Sources within the Republican party are reporting that they suspect improper use of campaign funds by the Independence Party has occurred and that these suspicions are being forward to the Rockland County District Attorney and other authorities.
A review of the expenditure reports and donations for the Independence Party demonstrates the potential that funds may have been used for the collection of signatures in the currently contested Republican Party primary that is being waged by Legislator Frank Sparaco in a continuing strategy to consolidate political power under Vinny Reda and himself and thereby thwart reform.
Part of this strategy appears to be accusing Republicans not associated with Sparaco of being anti-Semitic.
Overview of Independence Party
The Independence Party has been described by Phil Reisman of the Journal News as a party that “may lack ideology, but has a jobs agenda”. Reisman says that “the Independence Party isn’t so much a political party as it is a racket, albeit a legal racket.” The Party is controlled by Dr. Giulio Cavallo in Westchester and is influenced by Legislator Frank Sparaco in Rockland whose school friend, John Perrotta, is its present so-called ‘Chairman’ with Sparaco reportedly calling the shots from behind the scenes. A former ‘chairwoman’ was Sparaco’s mother-in-law, Debra Ortutay, who went to jail for lying to a grand jury that was investigating improprieties involving the signing of petitions for the party’s ballot line during Sparaco’s race against Zebrowski in 2010.
Cavallo “endorsed” Rob Astorino in 2009 as the Republican candidate for County Executive in Westchester. Then in 2013 he endorsed Astorino’s opponent. Reisman asked: “What happened?” He then answers his own rhetorical question by saying: “You may safely assume that ideology had little to do with Cavallo’s decision. Cavallo wanted a quid pro quo arrangement for his endorsement and Astorino refused to comply.” In other words, it is all about payback. The IndepenDENCE Party is not an indepenDENT party. It is the ‘Votes-R-Us’ Party so long as ‘Jobs-For-Us’ is the ‘quid pro quo’.
Though most cognoscenti realize that the IndepenDENCE party in Rockland County is somewhat of a sham party with no real ideals, many members mistakenly think that as indepenDENTS they should join the IndepenDENCE party to represent them. In Rockland County, Legislator Frank Sparaco took control of the party about four years ago and parlayed that control into a position of prominence and influence.
Payments to the Kuropatskis for Petitions
As outlined in a previous article in Rockland Voice for the upcoming September 2014 Clarkstown Republican Party primary two men, Michael and Keith Kuropatski, newly registered as Republican party voters and claiming to reside at 17 Louis Avenue in Valley Cottage, the home of Frank and Kimberly Sparaco, witnessed Republican Party petitions submitted by Sparaco. Curiously, both of these men were paid in excess of $3,200 over a three week period for Independence party petitions according to Independence party financial filings.
What has raised eyebrows by senior Republicans is that according to State records neither are notaries or Independence Party members making them ineligible to gather signatures for the Independence political party. New York State election law is clear that to witness political party signatures on petitions one must be registered as a member in that particular political party, a notary of the public or an attorney to gather signatures.
Even more troubling is that after reviewing all petitions submitted countywide for the Independence Party neither Keith’s nor Michael Kuropatski’s names appears in any form on any Independence party petitions. In addition, a ‘Ruth Kuropatski’ also listed as residing at 17 Louis Avenue Valley Cottage was paid $150 for petitions. Ruth Kuropatski according to board of election records is not registered in Rockland County.
The Kuropatski family’s total payment for ‘petitions’ according to the Independence Party records is an astounding $3,365 paid between June 14th through July 3rd, 2014.
Furthermore, in these documents and on Republican Party petitions filed by Frank Sparaco, four adults in addition to Sparaco, his wife Kimberly and their three children are reported as living at 17 Louis Avenue, Valley Cottage namely Michael, Keith and Ruth Kuropatski along with Sparaco’s brother, Antonio Sparaco.
Allegtions of Independence Party Funds Illegally Used for Republican Party Petitions
While the Kuropatski’s appear not to have witnessed signatures in the Independence Party, Michael and Keith did witness numerous signatures in the Republican party. Senior Republican Party members are now questioning if these Independence Party funds were misappropriated for services rendered in the quest for control of the Republican Party currently being ‘masterminded’ by Frank Sparaco.
Republican Party Committee members also note that a payment of $4,100 was made to Ernest Kebrech residing at 2043 Creston Avenue, Bronx, New York on June 3, 2014 with the notation “office.” As was outlined in the previous Rockland Voice article concerning the attempted take-over bid by Sparaco of the Republican party’s senior committee, this address was listed on petitions gathered in June 2014 by several individuals who appear to have been brought from the Bronx to witness 12% of the Sparaco filed petitions including four individuals claiming to reside in the same building at 2043 Creston Avenue. One individual “Ana F” is reported to have collected over a dozen signatures and appears to reside at a different Bronx address than the other four.
Thus, according to those examining this matter within the Republican Party, it appears that petitions collected by Sparaco surrogates with membership in the Republican Party were paid $7,465 in funds from the Independence party. If that proves to be the case then this appears to be a clearly improper and possibly illegal use of these funds.
Savino Connection and Questionable Use of Party Funds
The Independence party filings raise other questions on expenditures which included hundreds of dollars spent at the ‘Whiskey Kitchen’ in Valley Cottage shortly after it opened under the ownership of the Savino family.
According to testimony at a recent Federal corruption trial in which Jay Savino was a testifying witness, Savino claimed he was employed “cleaning bathrooms and filling icetrays” at a restaurant in Rockland County. Savino also admitted in the Halloran trial living in the Rockland County hamlet of Congers, NY – not the Bronx. He said the feds, as part of his plea agreement, opted not to prosecute him for lying about his address for years so he could vote in the Bronx.
On six occasions in April, and May expenditures ranging from $30 to in excess of $190 were recorded as paid to the ‘Whiskey Kitchen’ making it appear that it was used as a regular eating place for someone in the Independence Party. Further over the course of the past year and a half several thousand dollars in party funds were charged at a Shell gas station in Valley Cottage and other stations in the area as well as regular payments for a mobile phone. Numerous expenditures on the Independence Party filings appear more personal in nature ranging for example from flowers, food, gas and other items of a possible non-political nature.
Richard Brega’s and Supervisor Gromack’s Contributions
Political allies of Legislator Sparaco are well represented in the listed contributions to the Independence Party. On May 19, 2014 Brega DOT Maintenance, owned by Richard Brega, is noted as donating $5,000 to the Independence Party. Richard Brega is the owner of Brega Transportation and numerous other subsidiary companies. Brega is believed to be a close confidant of both Frank Sparaco, Clarkstown Town Supervisor, Alex Gromack, and County Legislator, Ilan Schoenberger. Richard Brega attends virtually every County Legislative meeting and has been seen there sitting with the Republican County Chairman, Vinnie Reda.
Mr. Brega made the front page of local newspapers for his generous support of Legislator Ilan Schoenberg’s failed campaign for County Executive. Certain of Mr. Brega’s employees made substantial contributions to Legislator Schoenberger despite making modest salaries. Many of these were from front line staff who were able to donate $3,500 or more individually to Mr. Schoenberger. Collectively the Brega employee contributions were in the order of $50,000.
Legislator Sparaco and Legislator Schoenberger were champions of Mr. Brega in his pursuit of the $80 million County transportation contract in fierce opposition of then County Executive Scott Vanderhoef. There were claims in the press by opposing bidders, outlining and supported by those within the Vanderhoef administration, that Brega did not have the experience required to operate such an enormous undertaking.
Curiously, on June 4, 2014 one day after the payment to Ernest Kebrech, Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack donated $2,500 to the Independence Party through his campaign committee ‘Friends of Alex Gromack’. While it is common that elected officials when endorsed during an election year are often asked to contribute to various parties to defray the cost of literature and advertising, it is unusual when this is done in an off-election year.
Moreover, the timing of the Gromack donation is tied almost to the day when the primary petitions started to be collected and only about a week after Frank Sparaco’s ‘Constituent Assistant’ position was terminated by the Clarkstown Town Board on a motion by Councilman Hoehmann, seconded by Councilwoman Hausner and passed on a voice vote with a third vote from Councilman Borelli in the apparent stunned silence of Councilwoman Shirley Lasker and Supervisor Gromack.
The ‘Friends of Alex Gromack’ committee has been a regular donor of similarly large sums to the Independence party in past years. Records show that in addition to the $2,500 mentioned above, $2,250 was donated on May 8, 2013; $1,000 on December 22, 2013; $1,000 on July 13, 2012 for total donations of $6,750 to this Sparaco-controlled political party in the past two years. In appears to be the most of any elected official. ‘Friends of Alex Gromack’ committee has over $900,000 in its most recent campaign finance filing which is more than many congressional candidates.
Through July 2014 the Independence Party spent $15,470 of which $3,365 was paid to the Kuropatski Family. Michael Kuropatski was paid $1,215, Keith Kuropatski $2,000, and Ruth Kuropatski $150 for what appears to be petition work with Frank Sparaco’s home address of 17 Louis Avenue being recorded as the residence of these three individuals. Including the $4,100 paid to Ernest Kebrech of 2043 Creston Avenue the total is $7,465. Thus nearly 50% of the Independence Party expenditures in this period appear to have involved the afore-mentioned four individuals. Senior members of the Republican Party state that a review of Independence Party Petitions do not show any work performed in that activity by either of the Kuropatskis nor anyone residing at 2043 Creston Avenue.
The same Republican sources have confirmed to Rockland Voice that, given the above review of financial information from the Independence Party’s financial statements, they are suspicious funds were collected and expended by the Sparaco-controlled Independence Party for use in his battle for control of the Republican party.
Rockland Voice understands that previous suspicions concerning possible fraud and forgery associated with election petitions submitted by Legislator Sparaco to the Board of Elections were discussed in a meeting several days ago with the Rockland County District Attorney and members of the FBI and that the above information on the Independence Party’s records will be taken to the Rockland County D.A. and the FBI in the immediate future.