At a Sunday, Sept. 13, press conference, Republican Town Supervisor candidate Mike Hoblock called on the Albany County District Attorney’s office to investigate what he’s calling a dirty deal involving accusations that Independence Party Chairman Ken Champagne offered his party’s support in exchange for a position with the town. Champagne is adamant `there was no wrongdoing.`
In the Colonie town supervisor race, the Albany County Independence Party endorsed incumbent Democrat Paula Mahan, per Champagne’s recommendations. The party makes its endorsements countywide in June based on recommendations from town Independence chairs, as well as interviews with the candidates.
Prior to the endorsement, Champagne said he had a conversation with Hoblock in which he said he was being considered for a position with the town as highway superintendent.
`What I told Hoblock was that I may be getting considered for a position with the town, and if that happens, of course it may affect my decision,` Champagne said Thursday, Sept. 10. `If I was given a job before the endorsement came out, I don’t think anyone would believe me if I said I wasn’t influenced by that.`
According to Hoblock, Champagne approached him about a few jobs, and Hoblock warned Champagne that such conversations could be illegal. However, Hoblock said Champagne never explicitly offered him his support in exchange for a job.
`He talked about jobs, and I remember, specifically, saying, ‘Ken, we can’t talk about these things, you could be indicted by a grand jury,’` Hoblock said.
When asked why he was not alarmed when this conversation occurred prior to the endorsement, Hoblock said he had assumed Champagne was also having this type of conversation with Albany County Independence Party Chairman and New York State Vice-Chairman of the Independence Party Paul Caputo, and that Caputo would handle the issue accordingly.
`I thought he was talking to him along the same lines,` said Hoblock.
Caputo said Sunday, `At no time did we ever have any idea, as a party, any of this was going on.`
Caputo said the party has begun an investigation into these allegations and that members of the party as far as Essex County have expressed their distress with this situation.
In a discussion last week, Champagne said he would have withdrawn from supporting any candidate if he were to get a position with the town.
`We have to be cautious of our conflicts of interest,` he said, adding he has always been consistent in withdrawing from contests in which he has a conflict of interest.
Mahan said she did not offer Champagne a position with the town in exchange for his support.
`That is absolutely not true,` she said. `And it’s unfortunate that people spread those types of rumors.`
A month after the Independence Party endorsed Mahan, Champagne sent an e-mail to the Colonie Republican Committee and several Independence Party committee members asking that the party reconsider its endorsement.
When Champagne was asked if at any point he had considered supporting Hoblock, he said he never did.
`No, I didn’t want to,` he said. `I was committed to the Democrats.`
Champagne also said, `At no point did I want a primary.`
However, in a July 17 e-mail to fellow Independence Party members, Champagne wrote that more petition signatures were obtained than he expected. He went on to say that while he was expecting far fewer signatures for the Republicans than were obtained, the efforts on part of both the Democrats and Republicans were `Herculean.`
`I believe we should reconsider our position on the Hoblock-Mahan race,` he said in the e-mail. `I ask that you consider what I have said and respond to me by Sunday noon time if you would be in support of holding an Emergency Executive Committee Meeting for the purpose of reconsidering whether or not to allow a primary for the Supervisor of Colonie position and issue a [Wilson] Pakula to Mike Hoblock.`
The Wilson Pakula document allows political parties to endorse candidates outside their membership.
When asked about the e-mail, Champagne said the reason he sent it was because he felt threatened by Hoblock, whom he called `a powerful man.`
According to Champagne, Hoblock was upset that he did not receive the endorsement and told Champagne, `There will be s**t to pay,` if he was elected. Champagne said he took that as Hoblock would punish the party for not endorsing him.
Hoblock said he doesn’t know where Champagne got that idea.
Caputo said he, and the party, would be looking into the allegations.
`The Independence Party is committed to the highest ethical standards in government and politics. That is our core principle,` Caputo said. `These are very serious allegations, and I certainly hope they aren’t true.`
At Hoblock’s press conference, he urged Albany County District Attorney David Soares to investigate allegations that Champagne offered his party’s support in exchange for a town position.
During the press conference, held at the Colonie Republican Headquarters on Wolf Road, Hoblock told the press `a very serious issue has come to light.` He was accompanied by Republican Town Board candidates Dan Dustin and Peter Crouse, as well as Colonie Receiver of Taxes Michele Zilgme, who is also running in the upcoming election.
Hoblock also called on Mahan to rescind any applications for employment Champagne has with the town, as well as for her to withdraw from her Independence Party endorsement.
Hoblock said he also wished for Mahan `to make clear that she should not hire Champagne if elected.`
`The behavior of Ken Champagne has brought discredit to the Independence Party. But this is about more than politics,` he said. `This case is about whether Paula Mahan used the people’s money to try to buy herself another line on the ballot.` “