From the rhetoric coming out of Wheatfield, it's going to be an interesting primary season. Incumbent Tim Demler is accusing challenger Bob Cliffe, formerly the town's justice, of improperly applying for benefits from the state.
Cliffe states that he applied for benefits from the state when his employer went to a four day work week under the state's Work Share program. According to the state's DOL website, "Shared Work is a voluntary program that provides employers facing a temporary decline in business with an alternative to layoffs. Rather than laying off a percentage of the work force to cut costs, an employer can reduce the hours and wages of all or a particular group of employees. The employees whose hours and wages are reduced can receive partial unemployment insurance benefits to supplement their lost wages."
Cliffe states that although he is eligible for the benefits, he has in fact chosen not to accept them. Based on Niagara Gazette reporter Mark Scheer's column on the issue, Cliffe has been completely forthcoming on the circumstances under which he became eligible for the compensation.
Demler, on the other hand, seems to be pulling a "pot calling the kettle black" routine. It seems Demler has not quite been as transparent as the state would like him to be, nor as transparent as he is asking Cliffe to be.
In the below letter received by Niagara Times, a communication sent to Demler from the New York State Office of the Comptroller states: "Dear Mr. Demler, despite previous correspondence with your office, your annual report for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2008 remains delinquent".
So why is Demler delinquent in his filing of the state-mandated town financial statements? We'd like to give Demler the benefit of the doubt and not play conspiracy theorist. But that's not realistic. More likely is that Demler is intentionally delaying the filing because he's hiding something. And he knows that, since he is facing a significant challenge from Cliffe, and that the report contains information that would be detrimental to Demler's campaign, it is easier to get such letters from the Comptroller than to actually face the music of what is contained in the filings.
The way Demler is coming out of the box in this campaign is highly questionable. He is slinging mud at someone we've heard is one of the most honorable and principled men you will meet. Someone who we've been told won't stoop to Demler's level is mud-slinging.
So we'll do it for him.
Demler has been in office way too long to be campaigning on anything but his record. For him to be taking this approach shows a complete lack of character.
People lose their jobs. Sometimes their hours get cut. To try to take advantage of someone's economic hardship for personal political gain is unconscionable.
Even worse, Cliffe has been forced to answer questions in the media about this issue. Why is that? Because Tim Demler has taken private Town of Wheatfield personnel records and released them to the media. Every employee in the town should be VERY concerned about this situation.
If Demler has the ability and the willingness to release personnel records so easily, what's to stop him from doing the same thing against any other employee whenever he believes he's justified?