Two private investigators have been hired by Bob Tatko to interview Granville voters who had voted absentee for the Sept. 15 Village Board election, which Tatko lost.
“I am not trying to change the results. Dan Brown is the winner,” Tatko said via written statement. “I am concerned about the fairness and integrity of the village trustee election, how it was handled and NOT who you voted for.”
Tatko is highly skeptical of the fact Brown, who was selected in January as an interim trustee by Mayor Paul Labas following the vacancy left by Heather Paquette, gained 37% (89) of the 239 walk-in votes and 87% (91) of the 105 absentee votes.
Labas mentioned via phone call Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to allow absentee voting in this year’s local, state and national elections due to COVID-19.
“People don’t want to go into buildings and vote,” Labas said. “Anyone could vote absentee without reason.”
Village clerk Rick Roberts said there were “no shenanigans involved” in the election. He said Labas contributed in assisting voters who didn’t feel comfortable voting in person because of the global pandemic.
“Did Paul run around and get absentee ballots? Sure, he did,” Roberts said. “Both sides did it . . . Dan’s side did it more.”
It is completely legal for an “agent” to retrieve an absentee ballot and application for someone who wishes to vote that way, as long as the information is sealed and not tampered with.
Labas went on the record himself to say he was an “agent” in the process of getting absentee ballots and applications to voters who chose not to vote in-person.
Tatko stated his private investigators had spoken to Granville Police Department and that he plans to release the investigation’s results when it is finished.
“Before beginning their interviews, Granville Police were notified and met with investigators,” Tatko said. “All interviews are legal and proper and the investigators never ask anyone who they voted for. The interviews are ongoing and I will make my findings public.”
Granville Police Chief Ernie Bassett said this is typical of private investigators to come in and let the police know they are in the area. However, Bassett did inform the private investigators to not intimidate the voters.
“Really, this isn’t something that is abnormal,” Bassett said. “They stopped by giving us their card letting us know they’re in town . . . if anyone was upset with them being on their property, they would have to vacate the property immediately.”
In terms of voter intimidation, Labas said Tatko would be in some deep trouble with state officials if that’s the case.
“The state of New York doesn’t look up to that too kindly,” Labas said. “He’s making their life up there a holy hell too.”
Roberts and Labas both expressed the concerns of Granville constituents who have had these investigators come knock on their doors. Thursday evening, Roberts said, four calls had been made to the village offices by confused constituents.
“One elderly woman that was visited that was concerned with the COVID(-19), they came to her house,” Roberts said. “C’mon, Bob. Have some civility . . . these people are nervous and scared,” Labas pleaded via phone call Friday afternoon.
A recanvassing of the votes from the election was done on Sept. 21 at the Washington County Board of Elections offices in Fort Edward, New York, where Tatko gained one vote, but the result stayed the same.
On Oct. 2, Tatko’s attorney from Albany placed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request into village clerk Roberts’s office. Roberts denied the request on Oct. 9 because information that was requested by Tatko and his attorney has been sealed in a box and is not supposed to be opened for two years.
Labas said Tatko went through the New York Council of Mayors (NYCOM) and state law to look at the list of people who applied for an absentee voting application.
“He copied down every single name,” Labas said.
Tatko made it clear he will not stop pursuing, and is willing to take it a step further.
“If the Village continues to deny my repeated requests for copies of documents that will significantly contribute to the public’s understanding of an election for public office, then, I intend to get a court to order the information to be released to me,” Tatko said.
Labas and Roberts both said this is the fourth Village of Granville election Tatko has lost. The mayor said Tatko feels he and the board are out to get the citizens of Granville.
“That’s the farthest thing from the truth that could ever be,” Labas exclaimed. “Everything we (Village Board of Trustees) do for this village is from the kindness of our hearts.”
The mayor took great pride in his ability to reduce the budget deficit in the village in two years.
“This is the first time in nine years we’ve had a balanced budget,” Labas said. “We’re out here working our (expletive) off . . . that’s all volunteer time. He (Tatko) just hates to lose.”
Tatko said in his statement he will not be taking any more questions from the media or reporters until the investigation is completed, and that he thanks the people who have shown him support.
Labas continued to fire off about Tatko.
“He’ll always put someone out to do his dirty work . . . and I’m sick of it,” Labas said. “I’m done playing this guy’s game.”