ACCORD – Four of the five Town of Rochester board members last week received packages from an anonymous source containing information about the financial health of the fifth member, Manuela Mihailescu, which included copies of her recent bankruptcy petition.
The packets also contained an anonymous letter calling for Mihailescu's immediate removal from office, citing the fact that she listed a Queens address as her primary residence on her bankruptcy petition. NYS Public Officers Law requires an elected official to be a resident of the jurisdiction in which she is elected.
Supervisor Carl Chipman said that, in an effort "to protect the town's residents and Manuela's rights," the board would not make any rash decisions. Rather, he referred the matter to Town Attorney MaryLou Christiana, who, while still awaiting an opinion from the attorney general's office, sent the board a confidential letter citing precedence in a similar case.
According to Mihailescu, Christiana's letter argues that because Mihailescu is registered to vote in the Town of Rochester and that her home in the town is "her usual and typical abode," that she is entitled to retain her position on the town council.
The laws that govern New York State permit a person to have more than one residence, but only one domicile. In her letter, Christiana said, "Domicile is established by a demonstration of an intention to make a residence a permanent and fixed home."
Further, Mihailescu said Christiana wrote that in New York, the burden of proof regarding whether she is unqualified to retain her post lies on the person[s] issuing the charges and that they must present "definite and honest purpose" that she abandoned her domicile in the Town of Rochester and made Rego Park in Queens her permanent home.
On July 12, Jeremy Blaber, a Kingston-based political blogger, wrote that Mihailescu's campaign for legislature was bankrupt and called for her immediate resignation from the town board for residency violations. He claims that he received an email from an anonymous source with a user name of Rational in Rochester.
Mihailescu denounces the public release of her bankruptcy filing, calling it a mean-spirited and despicable act. Her husband, Jon Dogar-Marinesco, described the anonymous mailing as "a politically-motivated character assassination attempt" that crosses the line into "invasion of privacy, intimidation, blackmail, hate crime, ethnic discrimination, and interference with the electoral process." Mihailescu will ask the U.S. Postal Service to investigate how these packages wound up in the board's personal and municipal mailboxes without cancelled postage stamps.
Mihailescu believes the act is directly linked to her decision to buck her party's endorsed nominee and run for the county's District 1 legislative seat. Ulster County's District 1 comprises the towns of Wawarsing, Rochester, and Marbletown. She has been vocal in her opposition to the cross-endorsement deal struck between the chairs of the county's Republican, Independence, and Democratic parties.
The ticket, an agreement between the Republican, Democratic and Independence chairs, collectively endorsed the district's three incumbent Democrats and newcomer Terry Bernardo (R-I-Kerhonkson) for the District 1 seat that was to be vacated by retiring Sue Cummings. Bernardo's husband, Len, chairs Ulster County's Independence Party Committee.
In challenging the fusion ticket, Mihailescu is defying a directive from Ulster's GOP chair, Mario Catalano, that she step aside. Instead, she stepped up her efforts — last week she received news that she is qualified to primary on both the Republican and Conservative lines for the District 1 seat.
She said her motivations for running are still the same: she believes that her experience — she holds an MBA, majoring in marketing and advertising, and an MA in Theater and Film Critique — would benefit Ulster County's tourism efforts.