WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- With eight days to go until Election Day, Senator George Latimer, the Democratic nominee for County Executive, is turning up the heat on his opponent, incumbent Rob Astorino. (R-Mount Pleasant).
At a press conference in Yonkers Monday, Latimer, a Rye resident, was joined by Curtis Sliwa, chairman of the New York Reform Party, calling on Astorino to resign as county executive for allegedly accepting bribes, including a Rolex watch, as part of a federal corruption probe. Astorino is running for a third term and his campaign has denied the allegations.
The Reform Party was originally founded by Astorino as the Stop Common Core line when Astorino unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2014. Following the election, the party's name changed and Sliwa, who founded the Guardian Angels, took over. In August, the party announced it was endorsing Latimer, and Latimer defeated Astorino to capture the line in a September primary.
"The people of Westchester County deserve a county executive who is not under a cloud of potential federal indictment," Sliwa said. "Rob Astorino, if he has a credible bone left in his political body, should resign."
According to federal testimony by Jona Rechitz, Astorino gave Rechitz and Jeremy Reichberg positions as police chaplains in exchange for financial contributions, despite neither being religious officials. Rechitz recently pleaded guilty to corruption charges and has said he got favors from New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio in exchange for donations. DeBlasio has denied the allegations.
Rechitz testified Astorino requested a Rolex watch valued at $10,000, which Astorino reportedly contributed $1,000 to $2,000 toward. Rechnitz's JSR Capital donated $15,000 to Astorino's campaign three days after the appointment, with two other entities that share the same address, LTR Trading, and Stephnat LLC, contributing $5,000 apiece, according to federal testimony.
Astorino's campaign said the county executive went shopping in the city for a second-hand watch 18 months ago and Rechnitz offered to help and took him to a store near his office in the Diamond District. Mr. Astorino was then offered the used watch for free but declined and insisted on paying for it, his campaign said.
"Rob Astorino has never been accused of any wrongdoing by any federal or state prosecutor for any reason – again, he did nothing wrong," Bill O'Reilly, a spokesman for Astorino said Friday. "Furthermore, Mr. Rechnitz never spoke with Rob Astorino about a volunteer chaplaincy for himself or anyone else," O'Reilly said.
Latimer said Astorino can no longer continue as county executive.
"We have sworn testimony that Rob took a bribe, and we have his lies to try to hide that fact," Latimer said. "The timeline of his so-called 'receipt' doesn't match his public claims; the price of the watch isn't credible, and it's clear that his donors got the political favors they wanted."
O'Reilly responded to Latimer's latest salvo by accusing Latimer of not paying his taxes. A home owned by Latimer's wife in Rye has owed more than $46,000 in back taxes since 2012.
"It's sad what happened to Curtis Silwa," O'Reilly said.
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