Fulton Democratic Committee files complaint about Pathfinder Bank election donations

FULTON - The chair of the Fulton City Democratic Committee has filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections concerning contributions to the mayoral campaign of Deana Michaels.

Fulton City Democratic Chair Jim Rice said the complaint has been filed with the enforcement division of the state Board of Elections alleging Pathfinder Bank’s contributions to Michaels and the Oswego County Republican Committee were illegal.

“The law is clear. Corporations are not allowed to contribute more than $5,000 all together to candidates, committees and PACs in a calendar year,” Rice wrote in a news release. “Pathfinder reached their legal aggregate contribution limit on February 26, 2019 thereby making all other contributions after that date — including contributions to Deana Michaels and the Oswego County Republican Committee — illegal.”

Rice also pointed to the fact that according to financial filings with the state Board of Elections, Pathfinder gave the Oswego County Republican Committee $2,500, which in turned transferred $2,600 to the Michaels campaign.

Deana Michaels, a branch manager for Pathfinder Bank, is the Republican candidate for mayor in Fulton. The Democrat is Daniel Farfaglia and two candidates, Ethan Parkhurst and David Webber, are running as independents.

Incumbent Republican Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. is not seeking re-election.

“Pathfinder’s involvement in the Fulton mayor’s race is unprecedented, inappropriate and I believe it violates the spirit and letter of campaign finance law,” said Rice. “Deana Michaels and the Oswego County Republican Committee should return those illegal contributions from Pathfinder Bank immediately.”

Rice provided what he said is a list of campaign contributions totaling $8,799 from Pathfinder Bank for 2019. They are:

Jan. 31 — $2,500, Ben Walsh for Syracuse

Feb. 26 — $2,500, New York Bankers Political Action Committee

March 11 — $250, Syracuse Tomorrow (the political action committee for CenterState CEO, the area’s economic development and business agency)

March 19 — $150, Friends of Deana Michaels

May 16 — $149, Syracuse Tomorrow

May 30 — $2,500, Oswego County Republican Committee

June 6 — $750, Friends of Deana Michaels

Fred Beardsley, chair of the county Republican Committee, said the enforcement division of the state Board of Elections is reviewing the donations and if they are out of order, they will be returned.

“If in fact some were done incorrectly, it was just an error and the donations will be paid back,” he said. “If they say this is wrong, we will pay the money back and move on.”

The Fulton Democrats also filed another complaint stating Pathfinder Bank has “an apparent pattern of illegal contributions.” Rice said he has checked into the bank’s contributions from previous years and he believes the bank has donated more than the allotted $5,000 in numerous years.

“There’s more to this than an ‘overpayment made in the calendar year’ as Pathfinder claims, said Rice. “We looked further at Pathfinder Bank’s contribution history over recent years and found that they illegally exceeded their contribution limit year after year. I am deeply concerned that Pathfinder Bank is showing a pattern of violating our state’s campaign finance laws.”

Officials with Pathfinder Bank did not return six phone calls to the bank seeking comment.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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