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Sen. Marchione defends property purchase

She says timing of scrutiny ‘suspect’

Thursday, March 27, 2014
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State Sen. Kathleen Marchione on Wednesday talks to members of the media in Halfmoon near land that she and her husband purchased several years ago.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
State Sen. Kathleen Marchione on Wednesday talks to members of the media in Halfmoon near land that she and her husband purchased several years ago.

— State Sen. Kathleen Marchione doesn’t recall the exact conversation she had with an old friend in 2007, but the topic was a largely unusable lot on Shelbourne Drive.

The friend — prominent Realtor Dean Taylor — was a broker working with Robert Marini Builders when the developer was getting under way with the construction of a 37-lot subdivision off Grooms Road. Marchione recalls talking about how the parcel totaling 3.3 acres would make a nice wooded buffer between her residence on Breski Lane and the upscale homes rising throughout the 52-acre subdivision.

“They were putting a development in next to me and I asked if I could buy some land to buffer my home,” she recalled Wednesday.

In February 2007, Marchione and her husband, Frank, paid $30,000 to Landmark Development Group, a limited liability corporation set up to sell lots in what is now called Ellsworth Landing. At the time, the deal drew no scrutiny.

For Marchione, it seemed like a win-win for both parties: She got her buffer and the developer got a nice sum of money for property that would have been difficult to sell. More than three-quarters of the property is listed as “wasteland,” according to Halfmoon assessment records, leaving about two thirds of an acre available for development.

“I believe we paid very fairly for the property we got,” she said.

But recently, questions have arisen about the deal. A published report suggested the deal is part of a federal probe into the relationship between Halfmoon politicians and some of the town’s major developers.

If that’s the case, however, it’s news to Marchione. She said her family has never been questioned about the deal, which remained largely inconspicuous among the many swaps that occurred as the subdivision was built out.

“I was extremely surprised,” said the first-term Republican senator running for re-election this year. “I’m very discouraged and suspect of the timing.”

Marchione called members of the media to her swath of property Wednesday to give them a firsthand impression of the land she purchased. The property’s frontage on Shelbourne Drive slopes down about 10 feet beyond a guide wire into a marshy area with a culvert beneath the road.

Compared with the neatly manicured properties on either side, Marchione’s land looks like nothing special. The senator said she’s done nothing with the land since purchasing it, aside from taking down a few trees and filling in a small area near her home.

“I thought it was very important for everyone to see it for themselves,” she said. “You have to see something to get a good handle of it.”

Marchione acknowledged having contact with FBI investigators once between the spring and summer last year. But she said the brief conversation she had with them focused on then-Halfmoon Supervisor Melinda Wormuth, who was indicted on both state and federal charges in October.

“It was a 15 minute interview and that was it,” she said. “I never heard from them since.”

Wormuth is accused of meeting with a mixed martial arts promoter last spring and receiving three payments of $7,500 in cash in return for using her official position to advocate for legalization of the sport. Wormuth allegedly authored missives on town letterhead to Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco and Marchione, urging them to support the MMA legalization effort.

At the time, Marchione had already advocated for the sport and had voted in favor of legalizing it. The federal probe into Wormuth resulted in Wormuth allegedly admitting to misusing $6,250 in campaign contributions.

A spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman declined to comment Wednesday about any investigation in Halfmoon.

Marchione has risen through the ranks in Halfmoon politics, moving from a clerk’s position in Town Hall in 1979 to becoming supervisor in 1989. She was elected Saratoga County Clerk in 1997 and remained there until topping incumbent Republican state Sen. Roy McDonald during a contentious primary for the seat in 2012.

Marchione’s campaigns for public office have received funds from prominent Halfmoon builders. Developer Bruce Tanski supplied $16,500 to her 2012 campaign and has already given another $10,300 since she was elected.

 
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