State AG notified of Rathbone probe

Mary Perham
Dan Farrand

The state Attorney General’s office has been notified of the ongoing Steuben County investigation into concerns arising from the Nov. 8 general election in the Town of Rathbone.

Steuben County Board of Elections Commissioners Veronica Olin and Joseph Welch said they recently contacted the state’s top prosecutor, based on advice from the state Board of Elections.

“It’s just part of the process,” Welch said. “Nobody should read more into it than just that.”

The matter was already under investigation by the Steuben County District Attorney’s Office.

Races in the small, rural Town of Rathbone grabbed local attention after 97 absentee ballots were filed with the county Board of Elections for the general election.

The number of Rathbone absentee votes was roughly four times the number typically filed in the town, and rivaled those cast in municipalities 10 times its size.

While several Rathbone races were contested, the closest race was between incumbent Town Supervisor Bill Reagan and Steuben County Legislator Dan Farrand.

Farrand, who secured the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party lines, trailed Reagan 124-113 after the polls closed Nov. 8. Reagan ran on the Square Deal independent line.

When the absentee ballots were opened a week after the polls closed, 94 ballots favored Farrand, giving him an 85-vote lead over Reagan, 212-127.

The commissioners have declined to specify their questions about the absentee ballots, although Rathbone Highway Superintendent Dan Barney said the high number of absentees seemed unusual.

In the highway superintendent race, Barney had a 156-vote lead after the general election, but write-in challenger Steve Kirk came within 10 votes after the absentee ballots were counted.

Suspicious about the absentee ballots, Barney said he contacted an attorney but was told legal fees would start at $15,000. The lawyer also warned him speaking out could lead to retaliation, Barney said.

“Well, I ain’t got that kind of money,” Barney said, adding he is pleased the county DA is investigating the election. “But I’m not afraid of anybody. I want to see what’s right is done.”

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office said Tuesday the office cannot comment on “potential or ongoing investigations.”