Not much ado about judge's petitions

Alleged wrongdoing in signature collecting would have little effect on election

Sitting Bethlehem Town Court Justice Ryan Donovan has being accused of violating a code of ethics that guides the conduct of judicial candidates, but the matter will have little direct impact on the forming race for his office.

In fact, Donovan's opponent was adamant that he doesn't wish to take a swipe at the incumbent.

I never accused him of anything, said Ralph Ambrosio, the GOP-back candidate in the race. "I just think the facts speak for themselves."

Donovan was instead called out by the Bethlehem Republican Committee. In short, when gathering voter signatures this summer so he could appear on the ballot, Donovan also carried the petition of Assemblyman Tim Gordon, I-Bethlehem. Records show Donovan obtained 62 signatures from Independence Party members.

The Judicial Campaign Ethics Center's handbook for judicial candidates says this is improper behavior because circulating petitions for other candidates could be viewed as an endorsement. An exception is if the judicial candidate appears directly on a slate of other candidates.

"A judicial candidate may circulate a petition for several candidates that includes his/her own name, but may not circulate individual petitions for other candidates," one opinion from the Judicial Campaign Ethics Center reads.

While Donovan and Gordon are both on the Democratic party's slate of candidates, they do not appear together on the petition itself.

"I am not permitted to endorse candidates in any race and I have not done so, nor will I," said Donovan in a statement. "If my actions have been interpreted as an endorsement of any candidate, they should not have been."

He declined to speak directly about the matter further.

The Judicial Campaign Ethics Center is an arm of the state Unified Court System that seeks to provide ethics advice for judicial candidates. The body can also assist in mediation should there be disagreements between candidates.

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