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Erie County DA Gets Tamburlin Case At Request of Democratic Chairman

As reported by Tom Prohaska in the Buffalo News last week, the investigation into voting fraud charges against Niagara County Legislature Clerk Mary Jo Tamburlin, first reported by this newspaper, has been referred to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.

Tamburlin, who is a notary public, is being investigated as to whether she deliberately misdated three voter signatures in order to help a Republican-backed candidate for 5th District legislative seat.

The changing of dates was critical in getting the opportunity to ballot in the Working Families Party for Republican-backed Giulio G. Colangelo, who is running against the incumbent, Democrat Jason Zona.

A Freedom of Information request by the News yielded printouts of emails from Niagara County District Attorney Michael J. Violante to an official at the office of Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, forwarding information on the Tamburlin matter.

Although the information contained in the emails was redacted, sources tell the Niagara Falls Reporter that the investigation conducted by the Niagara County Sheriff's Office has been completed and the results forwarded to Sedita.

Sources confirmed that all three men who signed the allegedly misdated petitions were interviewed by Niagara County Sheriff Department investigators. Also interviewed were Niagara County Election Commissioners Lora A. Allen and Mary Casamento.

It was Nick Forster, the Niagara County Democratic chairman, who spearheaded the call to have a special prosecutor look into the Tamburlin matter because of a potential conflict of interest between Tamburlin, a longtime Republican operative, and the Niagara County District Attorney, Michael Violante, also a Republican.

"A special prosecutor removes the perception of bias," Forster told the Reporter, adding that he officially requested the change of prosecutors.

Colangelo told the Reporter that, although he helped collect the signatures, he wasn’t present when Tamburlin notarized the petitions.

At the nexus of this matter is that Tamburlin is a notary public which gave her the legal authority to notarize petition signatures of a party where she is not a member.

A notary public is a public officer whose main duty is to legally verify signatures.

According to New York Notary Public license law, if a notary makes an "acknowledgment" - a notary's written act of validating a signature is true - when a person did not personally appear before the notary "on the day specified, the notary’s certificate that he so came is palpably false and fraudulent.”

New York Executive Law states that a notary public who "shall practice any fraud or deceit, is guilty of a misdemeanor (Executive Law, section 135-a), and may be removed from office.”

Cases of criminal prosecution for misdating an acknowledgement when there is not a direct financial gain are rare.

The board of elections invalidated the petitions Tamburlin filed.

Zona, the intended victim of the alleged scheme, was the man who discovered the signatures were misdated after making a personal visit to the three men whose signatures are in question.

When reached for comment, Zona said, "I have no comment on the matter. I will await the results of the investigation."

The original story of Tamburlin's allegedly false notary acknowledgements was reported first by the Niagara Falls Reporter.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

AUG 13, 2013