It has recently been reported in The Ithaca Times that Tompkins County Legislator and candidate for the Assembly seat I have held for 18 years, Anna Kelles, recently returned a total of $4,500.00 in campaign contributions to three local developers after it became known that Ms. Kelles wrote to the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) to "move along" their proposed City Harbor development project after receiving the contributions.

While I was troubled by her actions, I had not planned to weigh in on this matter until Ms. Kelles issued a statement that dragged my name into the controversy that has engulfed her.

I am deeply troubled that she blurred the lines in her statement by making it sound as if I were involved in some way.  She says I supported the project.  She would have no way of knowing that, since I never made a statement to Ms. Kelles personally, nor have I issued any public statement about such support. Therefore it is most inappropriate for her to make that unsupported claim.  

She also implies that I may have written to DOT about the traffic plan issue. I did not. In fact, when one of the developers reached out to my office to discuss such assistance, I told my staff to tell them I needed to get a request for assistance on this DOT issue from the city or county, which has, in fact, never come back to my desk.  

Had one of those entities contacted me for assistance, I would have set up a meeting between my local government, the DOT and me, as I have in the past when such problems arose. I would have let my local governments know that they could invite the affected developers into that meeting, as well, if they thought it helpful.  

New York State has very strong Ethics rules, and I would never write a letter to the DOT or any state agency asking them to move a project along,  which, in this case, seems to imply that they should put aside their stated objections to the traffic plan and give their approval. I can, and often do, advocate for my constituents before state agencies, but would never suggest that agency concerns should be laid aside.  That would be highly improper, both in my view, and under our Legislative Ethics rules and laws.  

It is extremely important in both politics and government -- in life too -- that people understand and abide by appropriate boundaries, understanding their role, its responsibilities and its limits. I'm very concerned, in this instance.

I believe it is appropriate for Ms. Kelles to set the record straight in this matter by publicly correcting her misleading statements about me.  During my entire public life, no one has ever asserted in any way that I did anything unethical or improper.

I never would have accepted large contributions and then engaged in the advocacy that Ms. Kelles reportedly undertook. That would be unthinkable.

My strong sense of ethics has always been a hallmark of my representation of the 125th Assembly District and something in which I take great pride. I ask that Ms. Kelles correct the record in regard to my involvement.

(1) comment

Emily Adams

The Kelles campaign sent out the following message to their mailing list early this morning (and may have distributed it further, I don't know, I am just a volunteer):

The waterfront projects are two that I and many other City, County, and State elected officials and staff have been supporting for the last 2-1/2 years, due to their combination of access to medical care, affordable housing, mixed-use dense walkable development, and public recreation, all built with innovative sustainability and dignity for all users.

I had been led to believe that Barbara Lifton had made her support public. As she has said that that is not the case, I sincerely apologize to her. For years, Lifton has been a strong voice representing Tompkins & Cortland, and has helped our area develop thoughtfully and I hope to follow in her footsteps, fighting for more affordable housing, access to medical care, and sustainability in Albany.

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