Feathers still flying in East Rochester after chicken barbecue
An August fundraiser for Democratic candidates for the East Rochester Village Board is costing village taxpayers $10,000 because the board decided to pay a false-arrest claim brought by then-Mayor David Bonacchi’s brother, Paul Bonacchi.
The chicken barbecue was Aug. 11 to raise money for the campaigns of Jason Koon, who was running for mayor, and trustee candidates Andrew Serrano and Herman Parson. Koon and Serrano were elected Nov. 6 and took office Dec. 4.
Koon said the fundraiser was set up in the parking lot of Debbie Supply off West Commercial Street. “Paul Bonacchi decided to come in and threaten and harass us,” he added.
Koon said police were called and that the following Monday, Aug. 13, Paul Bonacchi went to the police station where he was given a ticket, charging him with second-degree harassment. He said the matter went through the court system and was eventually thrown out.
Fairport Attorney Paul Fioravanti, who represented Paul Bonacchi, said his client swore at East Rochester resident Rosalie Rosini, a member of the Democratic Committee, who filed the complaint. She declined to comment, referring questions to her attorney, Frank Odorisi of East Rochester, who could not immediately be reached for comment.
“I have never seen a more ridiculous criminal complaint that actually made it to court,” Fioravanti said. “There was no element of any crime. I was shocked.”
He said he initially told Paul Bonacchi he wouldn’t need a lawyer; to just go to court and it would be dismissed. When it wasn’t, he agreed to take the case and then filed a $10,000 claim Nov. 26 when it was finally dismissed by Town Justice Scott Odorisi at the fourth court appearance.
The suit alleged false arrest, malicious prosecution and that Paul Bonacchi’s state and federal civil rights were violated.
Fioravanti said his legal fees exceeded $3,500 and that Paul Bonacchi deserved compensation for taking time off of work to go to court, as well as damages for public humiliation and the anguish of facing a potential 15 days in jail. Fioravanti said Paul Bonacchi probably would not have filed a lawsuit if he only had to go to court once or twice.
He said the harassment statute was changed in 1989 after the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, ruled such foul language falls under constitutionally protected free speech. He said according to law, harassment has to be a course of conduct someone may find threatening, not a single incident — in this case, a response to something Rosini said.
Koon said he recommended against paying the claim when the matter came up in executive session at a December board meeting. When it came to a vote at a subsequent meeting, he said he abstained since he was a subject of the fund-raiser. The vote was 4-0 to pay the claim. Koon said the consensus was to pay it because it could end up costing the village more than $10,000. The village has a $20,000 deductible on its insurance coverage for legal expenses.
Koon has accused of the Republican majority of trying to push the measure through in year-end backroom meetings and publicly said he would advise the clerk, Ray Parrotta, not to pay the claim.
Koon said when he issued his memo, he learned the check had been cut the day before.
“I didn’t think we should pay that at all,” he said. “Absolutely not.”
Contact Denise M. Champagne at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 352, or at email@example.com.