BROCKPORT — Mayor Maria Connie Castañeda has served the village of Brockport with a notice of claim regarding her March arrest for official misconduct, according to her lawyer.
Castañeda, who in 2009 became the second Latina to win an election as mayor in New York state, was charged March 9 with 14 counts of official misconduct, a misdemeanor violation of state law related to public servants. She pleaded not guilty and was due back in Ogden Town Court this month.
Her lawyer, Michael Burger, said that the notice of claim gives village officials an opportunity to investigate the charges and respond accordingly. If no response is received, as he said he expects, Castañeda may pursue a lawsuit against the village for damages he said that she has suffered due to the arrest. Such damages would include payment of attorney and court fees, he said.
Burger said that he believes the charges against his client were "trumped up" by Brockport Police Chief Daniel Varrenti in response to Castañeda’s recommendation that the Village Board consider disbanding the police department because of its "undue burden on the taxpayers." He said that the charges against her constitute the kind of abuse of power that residents elected Castañeda to stand up to.
"That takes a lot of courage," Burger said. "Other people would be frightened and running."
In an e-mail, Varrenti disputed Burger’s claim, telling El Mensajero Católico that the charges were solely the result of breaking the law.
"The mayor has never been in support of the police department for the seven years that she has been on the (village) board; so to say now that this is retaliatory is ridiculous," Varrenti said in the e-mail.
According to information from the chief’s office, the charges against Castañeda were the result of an investigation that began last December after residents approached police about property Castañeda owns and was renting. The investigation was conducted by the Brockport Police Department, the Brockport Code Enforcement Office, the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
Also as a result of the investigation, Norman Giancursio, 58, also was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor.