BOL Chair Caught by FOIL Records Sending Campaign Mail Outside his Current District, Abusing Government Resources and Forcing Overtime for County Staff
Dan Branda, the Republican candidate for Westchester County Legislator in District 4, today stated his conclusion that his opponent, Board of Legislators Chairman Vedat Gashi, is under investigation by the Westchester County Board of Ethics.
At the Board of Ethics meeting on October 4, 2023 (the video for the meeting just became available), Ethics chair Kitley Covill acknowledged receiving the “new complaint” and after a lengthy Executive Session stated that “our proceedings are confidential pending an ultimate determination.”
“If the Board made a determination not to investigate, the Chair would have made that statement and I would have received a letter explaining their determination,” Branda said. “Covill’s declaration of confidentiality is an acknowledgement that Gashi is being investigated–especially with the printout of my complaint on top of her papers, next to her left hand.”
Covill’s statement translates to an open investigation that is warranted by documents obtained by Branda under a Freedom of Information (FOIL) request.
In September, Branda filed a 16-page ethics complaint that originated with Gashi’s illegal use of government mail privileges. Gashi abused his office to send “newsletters” on September 11, 2023–approximately five months after he was barred by county law from sending government mail because he is a candidate.
As demonstrated by the county’s fulfillment of Branda’s FOIL requests, Gashi’s actions warranted a complaint because they are more nefarious than simply overlooking the deadline. Gashi sent the newsletters outside his current district, targeting redistricted voters while ignoring current constituents in Somers and Yorktown. He also apparently targeted voters based on election history and other criteria and required county employees to work overtime to meet his demands.
Branda explained, “We know from FOIL that constituents in Catherine Borgia’s current district emailed the Board of Legislators, confused because they received Gashi’s newsletter. These are voters who are redistricted into our district in the upcoming election.”
Branda also revealed that, based on FOIL, the county’s Department of Information Technology’s procedure was to mail all registered voters in the district, or nearly 29,000 households–but they did not do that. Instead, Gashi only mailed 20,000 households.
Comparing the full target list to the Board of Elections database is the only way to independently determine the voter criteria that Gashi used for his illegal government newsletter. However, the County denied Branda’s Freedom of Information request for Gashi’s targeting.
“My question is, why were those additional 9,000 households eliminated?” Branda said. “As taxpayers, we deserve an answer to this, and full reimbursement from the Gashi campaign. Because the County is hiding the targets, my question is one that only the Board of Ethics can answer.”
In an article published by the Northern Westchester Examiner, Gashi issued a belittling but nonetheless false denial to Branda’s charges. Gashi told the newspaper that “Branda fails to understand the new state election law, which went into effect in 2019, that allows mailers up to 60 days before the election.” No such statute exists in state Election Law and would not otherwise supersede Westchester County’s more restrictive law.
“I expect the county’s Ethics investigation into Vedat Gashi will hold him accountable for his blatant abuse of government resources to spread his campaign misinformation,” Branda concluded.