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Debbie Preston to Be Arraigned Monday

Posted: Apr 17, 2017 03:01 PM Updated:
Debbie Preston Debbie Preston

Town of Conklin Judge Marshall Ayres has recused himself from presiding over the Debra Preston criminal matter.

Formal application was made to Hon. Joseph Cawley to assign a new judge to the case.  Judge Cawley has assigned Binghamton City Court Judge William C. Pelella to the case. Debra Preston will now be arraigned in Binghamton City Court at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, April 24, 2017.

Schuyler County District Attorney Joseph Fazzary tells Fox 40 News former Broome County Executive Debbie Preston has been charged with three counts of official misconduct.

Fazzary, who was appointed as special prosecutor, said New York State Police arrested Preston Monday morning on three misdemeanor counts of official misconduct. 

Preston's attorney Paul Battisti tells Fox 40 News Preston voluntarily went to law enforcement and was released on her own recognizance. She is due to appear in Town of Conklin court on April 25, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

The charges, included below, allege Preston of unlawfully obtaining a credit card to make purchases for personal needs in her name and in Conklin's name on October 5, 2005 through June 2012. The charges allege Preston knew she did not have the authorization to open the Sam's Club Discover credit card.

At a news conference on October 11, 2016, Preston admitted opening the card but told reporters the purchases began in 2011 through 2012. Preston, a Republican, said she paid the bills with her own money. Battisti said Monday Preston's story remains unchanged.

 The Town of Conklin Supervisor is also accused of using the card after leaving Conklin to become Broome County Executive, after being specifically told to stop using the card.

Fazzary's findings wrap-up a six-month investigation that began on October 13, 2016.

Credit card statements obtained by Fox 40 News under the Freedom of Information Law show new charges were made on the credit card through June 2012, six months after Preston began serving as Broome County Executive.

In 2011, Preston won a special election for a one-year term beginning in 2012.

The statements also show while the bills were addressed to Preston, they continued to be mailed to the Town of Conklin.

Conklin Supervisor Jim Finch told Fox 40 News he was unaware the card existed until April 2012, when his office received a phone call about an overdue bill. Preston appointed Finch as Supervisor in 2012. He was a board member in 2011.

Finch and Preston maintain that neither taxpayer money nor town funds were used to pay the card. Preston has also said she paid sales tax on the purchases.

In November, Broome voters ousted Preston for Democrat Jason Garnar.

Preston has called the investigation her "October surprise."  

Four weeks before the election, Broome County District Attorney Stephen Cornwell requested a special prosecutor look into the matter after his office received a packet of documents.

On October 13, 2016, Judge Molly Fitzgerald, the administrative judge for New York's 6th Judicial District appointed Fazzary as special prosecutor in the Preston investigation.

Current Broome County Executive, Jason Garnar said he trusts the Judicial process.

“We trust the Judicial process will serve the people. Bottom line – NO politician is above the law," said Garnar.

Broome County Democrats Chairman Tim Grippen said the arrest of Preston is becoming a scary trend among local Republicans.

Today another Broome County Republican official has been arrested for misconduct while in office. This comes on the heels of the following events.  The Town of Union Supervisor was just indicted by a grand jury on a felony charge of abusing her authority and the Town of Union Board is currently looking into removing her from office.  And now, a special prosecutor has charged former Town of Conklin Supervisor and former Broome County Executive Debbie Preston with three misdemeanor charges of official misconduct dating back to 2005.  All of this while the Broome County Republican Chairman himself was forced to resign his position as Deputy County Executive under Debbie Preston for coercing county employees to work on her election campaign.  This is a troubling trend that should concern all Broome County residents.  We hope that current Broome County District Attorney Steve Cornwell will continue to prosecute public corruption without fear or favor.

FOX 40 reached out to the Broome County Republicans and are waiting for a comment.