Republicans Tom Best Jr. and Michael Mosey are running for re-election to the Hamburg Town Board, and with Tuesday's primary approaching, the Hamburg Republican Committee has taken out multiple full-page advertisements in the local newspaper.
Those ads, however, are not supporting Best and Mosey. The ads are attacking the two.
The Hamburg Republican Committee in February endorsed Amy McKnight and Daniel Celani for the two open spots on the four-person board, and an extremely contentious race has followed. The committee's latest full-page ad in the Hamburg Sun urges voters to "fire" Best Jr. and Mosey as it attacks the incumbents with charges that include harassment and flip-flopping.
"I've never seen a dirtier local campaign," said Best, son of the former longtime Hamburg highway superintendent. "Our opposition has been nothing but a negative smear campaign – lies and exaggerations."
McKnight, 47, a registered Conservative, unsuccessfully ran for Hamburg supervisor in 2017.
"I know my opponents will say we're doing smear tactics ... but I was just putting out factual stuff that has happened or has not happened in the town," she said. "I don't put anything out there that isn't factual."
McKnight is director of activities at Autumn View Health Care Facility, where she has worked for 30 years.
Prominent in McKnight and Celani's campaign ads: the fact that a town investigation in November concluded that Mosey harassed a town employee and that his actions "could be construed as an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."
Mosey repeatedly asked other town employees whether they thought the director of information technology was qualified for the job and told them that he did not think she was qualified, according to the investigation by Charles J. Naughton, the town's human resources consultant. Naughton wrote that Mosey "is in apparent violation of the Town’s policy against general harassment which improperly interferes with the ability of another employee to complete [their] expected job."
"I disagree with that completely," said Mosey. "I wasn't stopping the employee from doing the job. I was questioning the ability of doing it reasonably and effectively."
The Buffalo News obtained a copy of Naughton's findings and of the employee's written complaints under the state's Freedom of Information Law.
When the director of information technology filed complaints with the town last July, she alleged that Mosey responded with "a rude hand gesture" at a Town Board work session last April when the two disagreed. She also alleged that Mosey told her in the same month that because she had done good work on a particular project, "maybe he'd take me out to dinner in France or maybe at a roadkill cafe." Mosey admitted to Naughton that he made the hand gesture but denied making the comment about taking the employee out to dinner.
The IT director also alleged in her complaints that Mosey last May demanded access to all the interior doors in Town Hall "so that I can spy on the engineering employees to see if they are actually working." When the IT director told Mosey she would need to get permission from the town supervisor before she could grant him that access, he berated her, according to her complaint.
Mosey was removed from his position as a liaison to the IT department; the town has taken no further action against him.
Best, a retired town detective sergeant, has teamed up with Mosey to make the election a lineup of two incumbent Republicans vs. two endorsed Republicans.
Mosey, 54, who helps manage his family businesses, won a two-year term as an endorsed Republican in 2017. He fell out of favor with the Hamburg Republican Committee after chairman Mark Cuda accused Mosey of asking for a public endorsement for re-election before he voted on a Planning Board appointment, a charge Mosey denied.
"Every negative thing said about me has been twisted, and fabricated and extended to make it look bad," Mosey said. "I grew up in this town. I have volunteered, I've helped start soccer programs. ... For the last 50 years I’ve been a great guy, and one year in town office all of a sudden I'm an evildoer, which is just not the case. I will always, always, always work with anybody in the town to make our town a better place to live in, work in and play in."
Best, 50, was elected to a four-year term in 2015 as an endorsed Democrat although he previously had been a registered Conservative. Last year he registered as a Republican, earning flip-flop charges from his opponents.
"I've been independent from both party leaders," said Best. "When I was a Democrat, I wasn’t beholden to the party bosses. In local politics, it's the job you can do. This isn't the national level, this is a local council race and it's what a person can do for their town.
"They're trying to make a big deal out of me leaving the Democratic party to go Republican, but one of their candidates isn't even a Republican," referring to McKnight, a Conservative. "They’re just throwing anything at the wall and seeing what will stick."
Celani, a UB law student and member of the Hamburg Republican Committee who is running in his first election, echoed a familiar theme as running mate McKnight.
"I'm very factual. I look at the facts and see what it is and try to get it out there," said Celani, 23. "I can't believe the way our small town is operating, and the best disinfectant is sunlight. What I've seen has left a sour taste in my mouth and I'm ready to change that culture."
Best Jr., McKnight and Mosey are also running on the Conservative line in this primary. Celani is only running in the Republican primary.