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Former deputy county executive charged with official misconduct


Craig, Gary. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester, N.Y] 07 Oct 2009.

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Abstract
During his career, Smith had served as a Greece Town Board member, Monroe County Water Authority executive director and deputy director, communications director for Monroe County government, deputy director of communications for the county, and public information officer for the county's Office of Emergency Preparedness and the county Fire Bureau.

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Former Deputy County Executive James Smith today was charged with official misconduct, making him the first high-ranking county official to be accused of a crime as part of the investigation into the Robutrad Corp. scandal. Smith, a prominent figure in Republican circles for years, was charged with six misdemeanor counts of official misconduct -- a common charge brought against public officials accused of malfeasance. District Attorney Michael Green said that the six counts relate to Smith's failure to take action between May 2007 and June 2008 when he learned of possible wrongdoing by Robutrad workers. Smith also took actions that allowed Robutrad workers to continue their misdeeds, Green said. By refusing to rein in Robutrad, Smith allowed the workers to do jobs "to benefit (Smith's) political party," Green alleged. Smith today pleaded not guilty before County Court Judge Frank Geraci Jr. and he was released on his own recognizance. Robutrad, which is now defunct, was created in the late 1980s to provide trades workers to Monroe County. Nine former Robutrad employees have pleaded guilty to petit larceny, admitting that they were paid by the county for work was not county-connected. "As I stated when my administration first uncovered wrongdoing and launched the investigation of Robutrad, , no one in county government is protected from scrutiny or prosecution," County Executive Maggie Brooks said in a statement today after Smith's indictment. "... Anyone who has violated the public's trust or has stolen from taxpayers will

ultimately be held accountable." Authorities have alleged that former County Department of Environmental Services employee Robert Morone had Robutrad workers do odd jobs for politically connected individuals and Morone's friends and family. Many of those who had work done may not have known that the Robutrad workers were being paid by the county at the same time, authorities say. Morone faces both federal fraud charges and state charges of grand larceny. The federal criminal complaint against Morone alleged that Smith learned that Robutrad workers and Morone were at a strip club in May 2008 "while being paid by the county." "Deputy County Executive James Smith learned of such trip and confronted Morone and the Robutrad workers," said the complaint from FBI Special Agent Michael Yerdon. "However, neither Morone nor the Robutrad workers were formally disciplined." In a March interview with Yerdon and Sheriff's Office Investigator Patrick Crough, Smith denied protecting Robutrad, according to court records. He said he first learned of wrongdoings with the strip club report, and went with an assistant to confront the workers. He said he gave Smith "a significant verbal reprimand," and did the same with the Robutrad crew. In the interview, Smith at first told investigators that he didn't fire Morone and the workers because sheriff's officials wanted to conduct an investigation, the report states. When told the strip club event was at least a week before the Robutrad investigation started, Smith then said he hadn't taken more actions because "he wanted to get a better understanding of what Morone and the Robutrad crew was up to," the report states. Smith said the first solid information he received about problems with Robutrad was in May 2008, but he did acknowledge that former Department of Environmental Services chief John Graham complained several times about the workers. Smith said he did not act then because Graham had no specific examples of wrongdoing. When asked by Crough "if he ever directed and/or implied in any way to Graham to back off of Morone and the Robutrad workers, Smith said 'No,' " the report says. "When Investigator Crough asked if he ever gave Graham a vague directive to 'make Morone comfortable,' Smith said 'No.' " At one point in the interview, Smith was asked whether he had said an investigation into Robutrad "would be the downfall of the Republican Party." He answered that he had not made such a statement, but may have said "it could get ugly or complicated." Smith, who resigned in April, had served as deputy county executive since October 2005. During his career, Smith had served as a Greece Town Board member, Monroe County Water Authority executive director and deputy director, communications director for Monroe County government, deputy director of communications for the county, and public information officer for the county's Office of Emergency Preparedness and the county Fire Bureau. Authorities have painted Morone, the former chairman of the Gates GOP committee, as an individual who pushed Robutrad workers to help Republican candidates with campaigns. Workers helped at fundraisers, marched in parades, and set up campaign signs. Morone sometimes arranged for bolstered overtime payments to the workers in repayment for their

political "volunteering," authorities allege. According to the complaint against Morone, Morone e-mailed GOP officials and some county officials -- including Smith -- on May 31, 2008 apologizing that he had not turned out as many people for an event as he'd hoped. "There were a total of 36 marchers," the e-mail said, according to the complaint. "27 of those 36 were my crew, all organized and 'hand fed' by me. I apologize, as I think I could have done better." Smith's lawyer, Joseph Damelio, said he has yet to learn the specifics of the allegations. A trial is set in the case for March. Smith's arrest could be of particular embarrassment for the administration of Brooks, who insisted his resignation had nothing to do with Robutrad. She also has said she thinks no county employees other than Morone had committed wrongdoing in connection with Robutrad. Brooks has noted that her administration brought the allegations of Robutrad crimes to light and asked for an investigation by the Sheriff's Office. The FBI later joined the investigation. District Attorney Green also said today that Brooks brought the Robutrad matter to law enforcement immediately after learning of possible wrongdoing. In a statement released today, Brooks said that her administration has fully cooperated with the investigation. "We must now let the judicial process play out," she said. GCRAIG@DemocratandChronicle.com

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Indexing (details)
Subjects Political parties, Indictments, Criminal investigations, Official misconduct, County executives, Public officials Former deputy county executive charged with official misconduct Craig, Gary Rochester Democrat and Chronicle 2009 Oct 7, 2009 2009 NEWS Gannett Co., Inc. Rochester, N.Y. United States

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