Datebook, notes call into question ethics violation for Ceretto

johnceretto

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Assemblyman John Ceretto (D-Lewiston) tells voters in a recent campaign commercial, he’ll fight corruption in Albany.

But it’s been state officials and Ceretto’s opponent in the race for another term who believe he’s instead part of the problem.

Emails made public earlier this month show Ceretto and his top political aid decided how to divvy up state grants to lower governments.

But rather than using the merits and worthiness of particular projects, emails showed Ceretto and his staff were bitter, because they had been snubbed by other politicians at a picnic earlier this year.

Critics said that’s business as usual.

Ceretto said it never happened, and that the town leader who he’s accused of snubbing turned down the money.

Ceretto has openly denied directing funds to one local government over another, just because he believed he wasn’t treated fairly.

And he’s also denied ever conducting campaign business in his district office, which is a violation of the state law.

However, News 4 obtained an exclusive copy of Ceretto’s date book from Oct. 29 through Nov. 8, 2015.

It shows he took a meeting in his district office with then Grand Island Democratic Party Chairman Jim Sharpe.

Ceretto said it was for a different purpose.

“As an Assemblyman, it’s important for me to have relationships with other elected officials and community leaders in the region,” he said in a statement. “Jim Sharpe is a member of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce and is now the Deputy Supervisor. I’ve met with him on multiple occasions to discuss how our offices can work together and what I could do to help the community.”

Not only was the meeting held in his office, but some of Ceretto’s staff were present. That would be a clear violation of the state’s Public Ethics law, specifically Law No. 74.

Notes were taken during that meeting, and provided exclusively to News 4. They confirm the discussion during that afternoon meeting last fall centered around Ceretto’s campaign.

Ceretto said he believed a fired employee who leaked fake notes.

“These allegations are coming from a disgruntled former employee who is just saying these things now, days before the election,” Ceretto said in a statement. “This is all just a distraction from the fact that my opponent is trying to hide from the serious ethical issues in his past.”

Officials from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation into Ceretto’s political dealings. That’s standard protocol. Likewise, representatives from the state’s Legislative Ethics Commission said Wednesday they were not aware of an investigation.

 

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