Six people in the 101st Assembly District have filed a complaint with the New York State Board of Elections and the Attorney General’s Office against Assemblyman Brian Miller for what they believe to be campaign finance violations in 2016.
The complaint specifically looks at loans Miller received from Michael B. Waterman. Campaign finance reports filed with the Board of Elections show Waterman provided Miller with two loans, one for $2,500 on July 25, 2016, and another for $6,000 on Aug. 12, 2016.
These same records show another set of loans coming from Waterman's wife, Debra, for the same amounts on the same dates.
Michael Waterman serves as Miller's chief of staff.
Miller, R-New Hartford, was elected to the Assembly in 2016, replacing Claudia Tenney, who was elected to Congress.
Cheryl Couser, deputy director of public information with the Board of Elections, said loans turn into campaign contributions if they are not repaid by the day after the election. After the election, the BOE’s Compliance Unit looks over the financial disclosure forms. The matter is referred to the BOE’s Division of Election Law Enforcement if the contributions come in over the $4,400 non-family contribution limit.
The general election in 2016 was Nov. 8. Therefore, the loans needed to be paid back by Nov. 9 or they would turn into contributions. According to campaign finance reports, the loans from the Watermans were not repaid as of Oct. 1, 2018.
"My opponent doesn’t have his facts right," Miller said in a statement to the Observer-Dispatch. "My opponent doesn’t have the law right. I’m in compliance with all state Board of Election rules and regulations. Any suggestion that Mr. Waterman was not hired on the merit of his experience and qualifications is categorically false."
Tom Schimmerling of East Meredith is one of the six people who filed the complaint.
"We just don’t like to see this," he said. "It needs to be investigated."
Schimmerling also took issue with Michael Waterman serving as Miller’s chief of staff. Couser said, however, there was no provision in the election law that prohibits hiring someone that makes a donation.
Schimmerling said he had no formal connection to the Democratic campaign of Chad McEvoy, who is challenging Miller for the 101st Assembly seat. Schimmerling further stated he had not done anything on behalf of McEvoy’s campaign.
Schimmerling also had filed the complaint against a former Miller campaign staffer who was arrested last month on forgery charges after an investigation alleged he reportedly forged signatures on a Conservative Party designating petition for Miller.
Kajus Normantas, 22, of Albany, was arrested by state police on Sept. 12. He was charged with five counts of second-degree forgery, a Class D felony, authorities said.
Schimmerling said he had not heard whether the Board of Elections or attorney general’s office had received the most recent complaints.
A representative from the Division of Election Law Enforcement said via email that the work of the division is confidential and that they could not comment on the complaint. The state Attorney General’s office did not return messages seeking comment.
McEvoy – who released information on the filing of the complaints via a news release – said the complaints were filed by engaged Democratic voters in the district. He said he knew the complaints would be filed, but said it was not done on behalf of his campaign.
He said it appeared to be a campaign finance violation to him, though he added that it simply could be a case of sloppy paperwork.
"If they want to make laws, they should follow laws," McEvoy said.