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If there has been a consistent theme to the closing days of Democrat Rocco J. Diina's campaign for sheriff, it has been the "lies" of Republican opponent Patrick Gallivan.

Diina followed that line again Tuesday by disputing Gallivan's claims about tops-in-the-state scores in competition for State Police lieutenant.

But the former State Police officer wouldn't budge, sticking to his contention that he indeed finished first on the lieutenants exam and saying Diina's remarks smack of "desperation."

"Rocco is grasping at straws," Gallivan said. "It's another desperate act of a career politician."

Diina started the latest flare-up with another assault on the Gallivan campaign.

While Gallivan has emphasized his top rankings in sergeant and lieutenant competition, Diina produced a 1991 State Police "eligible list" showing Gallivan ranking second.

"I think he's trying to deceive the people into thinking he finished first and he certainly didn't," Diina said. "It's just like I questioned him about his claim to have personally arrested murderers and rapists."

Diina says his problems with Gallivan's answers lie not in the details but in the truthfulness.

But Gallivan dismissed Diina's latest round, pointing out he never said he finished tops on the eligibility list.

What he said, Gallivan explained, is that he finished No. 1 on the competitive examination -- one aspect leading to the eligibility list. When other factors such as veterans credits were added to the 1991 list, he said, his position dropped to No. 2.

"I had the highest score on the exam, and that's different from the ranking on the list," he said. "And I have always said that I scored highest on the competitive exam."

A State Police spokeswoman in Albany confirmed that rankings in exams and eligibility lists are different.

"The written exam is only a certain percentage of the overall list," Lt. Jamie Mills said. "In 1991 you also had veterans credits, years of service and an oral exam considered."

It's a possibility, she added, that someone could score tops on the written exam but not appear at the top of the list.

"It's not that unusual," she said.

But Diina wasn't satisfied.

"That's baloney," he said. "I've been a cop since I was 18. And when you produce a list, you either finish first or you don't finish first. That's like saying Cleveland won the World Series because they scored more runs."

Diina also questioned the accuracy of Gallivan's claim of being the youngest captain in the history of the State Police.

"I challenge him to produce a document saying he was the youngest," Diina said.

Gallivan said he would not answer Diina's request, while Mills said the state police keep no such records.

Meanwhile, Right to Life candidate Charles E. Burkhardt held a news conference this morning to tout his credentials and rip The Buffalo News for what he called its failure to adequately cover his minor-party campaign. But most of his words were aimed at Gallivan, whom he called not qualified to hold the office.

Burkhardt, a Sheriff's Department deputy, even displayed an anonymous piece of mail he claimed pointed to wrongdoing by one of the candidates. He acknowledged his charges were unsubstantiated, and, as a result, The News is withholding his charge.

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