Talk of the Sound has uncovered another campaign donation made by Judge Susan Kettner under a corporate name that raises new questions about her partisan political activity while a judge or judicial candidate. Talk of the Sound previously reported on an illegal $500 campaign contribution to Council Member Barry Fertel. Kettner made public an email requesting the return of the money but, so far, the Fertel campaign, has yet to issue a statement confirming the money has been returned.
Using the name of her law firm and a different address (Kettner & Kettner at 270 North Avenue) Susan Kettner made a $125.00 campaign contribution to Latimer for Assembly, the campaign fund for New York State Assemblyman George Latimer, on April 16, 2010. On June 27, 2011, Dorothy Kettner, Susan Kettner's mother, made a $300 contribution to Latimer for Assembly. There is no memo on either donation that explains the nature of the donation. Any donation other than the purchase of tickets to a fundraiser, are illegal under New York State Judicial Ethics laws.
As a judge, Kettner may not engage in partisan political activity. As a judicial candidate, within a specific window of time (in the months prior to her selection as a candidate and 6 months after election day) Kettner was allowed to work on her own came, with severe restrictions, and allowed to purchase tickets to political fundraisers, with additional restrictions.
The questions become, when did Kettner actually put herself forward as a candidate, what was the purpose of the $125, if that money was for a ticket or tickets to a fundraiser, was that the lowest priced amount of a ticket?
The Democratic Convention where Kettner was selected as the Democratic nominee for New Rochelle City Court Judge took place in May, 2010. However, Talk of the Sound has confirmed with the New York State Judicial Campaign Ethics Center that Kettner attended a mandatory course on Judicial Campaign Ethics Training and Guidance on April 26, 2010.
If Kettner was a judicial candidate or or before April 16, 2010 then the "Window Period" was in effect and any contribution or political activity other than attending a fundraiser would be prohibited under New York State Judicial Ethics.
Talk of the Sound has previously documented what may be three illegal campaign contributions by Susan Kettner made after Kettner was sworn in as New Rochelle City Judge on January 1, 2011. Kettner has already confirmed that one of the three was an illegal campaign contribution but has yet to explain the other two.
On January 11, 2011, Kettner contributed $125 to the Westchester County Democratic Committee.
On March 16, 2011, Kettner contributed $100 to the Democratic City Committee of New Rochelle.
On April 26, 2011, Kettner contributed $500 to the Friends of Barry Fertel Campaign Committee by purchasing tickets to a Fertel fundraiser on May 12, 2011. The "Window Period", 6 months after election day, closed on May 2, 2011. Had the event taken place before May 2nd, Kettner would have only permitted to purchase two tickets for $150 and so the extra $350 constitute impermissible political contributions. However, as the event took place after May 2nd, she was not allowed to attend. New York State law does not permit a judicial candidate to purchase tickets to a fundraiser and then not use the tickets. If she did not attend the event the entire amount of $500 constitutes an impermissible political contributions. If she did go to the event, that would constitute impermissible political activity because it was after the Window Period closed on May 2nd. All of these are violations of New York State law for Judicial Ethics.
In an email to the Fertel campaign requesting a return of the $500 contribution, Kettner implausibly states that she did not realize that judicial ethics laws applied to her in the months after she became a judge. This preposterous claim raises questions about all four of her political contributions in 2010 and 2011. Further, her mother's campaign contributions may also be ethics violations if Kettner failed to encourage her mother not to make the donations.