Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner sees “Pigeon prints” all over the campaign of Family Court candidate Michele A. Brown, and is demanding an explanation.
Zellner on Friday accused Brown, who was not endorsed by party leaders, of collaborating with allies of G. Steven Pigeon – the former party chairman and veteran political operative who is at the center of a campaign finance probe conducted by the state attorney general, the State Police, and the FBI.
He said many of the Brown supporters who circulated her designating petitions all have questionable backgrounds or are under investigation in the Pigeon probe. All are connected to Pigeon, a longtime political foe, he claimed.
Zellner said Brown paid $10,000 to LSA Strategies, a firm run by former Buffalo Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey, whose home (along with those of Pigeon and others) was searched on May 28 by state and federal agents involved in the investigation.
He also pointed out that her petitions were circulated by Pigeon associates. He named Louis Turchiarelli, whom he called a “convicted felon” (he was convicted of extortion in 2006); Lisa Yaeger, a local attorney who pleaded guilty to failure to report taxable income; and political operative Kristy Mazurek, the treasurer for the WNY Progressive Caucus under investigation in the Pigeon probe.
“The common denominator with all of these individuals is Steve Pigeon,” the chairman said. “How does she explain her involvement with individuals and firms currently under investigation by law enforcement authorities? We are seeing all of the tactics associated with Steve Pigeon.
“We hold judges and judicial candidates to a higher standard, and they need to demonstrate that they are worthy of the public’s trust,” he added.
Brown, chief attorney for the Children’s Legal Center, said she hired Casey before he was under investigation and that he has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
“Therefore, in accordance with the foundation of all legal precedence, innocent until proven guilty, Mr. Casey continues to play a part in my campaign,” she said.
Brown also noted that her petitions were circulated by volunteers and paid consultants.
“None of the petitions for the Democratic line were challenged by either my Democratic opponent or the party,” she said. “In light of that fact, today’s allegations by the Erie County Democratic Party are pure political theater.”
Kelly Brinkworth is the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate.
Zellner also noted the involvement in the campaign of former Supreme Court Justice Joseph G. Makowski, who resigned his judicial seat and was later suspended from practicing law for six months after submitting a false affidavit to help disbarred lawyer Anne E. Adams beat a 2008 drunken-driving case.
Makowski acknowledged on Friday he has agreed to assist Brown on any legal challenges to her petitions.
Zellner also accused Brown of making contributions to several local campaigns in excess of the $250 limit for judicial candidates.