Democracy and Justice Insulted by Closure of Corruption Case

We have pointed out before the futility of voting in America. We like to think we live in a democracy and have a say in government, but the truth is that corruption and cronyism runs this country, not the people. This is true in major national elections, and it is true right on down to local government. Dutchess County. NY has a long history of corruption and scandal.

In the latest chapter we saw election commissioner Fran Knapp indicted on 94 counts including 46 felonies. The allegations outline that she was essentially running a "voting machine" to support allies from her position on the Board of Elections.

The Poughkeepsie Journal has highlighted some of the alleged violations going back to 2008, presented in a 70-page report by the grand jury.

• Designated agents on the Board of Elections computer system were changed without a written request from the voter.

• Knapp signed a report for the state Board of Elections closing out a campaign committee for the “Friends of Fred” campaign.

• Knapp signed at least one poll watcher certificate on behalf of candidate Neil DiCarlo in the 2012 primary for the seat held by then-Sen. Steven Saland.

• A vote count for two election districts in Pine Plains was changed after the 2010 general election and a false canvas as a result of that change was certified.

• A backdated signature was submitted to the state BOE.

• A petition in July 2012 on behalf of candidate Ved Shravah to be a candidate on the Working Families Party line in the 2011 local election was altered.

• Knapp requested an employee of the Maplewood senior apartments to have absentee voters sign the outside of ballot envelopes and return them to Knapp without votes having been cast.

• Knapp in fall 2012 solicited proxies from people on the Dutchess County Democratic committee without having the proxies dated, which is required by law.

• Democrat Board of Elections employees shared user names and passwords to access the BOE’s computer system.

• Knapp employed family members in subordinate positions.

• Knapp failed to “appropriately assist” candidates for public office, “often to the point of deceiving such candidates” on appropriate and necessary submissions and deadlines, the report said.

The net result of all the effort and taxpayer money spent to investigate, was a plea bargain arrangement that is an insult to both democracy and justice. She pled guilty to two simple misdemeanors and will be required to quit her job before the end of the year. One might think that she should have been immediately removed from her post for one thing, but it also seems quite irregular that a person facing so many criminal charges would not serve any jail time.

Now granted, she was not found guilty of almost all of the charges presented by the grand jury, but she didn't even have a trial either. Normally the presumption of innocence is a virtue to be adhered to, but it seems quite suspicious that a case involving corruption of public officials would end with virtually no accountability for a very long list of criminal allegations. This plea bargain arrangement was hammered out behind the scenes and away from public scrutiny. It is difficult to imagine that any common criminal facing such a long list of serious charges would have been offered such a sweetheart deal. The stink of nepotism is pungent here. Once again it seems that public officials are held to a very different standard by our criminal justice system. Officials should be held to a higher standard, and be held strictly accountable for betrayals of public trust, rather than enjoying almost total immunity. That is not the America we live in though.

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