Chemung D.A. probes Rathbone ballots

Mary Perham
Dan Farrand

The investigation into absentee ballots cast in the Town of Rathbone last November is now under Chemung County District Attorney Weeden A. Wetmore.

Wetmore said he will meet later this week with an investigator to learn the details of Rathbone matter.

“At this time I know absolutely nothing about it,” he said.

Concerns about the election surfaced shortly after the Steuben County Board of Elections received 97 absentee ballots from the town of Rathbone, with a significant number hand-delivered to the elections office.

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

Farrand, who had secured the Republican, Conservative and Inde- pendence 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 absentee ballots also strongly favored two other candidates, Steve Kirk and Duane Miles, but did not secure them town offices.

After a careful review – and on the advice of the state Board of Elections – county elections commissioners Veronica Olin and Joseph Welch contacted then-Steuben County District Attorney John Tunney and the state Attorney General’s office.

Tunney called on the state police to assist in the investigation and, just before retiring at the end of 2011, requested Wetmore take over as special prosecutor.

The request between county attorneys is not unusual in cases like this, and avoid any potential conflicts of interest, Wetmore said.

In addition to being a county legislator, Farrand worked in the past for former Republican state senators John R. “Randy” Kuhl and George Winner. He also is a past county Republican Party leader and actively campaigns for GOP candidates.

Steuben’s Republican Elections Commissioner Veronica Olin said Wednesday Wetmore’s role is “hopefully a positive step in resolving this issue.”

Steuben’s elections board also will cooperate with Wetmore’s office, the county Democratic Elections Commissioner Joe Welch said.

The commissioners said they have not been contacted by investigators since their original meeting, but expect to have a follow-up meeting.

“My guess is as they wrap things up in other venues of the investigation, they would ask us if there are other things that have cropped up,” Welch said.