By Dan Murphy
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore weathered a political storm over Nannygate issues concerning her live-in housekeeper when she was cleared last week of any wrongdoing. DiFiore, twice elected DA, also easily received the Democratic Party’s endorsement for re-election at the county’s Democratic convention last week.
DiFiore was challenged at the convention by Mayo Bartlett, a White Plains attorney and former chief of the Bias Crimes Unit of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, but easily won the nomination.
There is currently no announced Republican candidate to challenge DiFiore, although former County Court Judge Rory Bellantoni has been rumored to be one possible opponent.
DiFiore, who won election as DA as a Republican in 2005and as a Democrat in 2009 after she switched parties, remains popular in Westchester and will be extremely difficult to defeat. DiFiore recently resigned her post as Chair of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics to concentrate on her re-election bid.
The only cloud hanging over DiFiore’s re-election were allegations made that she tried to influence a decision of granting benefits to her former housekeeper, Marina Buchanan.
However, a confidential report and investigation by the Westchester Department of Social Services found no wrongdoing on DiFiore’s part in Buchanan’s three attempts to secure food stamps and Medicaid benefits, according to published reports. Buchanan, who worked for DiFiore’s family from 1988 to 2009, applied for benefits three times from 2001 to 2009 and was denied for earning too much income.
In 2010, her fourth application was approved, and the DSS report found that errors in the first three applications were the reason for Buchanan’s denials, and that no effort was made by DiFiore to win Buchanan benefits, which she eventually received.
DSS Deputy Commissioner Philippe Gille helped craft the report vindicating DiFiore.
Other questions regarding Buchanan’s immigration status and whether taxes had been paid by DiFiore and/or her husband, Dennis Glazer, for Buchanan were addressed by DiFiore spokesman Lucian Chalfen, who said that “all the appropriate federal and New York state tax forms were filed and required payments were made in regards to Ms. Buchanan’s employment,” and that Buchanan has been a “qualified alien” since 1988, and a permanent legal resident since 2007.
Chalfen also reiterated what DiFiore has said all along about Nannygate, that “this was a politically-motivated attack.”
The allegations point to Dhyalma Vazquez, a DSS fraud investigator who has been pushing the allegations against DiFiore for years. The story was finally picked up by the New York Post and other Westchester media outlets.
Vazquez is also the vice-chair of the Westchester Independence Party, which under Vazquez and Chairman Dr. Giulio Cavallo has tried to stop DiFiore from winning election after a falling out, and did not endorse her or give her the Independent line in 2009.
Vazquez, whose allegation that Buchanan’s claim was improperly reopened, has now been found to be false, called Gille, a former county legislator and Republican from Yonkers, a “liar” and called for a federal probe.
DiFiore’s refusal to comment on any pending investigation before the DSS report now appears to have been the right decision. She waited out the storm and now, without any pending investigation, the real issue in her re-election campaign is who is the best candidate for Westchester DA.