When Richard Nixon left office some 45 years ago, he was spared criminal prosecution thanks to a presidential pardon issued by his successor, Gerald Ford.
To the best of our knowledge, John Ceretto has received no such pardon from the outgoing Barack Obama. So why isn’t Ceretto being investigated for campaign law violations allegedly committed during his futile re-election bid this past fall?
In late October, 2016, less than a month before the election that was ultimately won by challenger Angelo Morinello, a former Ceretto employee blew the whistle on possible illegal activities which included, according to news reports, “several” campaign meetings held in Assemblyman Ceretto’s office, where invitations to a political fundraiser were allegedly created on government computer and printer and mailed using state postage, as well as the alleged use of an office phone to solicit campaign donors.
“That clearly is a violation of the Public Officers Law,” stated Assemblyman Brian Kolb, leader of the Republican minority, “He (should) be subject to an ethics investigation.”
How does the Reporter know that ex-Assemblyman Ceretto is not being investigated? Because we asked the very same “disgruntled past employee” (Ceretto’s words), who leaked the potentially incriminating emails to the local press that effectively ended his legislative career, if there was any word on whether Ceretto is the subject of a probe into his questionable campaign practices.
If there was an ongoing investigation of Ceretto’s apparent transgressions, it stands to reason that by now, the one-time Ceretto chief of staff who exposed his wheeling and dealing would have been interviewed, by either the NYS Joint Commission on Public Ethics or the state Attorney General’s office but, according to the former key aide, no such communication has taken place.
Did she think an investigation might be forthcoming?
“I would bet no, since he lost the election.”
The accusations against Ceretto don’t stop there. An email emanating from the keyboard of Ceretto aide Robert Nichols, impugning Senator Robert Ortt, was copied to an individual named Alex Sutherland, a staffer for the state Assembly leadership. Fancying himself some kind of shrewd political operator, Nichols muses about how about a certain state budget request for the city of Niagara Falls might impact his boss’s electoral prospects, directly making political points on official state email.
Sutherland admonished Nichols, “In the future, nothing political in nature can be discussed through state email,” nailing down the fact that a violation did occur.
However, not only did Ceretto not fire Nichols after all his chicanery was exposed, but Nichols remained on staff through the remainder of Ceretto’s term, even accompanying him on occasion to community events, albeit where the two men were pretty much shunned.
Around the same time Ceretto and Nichols were playing fast and loose with campaign regulations, the state Legislative Ethics Commission last year fined disgraced Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak $30,000 for using office resources, including phones, computers and printers, to aid his political campaigns, the very same infractions of which John Ceretto appears guilty as sin.
Not only does it appear John Ceretto is going to escape scrutiny for cheating that took place prior to his ignominious defeat, one of only two of 150 incumbent Assemblymembers who were bounced from office last year, but Ceretto was rewarded for his conniving with a cushy State Parks patronage position literally days into his forced retirement.
Of course, if you’re a connected politician in New York State, that’s often the way things go, as City Councilman Charles Walker found out this month, plea-bargaining four misdemeanor counts for failing to file campaign contribution reports down to a single violation, incurring a $250 fine. He was subsequently named City Council Chair.
Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends…