A recent mailing sent to Yorktown residents and published by the campaign of Democratic supervisor candidate Don Peters has left his Republican opponent "outraged by personal attacks" and calling attention to a "smear campaign."
Surrounded by supporters outside his law office, supervisor candidate and former town attorney Michael Grace confirmed he had been late on his town tax payments due to personal matters that involved health issues of two of his four adopted children.
Peters said the mailing questioned Grace's ability to run the town's finances and that he simply stated the facts, which had been checked by his consultants. He said the mailing did not mention Grace's family or personal issues.
Grace said he was now current on all the taxes, including the penalties and interest.
"Two of my children had health issues which were not covered by insurance, one of them had a particularly serious and costly health issue," Grace said. "I had to make a choice. The choice was easy: protecting my children's health comes first. With all due respect my children's health issues are private and I am not going to discuss them further."
Grace, vying for the town's top position on Nov. 8, said he has paid more than $100,000 in medical expenses. He said his son still has problems that will be "longstanding."
"Despite the friendly assurances to me that [Peters] understood the hardships that lead to the late payments and that this was a personal matter and we would not discuss this outside of our friendship," Grace said, "Mr. Peters went ahead and carefully planned this hit piece to be launched late enough in the campaign, so that I would not have time to respond."
Peters, former town supervisor, said he believed when someone is running for office, he or she is in the public eye. He said Grace should have brought the fact he was late on taxes to the public before he ran for office.
"I think people would understand," Peters said. "But to try to hide it is wrong."
Grace said the handling of his family's private business and personal tax issues is less relevant than the issued in the election. He said it is the , which questioned Yorktown's financial control, that Peters should be addressing.
Peters said the issue is how would someone handle a roughly $50 million budget if he can't pay his taxes.
"I sent [the mailing] out because I feel people should ask," he said and added it was not "nasty" or "derogatory" and did not mention anyone's family. "Why should I pay my taxes if my supervisor isn't?"
According to the town's tax assessor's office, Grace pays taxes to three properties — his Yorktown home, the lot next to his home and his law office in town. According to records, the most recent late tax payments from this year were on the lot next to his house which amounted to $697.74 (including penalties), which he paid in September. And a late tax payment on his law firm for $5,760.93 (including penalties), which he paid off in July.
Grace said he was not ashamed of his situation and was not afraid that by holding a press conference he would bring attention to the issue.
"I've had my share of adversity in life, including cancer," said the father of seven. "And among other things I've had my share of challenges in insuring the health and well being of my adopted four children."
"I know I'm not the only one who has been late [on taxes]," Grace said.
He said he is still a part of the community whether elected or not. He said he got into the election to raise issues and applauded his other opponent, incumbent Supervisor Susan Siegel, for not getting involved in personal attacks.
"All I can say is I am hurt and disappointed that Mr. Peters would exploit what he knew was a long standing and painful personal hardship for my children, my family and myself for his political gain," Grace said.
Peters said he did not think it was a negative piece because he stated the facts.
"Everybody is having a tough time out there paying their taxes," he said. "If everybody did not pay their taxes, the town would be bankrupt."