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Debbie Preston Still in Race, Not Resigning

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BROOME COUNTY, N.Y. -

Broome County Executive Debbie Preston (R) told reporters Tuesday she will not resign or end her campaign for reelection. At a news conference, the former Conklin supervisor said she bought personal items with a Town of Conklin credit card in 2011 but paid the balance on the card with her own money.

"It was not taxpayer money. It was not town money."

Current Town of Conklin Supervisor Jim Finch (R) also said town funds were never used.

The county executive also announced she sent a letter to New York State Comptroller Thomas Dinapoli requesting a full audit of her use of the credit card issued when she was Conklin's supervisor.

In the letter, Preston acknowledged using the card "on occasion" to buy personal items.

"In hindsight, I regret using the credit card that way."

Her opponent, democrat Jason Garnar, said if he is elected he would ask the comptroller to do an audit of spending in the Broome County Executive's office.

"It's a black and white issue. My concern is that if this is happening and she thought it was okay to do this in the Town of Conklin, what's been happening the county executive's office for the past five years?"

Finch would not comment on emails leaked to local media that show six weeks of communications beginning on April 18, 2012 to get Preston to pay off a $23,527 balance on a Sam's Club Discover credit card or have it transferred out of the town's name. Preston at that time was serving her fourth month as Broome County Executive.

Garnar said his campaign was not behind the leak and called any suggestion of that as "ridiculous."

The documents show a string of emails between Finch's secretary and Mark Gorgos, who appeared to serve as a liaison between the Town Conklin and Preston. Gorgos is the managing partner of Coughlin & Gerhart and former attorney for Conklin. He could not be reached for comment.

Preston said she began making personal purchases with the card after her home was damaged in the 2011 flood.

"I had flood insurance on structure but not content, so there was clothing and a lot of things."

Preston said after she paid the balance Finch and others in Conklin assured her the matter was resolved. She said she thought it was, too, but said the credit card resurfaced a year and a half later when Preston said she received her first threat.

"If I didn't get someone to change their vote on something, they would come out with this issue of this credit card."

Preston's eyes welled up with tears when pressed by reporters for details about the alleged threats and said she could not identify the person.

Paul Battisti, Preston's attorney, said the Broome County District Attorney's office requested a special prosecutor be assigned to investigate whether charges should be filed.

We were unable to reach the Broome D.A.'s office or Preston's opponent.