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Campaign mailer raises eyebrows for use of Amherst town seal

A campaign mailer residents received Thursday about the Erie County Legislature's 5th District raised some eyebrows for its use of Amherst's town seal.

The mailer is a letter written by Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein in which he endorses Guy R. Marlette, a candidate for the legislature seat in Tuesday's election. Weinstein's glowing endorsement of Marlette came as no surprise, given that Marlette served as deputy supervisor under Weinstein from 2010 to 2015. Both were registered Republicans who last year switched their party affiliation to Conservative.

The mailer includes Weinstein's name, title and his home address, according to a copy provided to The Buffalo News. But it also uses the official town seal on the header and on the envelope, which town Democrats said was inappropriate and unauthorized.

"It's an attempt to deceive the recipients into thinking it's official government correspondence," said town Democratic Chairman Jerome Schad.

A disclaimer at the bottom of the letter and on the envelope states that it was paid for by the New York Republican State Committee and not at taxpayer expense.

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Weinstein said he wrote the letter and signed it, but was not aware it would carry the town seal.

"The letter is appropriate, whether putting the seal on it changes things I don't have an opinion on that," he said. "I don't think it's all that important."

Asked if he thought the mailer implied that the Town of Amherst is endorsing Marlette, Weinstein said, "No, it clearly says at the bottom it was paid for by the Republicans."

Marlette said he knew of the letter but had not seen it as of  Thursday afternoon.

"I don't think the town could actually take a position on endorsing or not endorsing anybody," he said. "I think I had a long working relationship with Barry and I would think that Barry would, in fact, endorse me."

Every town in the state is required to adopt a code of ethics, which usually contains a provision prohibiting the use of municipal resources or property for personal or private gain, said John Conklin, director of public information for the state Board of Elections. Municipal resources would include the town seal, emblem, logo or coat of arms, he said.

A search of Amherst's ethics code found no such provision. There’s no provision in state Election Law, Conklin added.

Jessica Proud, a spokeswoman for the state GOP committee, said while there is a prohibition on using the state seal she was not aware a local statute.

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