Judge candidate questioned about role in Bodah fraud case

Updated: Oct. 16, 2019 at 5:30 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The head of Jefferson County’s Democratic Party is raising questions about the role Republican Dave Renzi played in a controversial court case.

Renzi is running against Democrat Graeme Spicer for Jefferson County Court Judge and Election Day is just three weeks away.

The case we're talking about involves the Bodah family of Watertown. Earlier this month, the state Attorney General demanded the Bodahs give a full accounting of money raised after a tragic fire in the city back in February. Their lawyer - for a time - was Dave Renzi.

Only one person survived the fire that ripped through the Bodah home on Myrtle Avenue, 13 year old Hailey Bodah. Her father and four sisters were killed.

There was a community outpouring of anguish and money.

New York’s Attorney General says more than $100,000 was raised for Hailey Bodah, but her aunt and uncles on her father’s side only turned over $35,000 of that. Dave Renzi was the lawyer for two of them, he delivered the check and noted, “I will now consider my file closed.”

The attorney general wants the rest of the money, some $70,000, to go to Hailey.

Now to be clear, nowhere does the attorney general accuse Renzi of doing anything wrong, but Jefferson County Democratic Chairman Jon Hall says there are still questions Renzi should answer.

"Did he know that the check was $70,000 short? And did he know that the information the fundraisers sent to the attorney general was incorrect? Either way, if he didn't know that information, why not? Because he was the attorney involved. And I guess my other question is, why did he stop being their attorney," said Hall.

To which Renzi says: "The clients came in. We took care of the matter and I concluded my representation, which is what I do with all clients. So, that transaction is something that's not unusual for me to do."

And Renzi says there's a more basic issue here.

"People have a right to be treated fairly. People have a right to have an attorney represent them. That's what I do. That's what I did here. And, I just think it's important that the justice system prevails," he said.

The Democrats called into question Renzi’s judgement just two weeks after it was learned Spicer was sanctioned and fined for his actions in a lawsuit in federal court. Plus, it’s less than three weeks before Election Day:

"It's, you know, a little politically motivated. But, it's also a case of where I felt the voters needed to know something like this and be able to try and get a statement from Mr. Renzi, and evaluate for themselves him as a candidate," said Hall.

In at least one instance, the attorney general says the Bodahs made statements through Renzi that were - to use the attorney general’s words - “blatantly untrue,” though again, Renzi is not accused of any wrong-doing.

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