senate candidate Terrence Murphy before his primary day showdown against Bob Castelli. She eventually pulled back the endorsement and blamed it on miscommunication with her staff.

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