Published October 25, 2004
CORNING, N.Y. – Two weeks after denying he knew anything about it, the campaign manager for a Democratic congressional candidate has admitted having someone obtain public records on the Republican opponent.
However, candidate Samara Barend (search) said Saturday that neither she nor campaign manager Jonah Siegellak released court-sealed divorce documents about Republican state Sen. John Kuhl (search) that a court employee inadvertently included with the other records.
The sealed documents detailing Kuhl's divorce in 2000 alleged that he once threatened his wife at gunpoint.
Although divorce records in New York are supposed to be kept out of the public eye for 100 years, details from the papers appeared on the political Web site Rawstory.com, which describes itself as "an alternative news directory" for "the left-leaning market."
Barend and Siegellak repeatedly said there was no connection between the campaign and the release of the divorce papers. In the Oct. 7 edition of The Leader newspaper in Corning, Siegellak said that "no one in this camp went to retrieve those documents."
On Thursday, Steuben County District Attorney John Tunney said the student went to the county clerk's office in September on instructions from Siegellak.
On Friday, Siegellak read a statement admitting his role.
"Now that the case has been closed, we know that the release of Randy Kuhl's divorce records was the result of an honest mistake by an individual in the county clerk's office," Siegellak said. "I am here today to take full responsibility for my actions."
He added: "The candidate was never involved in obtaining or releasing the records and, even to this day, my candidate has not seen the records."
Siegellak did not take questions from reporters, but on Saturday Barend said Siegellak did not release the divorce records.
Kuhl and his former wife, Jennifer, called the release of the papers "ugly politics" and an invasion of their privacy.
Prosecutors, who have not released the court employee's name, have said no charges will be filed.
Barend said Friday that she is keeping Siegellak as her campaign manager. "I have disciplined him for not being open and honest with the press or with me," she said.
Kuhl is running against Barend for the seat vacated by retiring Republican Rep. Amo Houghton. Barend is a former aide to New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.