WESTCHESTER, N.Y. -- The Westchester County Fair Campaign Committee said that several claims in County Executive Rob Astorino's bid for re-election against opponent Noam Bramson are unfair and false.
The committee met on Wednesday in response to complaints Bramson raised about Astorino's radio, television and mailer ads. The Astorino ads claimed Bramson raised taxes maliciously and used his status as mayor of New Rochelle to provide himself with a free car and extensive health benefits.
The Fair Campaign Practices Committee is an independent, non-partisan board, established by the League of Women Voters to “promote a climate in which candidates conduct honest and fair campaigns.”
A statement issued by the committee says that Astorino's campaign made five unfair statements against Bramson on these issues.
The committee ruled that Astorino's claim about Bramson's benefits was unfair because they predated his term in office.
"The New Rochelle City policy of providing the mayor with a vehicle predates Mr. Bramson's service in office, and he has never taken any action or cast any vote to obtain or enhance this benefit for himself," the committee said, "(Additionally) the terms of Mr. Bramson's health insurance benefits were set prior to his service in office, and Mr. Bramson has never taken any action to secure or enhance them."
The committee also ruled Astorino's claims about Bramson raising sales, library and sewer district taxes were unfair because the taxes were not under his control.
"The sales tax rate in New Rochelle is the same today as when Mr. Bramson took office, except for a New York State-mandated increase of one-eight of one-percent. The City of New Rochelle has no authority over sewer district taxes, and the Astorino representatives agreed. The library tax in New Rochelle is proposed by the Library Board of Trustees and confirmed each year by the voters," the committee said.
Bramson's campaign is demanding the ads be taken down and retracted immediately.
"Rob Astorino just got caught with his pants on fire," said Bramson campaign spokesman Barry Caro in a statement. “Lying once in a thirty-second advertisement is bad enough, but lying five times makes clear that this was a deliberate attempt to mislead voters about taxes.”
“Astorino should immediately pull his 'unfair' ads from the air,” Caro said.
Astorino's campaign team continues to reinforce the claims made in the ad.
"Westchester voters deserve to know that Mr. Bramson raised his part-time salary forty-percent -- to almost $90,000 ($88,971), accepted healthcare for life as a part-time New Rochelle employee, and raised property taxes to pay for those perks," Jessica Proud, spokeswoman for Astorino's campaign, said in a statement. "The library tax, sewer tax, and garbage fee also went up dramatically under his watch, but evidently he knows nothing about them. The TV ad is accurate and it will remain running."
The committee states its task is to accept written complaints about campaign practices and to determine whether the action complained about is indeed unfair.
However, it does not have the power to compel anyone to stop doing what it has found to be unfair.