The Chairman of the Saratoga Springs Republican Party, Chris Obstarczyk, has chosen to engage in an ugly exchange with Commissioner of Public Safety Robin Dalton in the pages of the Times Union. He accused Commissioner Dalton of abusing her position to force her department to pursue electoral fraud charges against Samantha Guerra who is the endorsed Republican candidate for Commissioner of Accounts.
For a history of the original charges readers can go to my earlier post on it. It is an unflattering account in which neither Mr. Moran, who made the accusations, nor Ms. Guerra emerge unsullied.
Times Union reporter Wendy Liberatore has now written two articles back to back regarding a police investigation into the alleged election “fraud.”
In a disturbing turn of events, Saratoga Springs Republican chair Chris Obstarczyk has used the Times Union to launch an attack on Commissioner of Public Safety Robin Dalton rather than Dillon Moran, Guerra’s opponent and the source of the allegations. Worse he has questioned the integrity of the police in general and a specific police officer in particular as part of his attack.
Some of this may be related to bitter attacks made by Commissioner Dalton against the Republican endorsed candidate for mayor she is running against, Heidi Owen West.
In a Gazette article Ms. Owen West stated that she had been approached by Sarah Burger, who was chairperson of the city Democratic Committee at the time, to become the Democratic endorsed candidate for mayor. Ms. Owen West declined, and the Democrats went on to settle on Ron Kim as their candidate.
In a video on her Facebook page, Commissioner Dalton accuses Ms. Owen West of lying and claims that the Democrats never approached Ms. Owen West to run on their line.
In fact Sarah Burger did indeed try to persuade Ms. Owen West to run as a Democrat endorsed candidate.
Chair of Republican Party’s Problematic Comments
The following quotes are from the October 12 and 13, 2021 stories in the TU.
The city’s Republican Committee Chairman Chris Obstarczyk said that the investigation is politically motivated, led by current Commissioner of Public Safety Robin Dalton who is now running for mayor.
“The ethical – and normal course of action – would be to send to a different investigatory agency and a different prosecutor outside of the county,” Obstarczyk said in an email. “The police department is politically conflicted because the lead investigator on this case is first in line for an upcoming promotion that would be awarded by mayoral candidate Robin Dalton. The investigator was put in a terrible, political pressure-cooker situation overseen by Robin Dalton. This is a clear-cut political hit job.”Chris Obstarczyk, TU October 12
Obstarczyk alleged on Tuesday that the investigation came at the direction of Dalton, whom he said was doing a “political hit job” on Guerra. He also said that the police department, which Dalton oversees, is appeasing Dalton so that the lead investigator could get a promotion. [JK: My emphasis] He said on Wednesday he stands firm with his statement.TImes Union October 13, 2021
These are serious allegations which would seem to warrant some sort of outside investigation perhaps by the county District Attorney or the New York State Attorney General.
But is there really anything to investigate?
Robin Dalton is running for mayor. Why would she want to pursue charges against Samantha Guerra who is running for Commissioner of Accounts and not mayor. Where is any evidence that she interfered with a police investigation?
The police officer who is likely to be promoted to be the assistant chief of police upon the retirement of John Catone is Lieutenant Robert Jillson.
On what basis does Chairman Obstarczyk accuse Commissioner Dalton of interfering with Lieutenant Jillson?
In fact, the implication of Chairman Obstarczyk’s attack is that Police Chief Crooks would allow such interference and worse, that Lieutenant Jillson would pursue a case he did not believe in to cull favor with the Public Safety Commissioner.
In my experience, Lieutenant Jillson is a stand up guy. He has demonstrated calm and thoughtful leadership during the difficult demonstrations here in the city. It may not have been that Obstarczyk intentionally threw Jillson under the bus, but his intemperate remarks have done just that. It was utterly unfair of him to put a cloud of suspicion over Lieutenant Jillson.
The entire business is bizarre. It would appear that Chairman Obstarczyk used the dubious fraud allegations against his candidate for Commissioner of Accounts not to go after the people perpetrating that narrative, but against the person running against his endorsed candidate for mayor.
In an even stranger twist, Mr. Obstarczyk sent an email to the website Foothills Daily which included this allegation:
“Dalton implicated Democrat Commissioner John Franck, who is spearheading the campaign of Ms. Guerra’s opponent, as being the city official who was applying political pressure to the police investigators.”
So who exactly now, if anyone, is interfering in the investigation?
This stuff is extremely troubling. The Times Union has now used Chairman Obstarczyk’s poorly considered remarks ‘s to sensationalize its coverage at the expense of our police department.
All of this is an unfortunate distraction from a discussion that should be taking place instead about the real issues facing the city in this election year.