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Malone councilwoman charged with Election Law misconduct

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MALONE - Malone Town Councilwoman Mary E. Scharf was charged with four misdemeanors Monday as a result of an investigation into improper nominating petitions filed with the Franklin County Board of Elections.

Scharf, 63, was charged with two counts of misconduct under the state Election Law and two counts of offering a false written instrument for filing under the state Penal Law. She is scheduled to answer the charges later this week in Malone Town Court.

“I’m just so shocked by the whole thing I don’t know what to say,” Scharf said Monday night. “It’s just shocking to me. I’ve never even had so much as a speeding ticket.”

The charges come roughly seven months after questions were raised about petitions Scharf had filed with the elections board to nominate people for the Franklin County Democratic Committee. According to published reports, an unnamed person brought concerns about the petitions Scharf had submitted to Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne, who in turn referred the matter to a special prosecutor because of a potential conflict of interest.

It was that special prosecutor, Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie, who filed the charges Monday. Wylie declined to comment on the specifics of the case Monday night, saying only, “She’s been charged with what she’s been charged with, and we’re going to prosecute her.”

Scharf said her understanding is that the charges stem from petitions she filed with the county elections board in July on behalf of candidates running for the county Democratic Committee. Those petitions listed four candidates for two positions in one election district and only one candidate for two positions in two others, she said.

Scharf said she moved two of the names in the district with four candidates to the districts with only one candidate each at the direction of Democratic Elections Commissioner Kelly Cox. The move would prevent a primary, which would cost the county money, Scharf said she was told by Cox.

“I did what I was told by the elections commissioner,” Scharf said. “I did what she told me. I didn’t do anything different.”

Cox did not respond to a telephone call seeking comment Monday night.

Although party committee members nominally represent a specific election district, there is no requirement the committee member live in the district, Scharf said. Having two committee members in each election district would ensure each district was fully covered when it came time to circulate petitions for candidates for public office and perform other committee functions, she said.

“I’m very sorry that I did what she told me,” Scharf said. “I don’t know what to do now.”

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