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The Curious Incident of the Dog Walker in the Latimer House

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The Curious Incident of the Dog Walker in the Latimer House

October 23, 2017 - 02:17

State Senator George Latimer and Judge Susan Kettner at an event together in New Rochelle

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This story has been updated to reflect that our initial report incorrectly identified the “family dog walker”. The correction and update is indicated in italics in the article below.

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- New York State Senator George Latimer has been in a relationship with New Rochelle City Court Judge Susan Kettner for more than a decade.

While this may be news to many Westchester residents, it is not even an “open secret” in New Rochelle just a banal fact of political life. And for all that time, no one much cared.

Although some voters may disapprove of a married man carrying on a long-term and quite public relationship with a woman not his wife, most consider it a private matter. Talk of the Sound has always adopted the position that there was no reason to report on the relationship between Latimer and Kettner so long as there was no public interest at stake. That has changed.

The relationship would have remained a private matter but for an inelegant, off-balance and seemingly inexplicable failed attempt at political jujitsu by Latimer himself.

In a move that only served to draw attention to the Latimer-Kettner relationship, and at best play the Daily Voice for fools, Latimer “accused Republicans of spreading false rumors about infidelity in his longtime marriage to sink his challenge to incumbent Rob Astorino,” as reported by DV reporter Jon Craig.

Craig played off the fact of a widely-known, decade-long Latimer-Kettner relationship as “a rumor circulated this week” that Latimer “has been dating a woman from New Rochelle."

"’I understand the GOP is doing everything they can to impugn my reputation because I am a threat to Astorino's re-election,’ Latimer told the Daily Voice. ‘I am not going to dignify their further rumors and efforts and you shouldn't either. Rob is trolling the depths of the trash to defeat me.’"

Latimer goes on to say, according to Craig, that “he and his wife, Robin, are happily married.”

The only person “trolling the depths of the trash” is Latimer, by dragging both his wife and his girlfriend into a mess of his own making in a classic case of a politician wanting to have it both ways. Latimer says he will not dignify “rumors” of an affair but cooperates in producing a story with a minor media outlet to put those very “rumors” forward as an attack on his campaign opponent. As a political move this is less Bill Clinton and more Anthony Weiner, a gambit that did nothing to fool the political cognoscenti while raising new questions about himself among less well-informed voters.

Then there is the Daily Voice article as a piece of political performance art by Latimer.

There is a truly bizarre photo of Latimer awkwardly “dancing” with his wife at the Rye Recreation Center behind rows of folding chairs. There is no band playing, no audio speakers, no indication of music playing, no one else is dancing, it is daylight. The couple gaze adoringly into each other’s eyes as a half-dozen people face the other direction, as if averting their eyes from whatever embarrassing moment is unfolding behind them.

The source of the photo is listed cryptically as “contributor”.

For reasons not explained, the only attributed source for the story besides Latimer is described only as “Latimers' daily dog walker” who is, incredibly, treated as an anonymous source.

Anonymous or not, how exactly is a “daily dog walker” able to speak to the issue of whether one of her clients is having an affair?

In what appears to be a bad pun, Jon Craig quotes the mysterious dog walker on whether Latimer has “strayed”. Dog. Stray. Stray dog. Get it?

“I am at George’s house every day to walk his dogs. There’s no sign that he doesn’t still live there!"

Consider the quality of information in the DV article: an unknown person who says they stop by Latimer’s house periodically is granted anonymity as a source in order to buttress Latimer’s claim that he is not having an affair.

And the source does not even do that.

Instead, this source can only offer a double-negative denial, a classic indicator of deception. The dog walker does not say George Latimer lives at home with his wife but only that there is “no sign” that “he doesn’t” which proves nothing.

The “rumor” Latimer is not going to “dignify” is that he is having an affair with Judge Kettner not that he is not living under the same roof as his wife so why does Craig quote her at all?

Further, how would a “daily dog walker” detect signs of George Latimer living at his house in Rye? Is the dog walker going into the bedrooms? Rummaging through the dressers and closets? Spending the night at the house? 

As a State Senator, Latimer would be expected to spend many nights in Albany, especially when the Senate is in session so that he may or not be home on particular days during the year proves nothing.

People who are having affairs do not necessarily meet up with their paramours at their own home, they might go to a “no tell motel”, a vacation home, a parked car or the other person’s home. That the dog walker says they see no sign Latimer is not living at home does not speak to the issue of whether Latimer is having an affair. If the wife does not know then how would the dog walker know?

This is some special dog walker!

How is it that a dog walker is cited as a source at all? How does Jon Craig even know who walks Latimer’s dog? Why is a dog walker commenting in the media on her client’s alleged peccadilloes? Why does Craig not only trust her as a source but asks readers to trust him that she is actually Latimer’s dog walker and, if she is, nothing more?

And who cares what a dog walker has to say in a story like this? A live-in nanny, maybe. But a dog walker? No.

All of this gets into the question of why Latimer would go out of his way to publicly raise the issue of marital infidelity and why he would cooperate on a story that ran on October 18th, less than three weeks before election day on November 7th?

The answer is simple: our reporting on George Latimer’s car crash over the summer, just 48 hours earlier, spooked him.

To understand this, some background is required so bear with us.

Senator Latimer’s relationship with Judge Kettner goes back more than a decade. Latimer and Kettner, until recently, had made no effort to conceal it. The couple are often seen at events in New Rochelle including political fundraisers where Kettner is known for saving a seat at banquet tables for Latimer and then sitting together when the invariably late Latimer arrives, they are seen holding hands, when Kettner lived on Drake Avenue in New Rochelle Latimer was often seen entering or leaving her apartment building, his vehicle was often seen parked out front, they have often been seen out at dinner together as a couple on weekends at favorite restaurants including the Sedona Tap House in Mamaroneck or the opened-then-closed-then-reopened Post Road Ale House. When Latimer addresed students at Jefferson Elementary School in New Rochelle last year, it was Kettner, dressed in her judicial robes, who conducted the mock swearing-in of the recently re-elected Senator.

Whether to raise the Latimer-Kettner relationship as a political issue has been considered by numerous political campaign organizations over the years going back to Kettner’s failed 2007 bid for New Rochelle City Council, to various Latimer races, to Kettner’s successful run for New Rochelle City Court Judge in 2010.

In 2012, Bob Cohen’s failed State Senate campaign raised the matter obliquely by raising questions about the many “dinners for two” on Latimer campaign spending reports. Kettner is known to accompany Latimer on the campaign trail with the implication being that Latimer and Kettner would go to an event then out to dinner afterwards and charge the meals to his campaign fund. Cohen campaign operatives denied fostering the intended implication but the matter soon became a hot topic for a day or two on WVOX, a local talk radio station in New Rochelle and so the political purpose was served.

In our exclusive reporting on Latimer’s July car crash in which Latimer appears to have run a red light leading to a collision that injured two people, we asked two signifcant questions that Latimer refused to answer: why was he driving Westbound along Wilmot Road in New Rochelle in such a rush on a late Friday afternoon and why he was driving a Jeep owned by his Community Outreach Director rather than his own vehicle.

As we told Latimer prior to running that story, it does not take a genius to figure that out - if you know to use Google.

A Google search shows Susan Kettner’s home address is located in the Bonnie Crest neighborhood of New Rochelle and plotting a line Westbound from the location of the crash shows a direct route running down Wilmot Road straight into Fenimore Road, the heart of the Bonnie Crest neighborhood.

As for driving someone else’s car, a vehicle owned by a New York State Senator is entitled to carry special license plates which indicate the owner is a New York State Senator and the number of their district. A vehicle parked at Judge Kettner’s house with Senate District 37 plates might well attract the attention of nosy neighbors.

This is where things get a bit complicated for Kettner. If, as appears to be the case, the New Rochelle Police Department hushed up Latimer’s car crash to shield her from unwanted attention on her relationship with Latimer you start to raise questions about ethical behavior by a sitting judge in New York State and conflicts of interest because one of three ways a Judge can be removed from the bench is to be impeached by a majority vote of the assembly then removed by a two-thirds vote a special court made up of judges of the court of appeals. the president of the senate, and the senators, including George Latimer.

It would not be the first time. Kettner has a prior history of unethical behavior while on the bench of the City Court of New Rochelle.

Section 100.5 of the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics Handbook states that a judge or candidate for elective judicial office will refrain from inappropriate political activity: engaging in any partisan political activity including making a contribution to a political organization or candidate and/or purchasing tickets for politically sponsored dinners or other functions, including any such function for a non-political purpose.

In 2011, Judge Kettner made what she later acknowledged was an illegal campaign contribution. She gave $500 to the campaign of New Rochelle City Council Member Barry Fertel.

Fertel, a New Rochelle City Council member, is an attorney in New Rochelle who might well have been expected to have business before Judge Kettner.

The contribution to Fertel is just one of what may have been a series of illegal campaign contributions by Kettner to Democrats while a judicial candidate and after she was sworn in as a judge on January 1, 2011.

On March 16, 2011, Judge Kettner made a $100 contribution to the Democratic City Committee of New Rochelle. On January 15, 2011, Judge Kettner made a $125 contribution to the Westchester Democratic Committee. On June 27, 2010 (while Susan Kettner was a judicial candidate) Dorothy Kettner (the mother of Susan Kettner) made a $300 contribution to George Latimer's State Assembly campaign.

With that context in mind, back to the connection between our car crash story and the Daily Voice article where George Latimer chose to raise the issue of his supposed marital fidelity.

EDITOR’S NOTE: UPDATE/CORRECTION: This story has been updated.Talk of the Sound is convinced, after further research and extensive interviews, that our initial report incorrectly identified the source of Jon Craig’s Daily Voice article. With that person’s consent, we are removing any reference to that person from Talk of the Sound. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience to this individual. Based on additional reporting, we have learned the original Daily Voice article identified the photographer who took the photo of George Latimer and Robin Latimer that accompanied the article as Melanie Cane. Her name was removed from the updated article by the Daily Voice and replaced with “Contributor”. We have since confirmed that Cane is a reporter and photographer for the Rye Record. Jon Craig is the former Managing Editor of the Rye Record. We believe Cane to be the “family dog walker” quoted anonymously by Craig to obscure that his source is a former colleague at the Rye Record. We continue to call on the Daily Voice to update their story to identify the “family dog walker”. Cane did not respond to repeated attempts to contact her.

Unpacking Craig’s decision to grant anonymity to a family dog walker raises many questions. Of course, anonymity for a family dog walker is questionable in and of itself. But it seems overly protective for a person in that position. What is she being protected from? She is not a witness in a mafia trial. There is no issue of national security. She would not appear to be at risk of being fired by the Latimers for defending her client (especially as the Latimers mostly likely played a role in her speaking with Craig in the first place).

So why is she not identified in the DV article?

The use of the word “even” and “popular” by Craig as in “Even the Latimers' daily dog walker told Daily Voice there are no signs the popular Rye Democrat has strayed” (emphasis added) appears to be a deliberate choice meant to convey a false narrative that “everyone” knows George Latimer is faithful to his wife.

Then there is what readers are not being told. The source for the quote meant to serve as a character witness for Latimer may be the family dog walker but presenting her to readers as the family dog walker without mentioning she is a reporter for the Rye Record and former employee of Craig is like doing a story about serial killers and presenting Dennis Radar as an alarm system installer without mentioning he is the BTK Killer. It is a form of journalistic malpractice. If it is not a serious violation of the editorial policy at the Daily Voice then the Daily Voice does not have an editorial policy on anonymous sources. They should run a correction and edit Craig’s article to identify the dog walker by name and put her in context by more accurately identifying her.

Our conclusion, based on extensive interviews and research is that the George Latimer story on marital infidelity appeared in anticipation of Talk of the Sound explaining to readers the answers to the questions Latimer refused to answer: where was he going in such a rush on a late afternoon last summer and why was he driving an employee's vehicle.

George Latimer declined to comment for this article.