“Well everything dies baby that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.”
Bruce Springsteen, ‘Atlantic City’
The political careers of Vincent Reda and Wayne Ballard had been presumed dead and buried since both men were removed from their positions of power amidst a wave of voter anger and a determination to clean house within the Rockland County Republican Party. Now, it seems at least one of them is seeking to return to a position of political influence. On July 7th, Reda and Ballard were observed dining together and reportedly were passing ballot petitions between them. The Rockland Voice spoke with multiple sources in the Rockland County Republican Party who stated that they believe Reda is seeking to regain a seat on the Party’s Committee. Whether or not Ballard intends to join him remains to be seen.
Gathering petitions and seeking a return to the Republican Party Committee is well within the rights of both men, but a recap of their political careers explains why a return to any position of power or influence by either of them would be a major setback for the reform that was achieved in the Rockland County Republican Party last year. It should also be noted that neither Reda nor Ballard have publicly stated an intention to return back to the political spotlight, but their meeting involving the alleged exchange of petitions should be cause for alarm for anyone looking to continue the path of reform of the ethics and integrity of Rockland County Republican politics.
Under Reda’s leadership, the Rockland County Republican Party had devolved into a cesspool of backroom dealings leading to a culture of corruption and patronage throughout the county. With Ballard in charge, the Clarkstown Highway Department had become a frequent venue for the placement of the crony beneficiaries of political patronage.
According to colleagues, both Reda and Ballard left office seemingly embroiled in controversy that could have seen either or both of them taken away in handcuffs. One might think that the two would consider themselves fortunate enough to have avoided that fate and that they would be content to move on to other endeavors rather than have anything to do with politics at this point, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Given the damage that Reda and Ballard have done in their previous political lives, the Republicans of Rockland should do everything in their power to prevent a political resurrection of either from happening.
To recap some recent history – In November 2014 Vincent Reda stepped down as Chairman of the Rockland County Republican Party. This move came on the heels of an attempt to takeover the Party’s Committee by Reda’s protege and then Rockland County Legislator, Frank Sparaco. When that attempt failed in epic fashion with Sparaco failing to even win a seat for himself in his own home district, Reda cut a face-saving deal in which he resigned as chairman, but remained on with an “Emeritus” title and retained a seat on the general committee.
Lawrence Garvey was elected as the new chairman and the Republican Party began the process of cleaning up its act. Shortly after, the new leadership began to notice numerous issues regarding the Party’s financial accounts of which Reda had been in control. Over $50,000 was simply missing and unaccounted. One account was never even registered with the New York State Board of Elections; expenditures were listed for car insurance policies and country club memberships. When confronted, Reda was either unable or unwilling to satisfactorily account for what has been described as an “overwhelming” number of issues. Reda was then stripped of his “Emeritus” title and removed from the general committee. [It is certainly possible that the whereabouts of these funds is still subject to a criminal investigation and in the view of many, it is remarkable that Reda has not been arrested.]
Unlike Reda, former Legislator Frank Sparaco was arrested and convicted, but not for any role in the missing funds. Instead Sparaco went down on multiple charges of election fraud related to the takeover attempt of the Republican Party. Sparaco had submitted ballot petitions for individuals seeking spots on the Republican Party Committee which included two individuals listing the Brega Bus Depot as their home address.
The actual signatures on that petition were obtained by none other than Wayne Ballard, who in our view was extremely fortunate to have avoided prosecution in the matter. Ballard’s comeuppance instead came through the polls in the election of November 2015 in which he lost his re-election bid to current Highway Superintendent Frank Dizenzo. Prior to that election, Ballard had twice appointed Frank Sparaco to a position in the Highway Department, both of which completely outraged the taxpayers of Clarkstown. When the Town Board voted to eliminate the first position for which Sparaco had been hired, a shameless and defiant Ballard simply hired him again into a higher paying position as his confidential secretary.
Throughout Ballard’s tenure as Superintendent, he was accused of favoring those who actively supported his political campaigns and pursuing retribution against those who did not. These reports regarding Ballad’s behavior eventually prompted an internal review of the department and a scathing report was issued detailing these allegations. Ballard was subsequently defeated in both the Republican Party primary and the general election of 2015.
The reign of Sparaco, Reda, Ballard and their ilk is exactly what reform-minded voters widely and emphatically rejected in recent elections. The Brega Transport company played a role in the conviction of Sparaco and the political demise of Ballard and also provides a compelling argument why the people of Rockland County must not allow the likes of Reda and Ballard to reverse the progress made in the Republican Party’s integrity.
Recall that the Alden Wolfe-led County Legislature, with Sparaco serving as a county legislator, had attempted to appropriate $4 million dollars in taxpayer money to the Brega Transport company for the daily washing of buses. The sales pitch put forth to the public through Republican Legislator Patrick Moroney was that the daily washings would prevent the buses from spontaneous combustion, as it was asserted that a Transport of Rockland Bus burned in Pearl River from a fire caused by the fact that the bus was “dirty“.
This preposterous proposal was soundly and loudly rejected by the public, but it took a veto from the County Executive to squash it. Even then, the Democratic majority in the Legislature did all it could to rally the votes to override the veto. Only when it was clear that public outrage had reached a fever pitch and certain legislators realized their own self interests were at stake did the idea get put to rest.
Prior to that attempt to put an additional four million dollars into Brega Transport’s coffers, a small number of low-to-mid level Brega employees had suddenly and almost simultaneously decided to donate a combined $52,000 to Rockland County Ilan Schoenberger, who at the time was mounting a campaign to become County Executive. [It would be shocking if these donations and the actions of certain legislators are not the subject of a current federal investigation.] When it was revealed as a result of federal subpoena that then Clarkstown Town Supervisor Alex Gromack had failed to report $10,000 in income on his ethics filings, it was also revealed that the source of that income was the Brega Transport Company. Whether or not this is the subject of a current federal investigation also remains to be seen, but it is clear that a culture of questionable, unethical and outright illegal behavior by many politicians had weaved a tangled, self-serving web of deception and deceit throughout Rockland County.
We cannot sit back and hope that federal prosecutors might find enough evidence to support criminal charges. We must take control of our own destiny whenever and wherever we can. If Vincent Reda and/or Wayne Ballard are seeking a return to power, the people of Rockland must spread the word that all registered Republicans must become educated on who is running for committee seats in their districts and take the time to vote in those elections. Reda and Ballard must be put on notice that every ballot petition signature they submit will be scrutinized intently to ensure that no further fraud is committed against the people of Rockland County.
Should Reda be elected to a committee position, the Executive Committee of the Republican Party should immediately convene a hearing with Reda to explain the muddled financial situation of the Party under Reda’s former leadership. Should he remain unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for his stewardship of the Party’s funds the Executive Committee should have a basis for his permanent removal from all Party activities.
The political careers of these two shameless men should remain dead and buried. Registered Republicans have a figurative shovel at their disposal to keep piling soil on their graves in the form of their votes in committee primaries and it is their responsibility to save the rest of us from a most unwanted political resurrection.
A disgraced party political head, given a well-deserved political burial, should never be permitted to arise from the ashes like some nefarious Phoenix. If the Republican Party does not understand that danger it need look no further than to the Rockland County Democratic Party and its own Phoenix now flying high above the political flames.