BY MICHAEL RICONDA AND MARC MOSS
New City – In a bombshell revelation, the Rockland County Republican Committee revealed on July 15 that county legislator and Clarkstown Highway Department “constituents representative” Frank Sparaco, caught both Democratic and Republican officials proposing potential bribes in order to win the seat of Clarkstown’s Highway Superintendent for Democratic Highway Superintendent candidate Dennis Malone.
Republican Chairman Vincent D. Reda was joined by Republican Chairman Bob Axelrod, current Clarkstown Highway Superintendent Wayne Ballard and Sparaco for a press viewing of the tapes at the Republican Party’s local headquarters in New City.
“I was approached by people who thought my integrity would be for sale-like it was normal to accept bribes-and my integrity was not for sale,” Sparaco said. “And as far as going to the FBI? That’s my duty. I swore an allegiance to this country in the Navy and when I got sworn into the County Legislature. I’m not going back on that oath, especially for this kind of nonsense.”
The three separate tapes depict Sparaco in talks with Malone, Clarkstown Republican Town Councilman Frank Borelli and Rockland Democratic Party attorney Larry Wiesman. Together, they brokered a deal where Sparaco was offered a full-time position in the Highway Department in exchange for taking an all-paid “vacation” in July, when petition signatures are gathered by parties for elections.
Video of conversation between Sparaco and Dennis Malone: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-T_N3Iol9Q
Video of conversation between Sparaco and Frank Borelli: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5v5pjpKRX4
Video of conversation between Sparaco and Larry Wiesman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCNrtotwgAg
In the first tape, Sparaco speaks one-on-one with Wiesman, who reminds him it would make his life a lot easier to just go along with the deal.
“I’m asking you to stay home for the summer,” Wiesman explained to Sparaco in the first tape. “And he [Dennis Malone], all he is saying is that he’ll change your job from 25 hours to 40 hours.”
Sparaco’s ties to Working Families Party and Independence Party and his extensive experience with local petitioning and organizing were major factors in the decision to include him in the alleged scheme. Sparaco’s absence may have substantially affected the ability for Ballard, who is Malone’s opponent in the election, from obtaining enough votes from the two third parties to win the primaries. It is thought in inside circles that if Malone were to gain access to one third party line, he is the heavy favorite to win the election.
“The conspirators in this case knew that, over the years as a county legislator, I had developed a strong relationship with local voters in both the Independence Party and Working Family Party,” Sparaco explained to the press. “While I was away, they would swoop in and get all those signatures for Mr. Malone.”
Sparaco, in fact, has recruited many supporters to enroll in these parties. A common strategy used by New York politicians where third parties can cross-endorse and tilt elections.
The plan seemed to be orchestrated with Malone’s knowledge. Borelli explained during a recorded conversation between him, Sparaco and Malone that Sparaco’s absence would weaken Ballard’s ability to get out the vote. “If you’re not putting pressure on from here, then he’ll [Malone] get the line and the other guys,” Borelli explained to Sparaco on the tape.
In addition, Wiesman stated in the video that Rockland Democratic Party Chairwoman Kristen Zebrowski Stavisky approved of Malone making a deal with Sparaco, though she never appeared in the recordings and did not know details. In a later conversation, Malone echoed Wiesman’s assertion that Stavisky approved of a peace treaty.
Other potentially damaging items of information include assertions by Borelli that Malone is not as “astute” as Ballard, but makes up for it with his “personality,” defending him against Sparaco’s argument that Malone was incapable of running the Highway Department. Malone supporter Ron Altman is described as a “lug” at one point in the tapes by one of his friends.
Sparaco gathered the evidence with a Bluetooth headset. Before receiving the go-ahead, Sparaco explained he consulted Reda about the initial offer. Sparaco and Reda approached counsel, which encouraged them to wear a wire. Once he handed over the tapes to the FBI, they asked follow-up questions and requested Sparaco wait a few months before publically announcing the operation.
The FBI has not confirmed if an official investigation is currently underway into the matter. Sparaco has received criticism for choosing to go public with the tapes instead of working exclusively with law enforcement. Not included in the presentation were two separate instances in which Sparaco claimed he was patted down for recording devices, though his Bluetooth apparently went undiscovered.
Sparaco stated to the press that he believed a past feud between Borelli and Ballard over temporary speed bumps in Clarkstown likely contributed to his motivations, speculating the whole plan might have been engineered by Borelli to prove himself to the Democrats so he could switch parties.
Wiesman, Stravisky and Malone could not be reached for comment. Borelli issued a statement claiming the video and audio were “highly edited” from its initial three hour length and that he had nothing to gain from the conversations because he was not up for re-election this year.
“This is because I have decided to back a candidate for Highway Superintendent, someone other than the Republican incumbent, Wayne Ballard,” Borelli stated.
Borelli went on to not only challenge Sparaco to release the remaining footage, but also announced he would be filing a lawsuit against the legislator for defamation. Later he told the Rockland County Times he was still debating whether to file the suit.
Party officials, however, commended Sparaco for his decision to take the matter to the Republican Party and the FBI, with Reda explaining Sparaco risked his reputation and career to help bring the scheme down.
“Like they always say, if you see something, say something,” Reda proudly said. “Well, Frank Sparaco saw something and he said something.”