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Yorktown Republicans Cry Foul Over Democrats' 'Obnoxious' Email

Yorktown Supervisor Michael Grace, flanked by Republicans, criticizes the Democrats for using email addresses obtained through a FOIL request to send campaign literature. Photo Credit: Sam Barron
Vishnu Patel and Susan Siegel respond to allegations they acted improperly in front of Yorktown Town Hall Thursday. Photo Credit: Sam Barron

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. -- Republicans in Yorktown said Thursday it was improper for Democrats to send a political email to residents on the town's mailing lists it obtained from a Freedom Of Information (FOIL) request.

On Tuesday, residents who signed up for the town's email blast received an email from Vishnu Patel, the Democratic candidate for Town Supervisor.

The email featured a banner saying "Elect Vishnu Patel," and featured Patel criticizing the town for spending money on a new highway garage. Supervisor Michael Grace said he received numerous complaints over the phone and in person about the email.

The Republicans said they found the email addresses had been obtained via two FOIL requests from two people involved with the Democrats campaign.

In requesting the information, an affidavit was signed that the emails would not be used for solicitation purposes.

At a press conference in front of Yorktown Town Hall on Thursday, Supervisor Michael Grace said he would call a special meeting on Friday to address the issue.

"I can't think of anything more obnoxious than receiving campaign solicitations on an email address provided to my town for the purposes of receiving official town communications," Grace said. 

The Yorktown Democrats said they did nothing wrong. Town Councilman Susan Siegel noted Democrats and Republicans in North Castle have used emails to campaign for the last five years, keeping campaign costs down.

Less than 1/10th of one percent of people who received the email opted out of receiving future emails, the Democrats said.

"These emails were obtained legally," Siegel said. "This is an exercise in free speech."

Siegel said since they weren't using the email addresses for commercial purposes, they were not being used for solicitation. 

Yorktown Town Clerk Alice Roker said she'd be breaking the law if she did not turn over the email addresses.

"I have to comply with the New York Open Government law," Roker said.

Roker said she did not think it was appropriate to use the email addresses to send out campaign literature.

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