LOCKPORT – Investigative information in the case of Mary Jo Tamburlin, the Niagara County Legislature clerk accused by Democrats of notarizing a nominating petition bearing false dates, has been sent to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.
A Freedom of Information request by The Buffalo News produced printouts of two emails from Niagara County District Attorney Michael J. Violante to an official at the office of Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, forwarding the information. One was dated Aug. 1; the other was not dated on the printout. The forwarded material itself was not released.
Sedita wouldn’t confirm his office’s involvement. He said, “The office of the district attorney never comments on whether anyone is under investigation until charges are filed.”
Tamburlin is a Republican, as is Violante, and their past political association may have produced a conflict of interest for Violante and the need for a special prosecutor from another county. Sedita is a Democrat.
Lora A. Allen, Democratic election commissioner in Niagara County, said Thursday that Niagara County Sheriff’s Office investigators came to the Board of Elections office in Lockport last week and obtained the registration cards of three voters whose signatures are at the center of the controversy.
Those three men, all Town of Niagara residents, signed petitions carried by Tamburlin to obtain a write-in primary in the Working Families Party for 5th District county legislator.
Tamburlin is a notary public, meaning that by law she is allowed to circulate petitions for any candidate in any party.
The Republicans wanted a write-in primary in the 5th District to try to grab the Working Families line away from Legislator Jason A. Zona, D-Niagara Falls. They were hoping to produce a write-in win for the GOP-backed candidate, former legislator Giulio G. Colangelo, a registered member of the Independence Party.
Three valid signatures from Working Families members were needed, and to be valid, they had to be members who hadn’t signed Zona’s petition.
The three voters also signed voter registration cards to join Working Families as well as signing the petition Tamburlin carried.
When Tamburlin notarized the petition, the signatures of the three new voters were dated July 18, the final day to sign such petitions. However, the voters later signed affidavits at the Democrats’ request, attesting that they didn’t sign on July 18. Two said they signed on July 17 and one said he signed on July 16.
Colangelo, who accompanied Tamburlin on the petition-signing rounds, has said all the signatures were gathered July 17. He said he wasn’t present when Tamburlin signed the witness statement and notarized the petition.
However, since the petitions were signed on the night of July 17 and the registration cards couldn’t be submitted until July 18, the new voters were not legally Working Families members when they signed the petition.
The Board of Elections invalidated the petition, and the Democrats sought a criminal investigation of Tamburlin.