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Elections commissioner investigation overshadows Onondaga County comptroller race

Onondaga County Comptroller Matt Beadnell, left, and Syracuse City Auditor Marty Masterpole.

With less than a week until Election Day, Republican Onondaga County Comptroller Matt Beadnell, who was appointed to the position by the county legislature earlier this year, is running to keep his job against Democratic challenger and Syracuse city auditor, Marty Masterpole. An investigation into the Democratic elections commissioner, Dustin Czarny, started by the comptroller’s office, has overshadowed much of the race. 

Beadnell announced at a press conference last month that Czarny had cheated taxpayers out of thousands of dollars by driving for Uber and Lyft during normal business hours. But an investigation by the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office found that Czarny did not break the law. The announcement and investigation generated a number of reactions and additional accusationsfrom county officials. Masterpole said there is no question that it was politically motivated.

“It’s sad that that was the case," Masterpole said. "The comptroller said he briefed the Republican county chair person, Tom Dadey, and didn’t give Mr. Czarny an opportunity to defend himself with what he felt was the accurate data.”

Masterpole said taxpayer dollars were wasted in the comptroller’s and DA’s office on the investigation. Adding to that, he said Beadnell’s estimate that Czarny spent 94 hours driving for ride hailing apps during office hours, was way off from the 15 hours the DA’s office calculated.

“That’s quite a disparity in numbers," Masterpole said. "It’s unfortunate that the district attorney’s office is better in basic math than what the comptroller’s office is at the moment." 

Beadnell would not comment on that investigation.

“That’s an audit that was done in the past," Beadnell said. "There are many positive audits we’ve done in our office that I can certainly highlight. My job is to protect the Onondaga County taxpayers and their wallets and to save money in efficiencies we can throughout the county.”

Beadnell is focusing on his office’s achievement of 14 audits in 10 months, saving or generating more than $1 million. An audit of the room occupancy tax collected from hotels and motels, found more than $325,000 was unaccounted for.

“We turned that over to the county executive’s office, and through the course of the year, they’ve worked diligently on collecting that revenue source for the county,” Beadnell said.

Another audit found the medical examiner’s office could be charging more for services rendered to other counties, potentially generating $800,000.

In contrast, Masterpole’s office has produced just one audit so far this year, although his office is significantly smaller than the county comptroller's office.

Both candidates said they will have more audits done before the end of the year. And both candidates have commended the other on running respectful, cordial campaigns.

Early voting has already started and Election Day is next week.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.