In response to the town Democrats’ ongoing campaign strategy of branding incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter a “part-time supervisor” because he continues to maintain his law practice, Mr. Walter on Friday released some computer files he says were left on his town computer by his predecessor, and opponent, Democrat Phil Cardinale.
Mr. Walter says the files show that Mr. Cardinale used his town computer for political campaign speeches and possibly for his legal practice and for political fundraising.
Mr. Cardinale, who was given a copy of the files that Mr. Walter turned over to the News-Review, claims that everything in the files was legitimate town business, that he never used a computer himself, and that “all this proves is that I worked hard.”
Mr. Walter doesn’t see it that way.
“What would you expect him to say when he gets caught like a kid with his hand in the cookie jar?,” Mr. Walter said. He said one file appears to be a campaign donor list.
“It is my opinion that political work done on a town computer is completely inappropriate,” Mr. Walter said.
The file in question was a Microsoft Excel file named “Newdonors.”
It lists the names, addresses and contact information for 851 businesses or entities. Other than the name of the file, it makes no mention of campaign contributions, nor does it indicate any monetary amounts.
“I wish we had 851 companies donating to the campaign,” Mr. Cardinale said. The majority of the names on the list also didn’t donate to his campaign, he said.
One of the names on the list, Mr. Cardinale points out, was Mr. Walter.
But Mr. Walter said he did in fact attend a fundraiser for Mr. Cardinale earlier in Mr. Cardinale’s term as supervisor.
“That’s how we knew it was a donor list,” he said.
The files were discovered on a main frame server while the town was investigating allegations that the accounting department used town equipment for personal business, Mr. Walter said. That investigation turned up only one improperly sent fax and one improperly received fax, although the town spent $10,000 on outside legal fees to investigate the matter, he said.
“There is 1,000 percent more evidence that Phil was improperly using town computers than anything anybody in the accounting department did,” Mr. Walter said.
The files include two templates that appear to be part of real estate transactions, which Mr. Walter believes is an indication that Mr. Cardinale was doing real estate work for his legal practice on town computers.
“My suspicion is that they probably erased a lot of stuff and missed this,” Mr. Walter said.
But Mr. Cardinale said the two templates were blank, they never mentioned his name and he maintains he didn’t practice law for the six years he was supervisor and he didn’t personally use a computer in Town Hall.
Although he had one on his desk, he said he gave it away in his final year in office because he wasn’t using it.
One of the lease templates was for the Mattituck Plaza, which is owned by Mr. Cardinale’s brother.
Mr. Cardinale said his brother does his own leases. The other contract template is for DJ’s Heating and Air Conditioning for a proposal submitted to Charles Ahreas of East Hampton.
Mr. Cardinale said he has no idea who that is.
The files also contain a number of speeches and notes that Mr. Walter claims are political, while Mr. Cardinale claims they constitute legitimate town business.
These include two speeches labeled “Candidate’s night,” a list of town projects for 2009, personal biographies of Mr. Cardinale, an “election thank you message,” a copy of a campaign ad from George Gabrielsen with notes written on it, several columns or responses to articles written in the News-Review, and notes on speeches given at civic groups.
“They’re notes for proclamations, memos about policy issues, speeches, notes for speeches including the state of the town address, and there are notes on press releases,” Mr. Cardinale said.
“Other than establishing that I worked very hard as supervisor, what am I supposed to respond to here?” he asked. “This hodgepodge was apparently taken off various computers, none of which were mine, because I didn’t use a computer,” he said.
Mr. Walter said the files were all in one place, and all he did was copy them onto a disc. He said he wasn’t planning to release them, and doesn’t plan on contacting the district attorney.
Mr. Walter mentioned the computer files in passing while talking to a News-Review reporter Friday, and when asked if he planned to make them public, responded, “Give me a FOIL,” meaning a Freedom of Information Law request.
He then handed over the disc a short time later when he got the FOIL request.
“It was never my intention to sling mud at anybody, but when he continues to come after me as a part-time supervisor, I think the residents need to know what kind of man he was, and that’s a man with no integrity,” Mr. Walter said.
He says even if Mr. Cardinale didn’t personally type the speeches, it was done in his office under his administration.
Meanwhile, Mr. Cardinale continues to maintain that Mr. Walter is a “part-time supervisor” because the supervisor maintains his legal practice. Mr. Cardinale said it would be a conflict of interest for Mr. Walter to do zoning work in the town, and since his disclosure forms blanked out the names of his clients, no one knows if he is representing clients within the town.
Mr. Walter said he puts in about 40 to 50 hours per week on town business and about 10 hours per week on his legal practice. He said he sometimes meets with clients at night and on weekends, and only does simple real estate transactions and some Surrogate’s Court work.
“I don’t do any litigation and I don’t do any zoning-related work,” Mr. Walter said.
The February 2010 disclosure form that had the names of his clients redacted to the public, with the permission of the town ethics board, represents the 2009 year, before he was in office. The names are redacted on the grounds that it’s an attorney-client privilege, he said.
The February 2011 disclosure form, which applies to the 2010 year, when Mr. Walter was in office, shows no clients, meaning he’s not representing any people or entities that have business before the town, he said.