ESSEX COUNTY - A political advertisement that was published in Denton Publications newspapers last week is generating increased discord between some Essex County Republicans.
The half-page advertisement provides a list of "facts" as to why Essex County Republicans chose to endorse Clinton County Assistant District Attorney Kristy Sprague over current Essex County District Attorney Julie Garcia.
Garcia, who is running against Sprague in the Sept. 15 Republican primary election, said the advertisement is rife with lies and misrepresentations.
"I am disgusted that the leadership would use money donated by Republicans to slander an elected official," said Garcia. "The Essex County Republican Party leadership has a broken moral compass and will do anything to maintain power and control of our county. What little credibility they had left has been destroyed by this outrageous ad."
"The absence of a proven prosecutor has given Essex County one of the lowest conviction and highest dismissal rates in our history," the ad states.
"I have provided the Board of Supervisors and the media with the DCJS statistics with regard to this blatant lie," said Garcia. The figures she references show that, in most cases, conviction rates from 2006-2008 are actually slightly higher than they were during the term of former DA Ronald Briggs. They also follow a similar pattern to conviction rates in Clinton County.
The advertisement also claimed that Garcia has prosecuted very few cases personally at trial, and that the case of People v. Steven Baker was the only one where she "made more than a cameo appearance."
"This is another blatant lie," said Garcia, claiming she has transcripts from at least two other cases showing her active participation throughout the trial. "I have appeared on over 300 cases in Essex County Court. I have the defendant's name and the date of the appearance if you would like to have this information."
"Of course there has been very little trial time; less than two percent of our cases go to trial," Garcia added. "Sprague knows that between two to five percent of all cases go to trial, but she continues to mislead the public."
The advertisement said Garcia's office has the largest attorney staff ever, which Garcia also said is not true, noting that she has one less ADA funded by taxpayer dollars than Briggs had.
Garcia also took issue with claims she intentionally sent a convicted sex offender to serve papers at Sprague's home and that her office has wasted taxpayer dollars. She noted that her budget has decreased 12 percent since 2004 when Briggs was in office.
Essex County Republican Committee Chair Ronald Jackson purchased the advertisement using committee funds. He said that many of the statements in the advertisement were based on information he and others obtained from county court records.
Sprague said, while she did not place the ad, she has had a lot of people question why she was chosen over Garcia, the incumbent.
"The committee obviously felt it necessary to buy an ad to convey their position to the voters as they have a right to do," Sprague said. "From my review, this ad states nothing more than the thoughts and opinions based upon factual information presented to the committee through an interview process that all candidates participated in."
Sprague, who moved her residence to Willsboro Sept. 8, confirmed the information as stated, noting it reflected information she presented at the recent debate.
"I found 13 written decisions where cases have been dismissed for the prosecution's failure to adequately present the matters to Grand Jury," she said. "I know there are 16 dismissals showing in the county records."
"Ms. Garcia tends to change things around in a more favorable way," said Jackson, noting that if her budget is compared to all the years Briggs was in office, as opposed to just 2004, there is actually a slight increase. "It depends on how you look at it."
According to Jackson, not everyone on the Essex County Republican Committee was presented with a copy of the advertisement prior to printing. He pointed to the bylaws for the committee, which note that ads purchased for more than $500 need only be approved by two committee officers; in this case, himself and committee treasurer Joyce Morency.
"We always support the endorsed candidates through the primary," said Jackson.
The bylaws also stipulate that any such ads must end with the disclaimer "Paid for by the Essex County Republican Committee." But Republicans who support Garcia feel the advertisement misrepresents them.
"In my 23 years in politics, this is the worst I've seen it," said Moriah Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava, who recently resigned as a Republican Committee member. Scozzafava, who has been a strong supporter of Garcia, said the recent advertisement is one of a string of events that have created friction between party members.
While Scozzafava granted that Garcia was open to scrutiny by virtue of her position, it was inappropriate for the advertisement to present information he called "not factual."
Robert Dedrick, a Republican and supervisor of Ticonderoga who also supports Garcia, agreed that the District Attorney race has widened divisions among Essex County Republicans.
"I would take exception if a few people wrote that up and distributed it without the blessing of committee members from all the 18 towns," he said.