Last week we told you how the Erie County Republican Committee was gathering petitions for fake Green Party candidates after the Governor put an immediate stop to the petition process in wake of the ongoing public health crisis.
Today we learn that Erie County Republicans are attempting to unethically sneak a current Assistant District Attorney into the race for NYS Assembly District 142, the seat currently held by Patrick Burke.
ADA Szalkowski has already been endorsed by the Erie County Republican Party has circulated petitions on his behalf. He’s also allowed others from the Republican Party to appear at political fundraisers on his behalf and intends to accept political contributions from the public, including individuals who are subject to or defending those under current criminal investigation that his employer is directly responsible for.
The complaint reads:
For decades, it has been the position of the New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics that “there is a basic incompatibility between the duties of a public prosecutor and partisan politics.” See NYSBA Opinion 675 (citing N.Y. State 513 (1979)). The rationale underlying this principle is a concern not only for the actuality of a conflict of interest, but that there be no appearance of bias or favoritism for political purposes in the pursuit of (or the failure to pursue) a criminal case. “The public should be reassured that prosecuting attorneys do not, and of equal importance, do not appear to, engage in partisan politics.” Id. Therefore, it has long been held that “acceptance of the office of prosecuting attorney carries with it the obligations to refrain from partisan politics. Id. (citing N.Y. State 272 (1972))
Prosecutors generally may not speak at political functions, publicize their attendance at such functions, or act in a manner that could be interpreted as lending the prestige and weight of their office to a political party or function.” See District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY) Ethical Guidelines for Prosecutors, at 18. “District Attorneys and their assistants may not endorse political candidates, except that in some counties assistants may be permitted to engage in political activity in support of the re-election of the District Attorney by whom they are employed.” Id. at 18-19.
The principle that prosecutors and their assistants may not engage in partisan activity has been repeatedly affirmed, and the New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics has itself issued “more than a dozen opinions concerning the limits on prosecutors’ participation in partisan political activity.” NYSBA Opinion 683 (1996).
A Buffalo News article announcing ADA Szalkowski’s candidacy for New York State Assembly, the Vice Chairman of the Republican Party specifically invoked Szalkowski’s title and the prestige of his office as a reason why he’d be a great candidate, saying:
“He’ll be a great candidate who can take on the criminal justice reform issues the Democrats have changed,” [Vice Chairman Ray] Walter said, referring to new legislation curtailing the use of cash bail and other issues. “That has been championed by some people here and they’re going to have to defend it.”
Likewise, in a social media post, the West Seneca Republican Party also invoked ADA Szalkowski’s title and the prestige of the office of prosecutor saying: “We have a GOP candidate who will win the 142nd Assembly seat! Matt Szalkowski Prosecutor in District Attorney, John Flynn’s office. Matt has front line experience in the debacle of the bail reform bill.”
In turning a blind eye to this activity, Erie County Republicans and Mr. Szalkowski are ignoring the very principles that prevent assistant prosecutors from engaging in political activity in the first place.
If Mr. Szalkowski wants to continue in his quest for political office, fine, but he should resign from the District Attorneys Office immediately.