September 15, 2017

Grains of Salt (v24): Fitz and Starts

I find it hard to believe it's been almost nine full months since I last talked about William Fitzpatrick, our District Attorney for Life in Onondaga County.

Fitz has been a frequent topic of conversation around here, most of the time in posts about ethics, campaign finance reform, and, I have to admit, possible over-exertion in the line of duty.

The latest activities bringing him back to these pages fall into the first and last of those linked buckets.

According to this report, Fitzpatrick apparently went door to door with Derek Shepard, candidate for Onondaga County Legislator, who lost in Tuesday's primary to Ken Bush Jr. Fitz also also made a robocall on Shepard's behalf.

Both of these actions would at least appear to be conflicts, or appear to be ethical violations, or at the very least, appear to be examples of poor judgment. After all, The Right Thing: Ethical Guidelines for Prosecutors states, in part:
District Attorneys and their assistants may not endorse political candidates, except that in some counties assistants may be permitted to engage in political activity in support of the re-election of the District Attorney by whom they are employed. 
And, Rule 3.8, Special Responsibilities of Prosecutors and Other Government Lawyers (Amendment Effective July 1, 2012) notes, again in part:
...Thus, it is reasonable and proper for District Attorneys and members of their staffs to engage in activities that do not compromise their office’s efficiency or integrity or interfere with the professional responsibilities and duties of their offices.
District Attorneys may engage in the following conduct (emphasis added): 
  1. Register to vote themselves, and vote. 
  2. Have membership in a political party
  3. Contribute money to political parties, organizations and committees.
  4. Attend political/social events. 
  5. Participate in community and civic organizations that have no partisan purposes.
  6. Sign political petitions as an individual. 
  7. In order to demonstrate public support for the nonpartisan nature of the District Attorney’s office, a District Attorney should consider accepting the endorsement of more than one political party when running for office. 
  8. District Attorneys are entitled to criticize those policies that undermine public safety and support those policies that advance it, by freely and vigorously speaking out and writing on criminal justice issues and the individuals involved in those issues.
Fitz believes his actions on behalf of Shepard, a County Legislator representing the towns of Elbridge, VanBuren and Baldwinsville since 2011, meet the requirements of number 8 in the code, in that promoting the candidacy of one person over another is "criticizing policies that undermine public safety and supporting those policies that advance it" or else it's "vigorously speaking out and writing on criminal justice issues and the individuals involved in those issues."

Specifically, (again, emphasis added) 
Fitzpatrick said he considered Bush a threat to public safety because as a legislator Bush would likely fight against funding for the DA's office. "I consider that a danger to the office in terms of our budgetary needs."
And I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.   But wait - there's more!

Note that Fitzpatrick's son was involved with Shepard's campaign, and also note that the DA threatened to sue Bush because of a Facebook page that, according to the DA, could have confused someone that they were looking at the official Town of Elbridge page, when in fact they were looking at a page Bush has maintained for years. About Bush's Facebook page (which he had been maintaining for years), Fitz said
While the page did not claim to have an official affiliation with the Town of Elbridge, it had that appearance, and it did not disclaim affiliation.
Rolling on the floor laughing now!  Hold on... Hang on... OK OK - sorry. Had to catch my breath...

Let's review:

  • A candidate running against the guy the DA's son is consulting has a social media page that is truly not something it that it does not claim to be, but in the DA's eyes it could possibly be confused with some other page (with literally thousands of fewer friends, by the way), so the DA threatens to sue the candidate.
  • The DA goes door to door with the candidate his son consults for, greeting voters and all, and also does a recorded message for that candidate, which was paid for by the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, and which launches the day before the primary, but that's not an endorsement of the candidate.

Seriously - I laughed and laughed.

At the zeal with which the DA protected voters from the outside guy running against the candidate supported by the Republican party leadership (and Fitz's son).

At the nonsensical nature of Fitz's concern for my personal safety as a resident of Onondaga County.

At his apparent lack of appreciation of the irony in threatening someone over the appearance of a conflict, while participating in not one but two very 'conflicting' acts himself.

At the insanity of designating someone who might cut the DA's budget as a threat to public safety, a term previously reserved for gang members, predatory sex offenders, and drug kingpins. How things have changed.

At the absurdity of him thinking we'd actually believe that he wasn't endorsing a candidate.

At how little he understands (or cares) how the crap he does undermines public trust in elected officials.

At how glibly he's able to justify his behavior at each and every turn, from a legal perspective, while being completely tone deaf to the optics, and the ethics.

At how stupid he must think we are.

(Oh, crap --  I hope he doesn't consider me a threat to public safety for disagreeing with him... )

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