Halloween isn’t just a day for lavish costumes and plumbing the deepest candy reserves. It can also be a time to endure unpleasant tricks along with those treats, deal with scary situations or even face off against evil. It’s likely that both New Paltz Deputy Supervisor Jeff Logan, trying to get written in as town supervisor this election day and Ariana Basco, a former village trustee, both feel that they were being tested by Halloween challenges when they faced off around one o’clock that afternoon.
It wasn’t easy for Logan to knock on Basco’s door, because the front deck of her Pencil Hill Road home is being replaced, making that entrance inaccessible to any but a stalwart climber. He had to scramble around the narrow property, to where the back door of the house looks out over a lot that drops off steeply to Plains Road below. He had good reason to make the effort, though: after noticing that some campaign signs he’d placed nearby were missing, he’d seen them leaning up against the small house, after which the land between Pencil Hill and Plains roads narrow to what Basco calls the “Pencil point.” He thought he’d caught a thief in the act and wanted to know who it was.
After completing her term on the Village Board in June, Basco had spent much of the summer traveling, having not been local for more than a few days at a time in several months. She’d tended bar until late the night before, and so was just preparing breakfast when the knock came at the door. Her house-sitter Emma Kershen and other friends were in the house at the time. Logan confronted her about stealing the signs, which he said were “legally placed in a public right-of-way.” Basco acknowledged that she removed them, and says she did so because her property extends to the tip of the “Pencil point,” and she didn’t want to appear to be supporting candidates in a campaign with which she was completely unfamiliar.
“I wish there had been a Neil Bettez sign there,” Basco told the New Paltz Times, along with the Logan and Gabrielli signs which had been placed there. “I would have removed those too. Then it would have been a different story.”
As it was, the story which Logan distributed via a press release to major news outlets hours later, was that Basco had stolen the signs because she supports the candidacy of Neil Bettez. Basco herself says she was unfamiliar with his candidacy and has never met the man. She also thinks the allegation of theft is specious at best, since she can prove ownership of the property, and was more than happy to return the signs when Logan asked for them. Even if she is wrong about the ownership, she clearly remembers passing a law when serving on the Village Board which forbids the placing of such temporary signs on public lands or in rights-of-way. However, no such law is listed in the online code, and Basco isn’t sure if that’s because the law was never properly filed with the Secretary of State, or if it simply wasn’t forwarded to the legal publisher which compiles the village code. “Sally Rhoads was adamant that we include that,” Basco recalls. The town code does specifically ban signs in public rights-of-way.
“She told me, ‘I don’t support you,’” said Logan, nor does she support Gabrielli, facts which Basco does not dispute. They also both agree that he returned to his car and called the police, but Basco said that as he walked away, Logan referred to her using a synonym for female genitalia. The police officer who responded initially appeared to take Logan’s side, according to Basco, by expressing skepticism that she actually owned the entire parcel, and suggesting that he could get a warrant and “turn your whole house upside-down,” she recalled. The officer interviewed them simultaneously, and took pains not to speak with Basco out of Logan’s hearing, but did speak freely with Logan while she searched her files for proof of ownership. She said he also discouraged her from filing a harassment complaint against Logan for the expletive he used, telling her, “that’s a word men use to incite women.”
“I’m not offended by being called that, I told him,” Basco said. “I don’t believe in using words for genitalia pejoratively, so that didn’t offend me. What offended me is that he was expecting it to be hurtful.”
Logan maintains that his signs were legally placed, and illegally removed by Basco, a former elected official “who should know better” than to do such things. He has not pressed charges, but has a year to do so. Basco agrees that she does know better, and was within her rights to remove the signs. She doesn’t think she was well-treated by either Logan or the police officer, but she has not opted as yet to pursue any official action against either.
“This is exactly why I am no longer involved in New Paltz politics,” she said, but the fact that she’s no longer an elected official makes her a bit more fearless. “I might have been reluctant to push the issue if I were still on the Village Board, but that would have been wrong,” she said. “I wonder how he would have reacted if some man had bullied his adult daughter like that, and then called her that word?” She described his treatment as a “verbal assault,” and said that she felt that both he and the responding officer attempted to intimidate her. As a former police commissioner, she’s also concerned about the implications of that body’s duties being absorbed by the Town Board, effectively making Logan the responding officer’s superior. “What kind of a position was he in, to be asked to side against his boss?” she asked.
Bob Gabrielli had little to say on the matter. “No, I will not press charges, and no, I have no comment except that I hope this issue will not escalate further.”
Police Chief Joseph Snyder had even less to say, declining to even confirm or deny that any such police report had been filed.
Democratic Election Commissioner Vic Work said that issues of sign placement and theft are nothing new. He recalled some high-profile cases over the years, such as a candidate in Saugerties who was once caught on an infrared camera stealing his opponent’s signs, but most of the time it’s never clear if they are stolen out of malice, removed as souvenirs or simply knocked down. As for where they can go, he said local law is always the guide. “What’s harder is getting candidates to remove them after the fact,” he said.
The signs have not been replaced from where Basco removed them.