Findings of the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee in which the committee issued a finding of unfair campaign practice by Peekskill Councilwoman Marybeth McGowen, a candidate for re-election, and the Peekskill Democratic City Committee. The complaint was brought against them by Frank Catalina, candidate for mayor of Peekskill.
The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee met on October 1, 2013 to hear the complaint of Frank A. Catalina, candidate for Mayor of the City of Peekskill, against Mary Beth McGowan and the Peekskill Democratic City Committee. Mr. Catalina, accompanied by Larry Gomez, represented himself. Ms. McGowan and the Peekskill Democratic City Committee were represented by Darren Rigger, Leslie Masson and Marina Ciotti.
COMPLAINT: Mr. Catalina complained that an invitation sent out by the Peekskill Democratic City Committee for an event for Ms. McGowan stated falsely: “Apparently Mr. Frank Catalina, the Republican candidate for Mayor has indicated that he WILL NOT perform same sex marriages if he is elected.”
The Committee found the statement false and misleading. No evidence was presented that Mr. Catalina had ever “indicated” that he “WILL NOT perform same sex marriages if elected.” Even after it was clear that the statement was false, it has not, to date, been retracted, as it should be.
The purpose of the Westchester Fair Campaign Committee is to promote a climate in
which candidates conduct honest and fair campaigns. The Committee encourages candidates to conduct campaigns openly and fairly, to discuss issues, to refrain from dishonest and defamatory attacks, and not to use campaign materials that distort the facts.
The Committee does not sit as a censor of political discussion nor as a body to enforce election law or make legal decisions. Its task is to accept written complaints about alleged unfair campaign practices and to determine whether the action complained about is indeed unfair. Among other things, the Committee will consider to be unfair any campaign practice that is a misstatement of a material fact or that misleads the public.
The Committee has no power to compel anyone to stop doing what it has found to be unfair. If the Committee acts on a complaint, it will release its findings to inform the public. The Committee may choose not to consider a complaint; in that case, a hearing is not held and the parties to the complaint are notified.
Statement of Principles of the Committee, as stated in its Manual, is available at www.faircampaignpractices.org. The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee believes that candidates should conduct their campaigns in accordance with the following principles:
The candidate will conduct a campaign for public office openly and fairly. The candidate will discuss the issues and participate in fair debate with respect to her/his views and qualifications.
The candidate will neither engage in nor be involved with unfair or misleading attacks upon the character of an opponent, nor will the candidate engage in invasions of personal privacy unrelated to fitness for office.
The candidate will not participate in or condone an appeal to prejudice.
The candidate will neither use nor be involved with the use of any campaign material or advertisements that misrepresent or distorts the facts.
The candidate will clearly identify by name the source of all advertisements and campaign literature published and distributed.
The candidate will not abuse the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee process in order to obtain political advantage.
The candidate will publicly repudiate materials or actions from any individual or group that would violate the Statement of Principles.