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Massena trustee candidates trade blasts as campaign winds down

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MASSENA - A quiet race for two seats on the Massena Village Board exploded on Friday with an incumbent trustee’s son questioning the credibility of the GOP candidate and the challenger countering the Democrats were engaging in dirty politics.

“I have been told that his union involvement is questionable at best and he (DeWitt G. Forbes) is not a retired teacher as he claims one of many things to be,” Patrick J. Deshaies, the son of Trustee Albert “Herb” Deshaies wrote in a letter to the editor. “Given this information and his recanting his answer to some of the questions asked to him at the political forum, I would be hard pressed to believe most of the things he has said or claims to be.”

In an interview following the submission of the letter, Mr. Deshaies elaborated on the letter’s content.

“He was never a teacher. We’re told he was a teacher’s aide for a brief period. He claims to be a member of all these unions. Perhaps he belongs to some of them, but we didn’t really start looking into his background until recently,” he said. “It’s one thing to pad your résumé a little bit, but when it seems like almost everything is fabricated what is there to believe?”

Making reference to several “attacks” that he was aware of, in addition to the statements made by Mr. Deshaies, Mr. Forbes issued the following statement Friday evening.

“I find it ironic that a few days before the election, a registered Democrat, Rhonda Rodriguez, questions my involvement with Neighborhood Watch, although I have been a designated sector representative in my neighborhood for the past three years. Perhaps, Ms. Rodriguez is a Democrat Party operative,” he wrote.

Ms. Rodriguez’s statements appeared in a letter to the editor already published by The Courier-Observer.

His statement continued, “Just a few hours later, Trustee Francis Carvel’s wife, Sandy Roach Carvel, poses questions about my professional background on a Facebook page. Now, Trustee Herb Deshaies’ son, Patrick, makes more accusations about my background.”

In addition to submitting a written statement responding to Mr. Deshaies’ comments, Mr. Forbes also provided letters from Seaway Area Tech, Norwood, and the St. Lawrence Central School District confirming his employment there. Mr. Forbes said he was unable to obtain confirmation of his employment at Massena Central School on Friday, as the person who would normally provide such documents was out of the office.

“This is to advise you that the Brasher Falls Central School District is placing you on our active substitute teacher list for the 1995-96 school year,” wrote then Superintendent Gary T. Billington in a letter dated May 25, 1995.

A confirmation of employment letter dated Jan. 4, 1994 from then Seaway Area Tech senior program leader Bennett H. Hirsch noted that Mr. Forbes worked as a “long-term substitute teacher” from Sept. 29 through Dec. 21, 1993.

“Mr. Forbes has proven himself to be an enthusiastic and resourceful employee. He stepped into a rather difficult situation and performed commendably,” Mr. Hirsch wrote.

Mr. Deshaies also speculated that Mr. Forbes was being coached by Mayor James F. Hidy during the campaign.

“I know Mayor Hidy was adamant about finding people to run against the Democrats, which is fine. That’s democracy at its best,” Mr. Deshaies said. “I wonder if Mr. Hidy is directing or coaching this guy in some way.”

That’s a claim that Mr. Hidy called, “absolutely ridiculous.”

Mr. Hidy said the extent of his guidance to Mr. Forbes was telling him who she should stay in contact with during the campaign.

“I told him to stay in touch with Charlie Romigh and had Charlie call him. He’s the party chair,” Mr. Hidy said. “Patrick has no foundation to say something like that.”

Mr. Deshaies’ letter, as well as Mr. Forbes’ statement, both appear in their entirety as letters to the editor in today’s publication.

The letter from Mr. Deshaies’ did do more than question Mr. Forbes’ credibility, as it also listed many of the organizations his father has been a part of over the years.

“Now if you don’t support my father, that’s alright, but know the facts before you cast your votes on Nov. 6. He and Mr. Carvel have been good leaders for this community and have shown “common sense” goes a lot further than lies and fantasies. I know that people of the village of Massena deserve truth and honesty, not buffoonery,” he wrote.

When asked what he thought about his son’s comments, the elder Deshaies replied, “I’ve never met this fella before the forum. I’ve heard all kinds of innuendos from a lot of people, but I don’t know where it all came from.”

He did add though, that he has a hard time believing all of Mr. Forbes’ claims.

“When he sat next to me at the forum he had a chest full of medals. If he really did everything he says he did, he would have to be 150-years-old.”

Mr. Forbes concluded his statement by questioning the timing of the statements and saying this isn’t the way he expected a campaign in Massena to be run.

“This looks like a last-minute, Democratic Party coordinated effort to attack my credibility. Obviously, Massena’s good old boy network is very worried about any threat to their power base. Dirty politics like this is better suited to Washington, D.C. or Chicago than Massena, N.Y,” he said. “Democratic Party Chairman Rene Hart and his henchmen and women should be ashamed of themselves.”

Attempts to reach Mr. Hart Friday evening were unsuccessful.

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