Despite being dogged with ethics’ criticisms that identify deep character flaws, Democrat town zone chair Marc Panepinto continues to challenge former Senator Al Coppola, who has been pulled out of retirement by various factions of the party.
Panepinto’s extensive involvement in labor organizing includes a longtime relationship with the mafia-affiliated International Laborers’ Local 210. Reporters have just begun digging into a jaw dropping history of racketeering allegations, in the midst of which both the elder and younger Panepinto find themselves.
Most political observers dismiss Panepinto as a “disgraced, wannabe Mafioso” who fancies himself as a Westsider, despite graduating from a leafy suburban high school and now married to a New York State Supreme Court Justice, Catherine Nugent Panepinto.
His father was a different story, though.
Donald “the Turtle” Panepinto was, reportedly, a member of the La Cosa Nostra crime family. He was heavily involved in the International Laborers’ Union as well. Local 210 has been the subject of racketeering allegations for decades.
The elder Panepinto was given his nickname, “Turtle,” because he gave his beatings slowly, sources tell me.
A small number of operatives argue that — because of the union money that is backing him — he is a relevant (if not a potent) politician who must be acknowledged in the political discourse.
In 2001 he was charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the second degree, a Class D felony. That felony complaint reads that Mr. Panepinto, “knowing [the document] to be forged, and with intent to defraud, deceive, or injure another, possessed a forged instrument to wit: petitions for the designation or nomination of a candidate for public office.”
He was also charged with a second count: Misconduct in Relation to Petitions, an unclassified misdemeanor — a violation of Section 17 of the New York State Election Law — for making a false affidavit. As part of a plea deal, he pled guilty to the lesser of the two charges to avoid a felony conviction at trial.
His license to practice law was subsequently suspended.
Some are aghast that Panepinto could sign such obviously fraudulent signatures — including that of his wife, Catherine Nugent — in a hand writing that strongly resembles his own and is consistent from signature to signature. Take a look at the petitions.
Panepinto’s close association with County Executive Mark Poloncarz has also raised eye brows. Panepinto has donated nearly $2,000 to Poloncarz and has received lucrative legal work for the County, as WGRZ’s Jeff Preval reports:
There is a deep distaste for Panepinto on the Democratic Party’s Executive Committee, which is mostly attributable to his arrogant and gruff demeanor, sources say. But there is also unease over his suspect acquisition of no-bid contracts and county legal work.
When he appeared before the party’s Executive Committee last June, he was quickly dismissive of concerns relating to the election fraud in his background. “No one cares about that,” sources quote him as saying.
Sources say that he demanded that it was his turn to run, and threatened, “if you don’t endorse me, I’m going to run anyway and win.”
At that meeting he effectively bullied Laura Hackathorn out of the race. Hackathorn is the Hamburg Village Trustee who was encouraged to run by former Congresswoman Kathy Hochul and other local party leaders. The executive committee had been working to elect Hackathorn for months.