CANTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - Jennie Bacon, the Democratic elections commissioner in St. Lawrence County, has been cleared of wrong-doing in sending out an email critical of north country congresswoman Elise Stefanik.
An aide to Stefanik had called on Bacon to resign - and for an ethics investigation - after Bacon emailed a press release from St. Lawrence County Democrats critical of Stefanik to other elections commissioners across New York state.
The email was sent using her work computer on county time, the Stefanik aide charged.
Bacon said what happened was a mistake, and that she inadvertently sent the press release as an attachment to her email instead of the document she intended to send.
St. Lawrence County Attorney Stephen Button investigated and concluded “Ms. Bacon did not intend to send the original materials or utilize county materials to further private objectives,” according to William Sheridan, county legislature chairman.
“His findings support the notion that the actions of Ms. Bacon were entirely accidental,” Sheridan said during a legislature committee meeting Monday night.
Therefore, Sheridan does not intend to refer the matter to the county ethics board, as he had originally planned - but that may not be the last word.
It is still possible for Alex DeGrasse, the aide to Stefanik who raised the initial issue, to file a complaint with the county Board of Ethics.
In an emailed statement, DeGrasse wrote “We anticipate that there will be citizen referrals to the Board of Ethics.”
“The hardworking taxpayers of St. Lawrence County deserve transparency and accountability. We will always support strong ethics rules in government on behalf of the North Country.
“Whether intentional or accidental, Ms. Bacon’s use of government resources for political purposes during work hours is illegal and unethical. This is a pattern of behavior with Ms. Bacon,” DeGrasse wrote in his statement.
If the five member Board of Ethics receives a complaint, it has wide latitude in how to proceed. It can use the county attorney’s office to conduct an investigation or investigate itself, and can issue subpoenas.