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Judge Dismisses Charges Against Sotak

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Rose Sotak being sworn in for a third term on January 1, 2017 Rose Sotak being sworn in for a third term on January 1, 2017

A Broome County Judge has dismissed criminal charges against Town of Union Supervisor Rose Sotak.

On May 12, Sotak's lawyer, Albert Millus, asked the court to review the grand jury minutes following the April 2017 five-count sealed indictment.

The grand jury charged the three-term Republican Supervisor of one felony count of corrupt use of authority, three counts of official misconduct and one count of obstructing governmental administration. 

In a July 12 decision, Judge Kevin Dooley found evidence "was legally insufficient" to support any of the charges in the indictment.

Dooley also found the integrity of the Grand Jury was impaired. He pointed to testimony by Town of Union Attorney Alan Pope to District Attorney Steve Cornwell.

Records show Dooley found Cornwell asked leading questions and made improper statements. 

Pope was one of 17 former and current Union employees, board members, and department heads who accused Sotak of being verbally abusive and workplace harassment in an internal investigation.

That investigation, conducted in January, triggered a criminal investigation by DA Cornwell. Sotak pleaded not guilty during her April 5 arraignment.

Cornwell has said criminal charges were based on two incidents, one on February 4, 2015, and the other on January 27, 2017.

Court records show the 2015 incident that led to the felony charge of corrupt abuse of authority and one count of misconduct involved a meeting with Union Economic Development Director Joe Moody, Sotak, Pope and Court Clerk Gail Springer. 

Sotak is accused of threatening Moody with his job but in his decision, Dooley found "no evidence was presented to the Grand Jury concerning whether or not the Supervisor ever contacted any Board members about her purported goal of assuming Moody's duties as the Economic Development Director."  

Dooley found "no evidence that Sotak ever made threats or promises to board members to get Moody fired." Moody is still employed by the Town of Union as the Director of Economic Development.

Court documents show the obstructing governmental administration charge and misconduct stemmed from a January 27, 2017, telephone conversation between Sotak and Pope regarding the complaints made by some Town of Union workers. 

Pope testified comments made by Sotak made him feel pressured to influence the investigation being conducted by Coughlin and Gerhart attorney Paul Sweeney, but Dooley found there was no evidence.

Cornwell responded Wednesday afternoon with the following statement:

“A Broome County Grand Jury investigated and indicted the defendant, Rose A. Sotak, and determined there was legally sufficient evidence to bring about criminal charges.  The District Attorney’s Office disagrees with the decision of the court, and intends to file a notice of appeal.”

 Sotak expressed gratitude towards the Town of Union residents who supported her through cards, emails, and calls. She says thousands of people reached out to her since the indictment.

I want to thank all of my constituents for their continuing support through cards, emails, and phone calls, and for coming up to me while I was shopping or at restaurants. I'm not talking 100 people, or 500 people, I'm talking thousands.

I want to thank all of the business owners and the organizations that called me with support.

I want to thank all of my peers that I've worked with in the industry that I represent, which is a large number that have been with me for 25 to 35 years and supported me.

I want to thank Hinman, Howard, and Kattell, and especially Al Millus and the whole firm for their support.

Thank you everyone very much!

It is, as always, time to be worrying about our Town of Union residents and our businesses. There's a lot going on in the Town of Union and business does come first.