PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – What started as a press conference by the staff of District 40 state Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson) Friday morning turned into a shouting match with the staff of Democratic opponent Justin Wagner.
Ball's chief of staff, Jim Coleman, called a press conference in front of Wagner's Peekskill office on South Street to call attention to what Ball says is Wagner's conflict of interest concerning the controversial drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing.
Wagner is a lawyer at the firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, which has represented large energy companies such as General Electric, Exxon Mobile and Chesapeake Energy.
"He says that he's against fracking, he says to certain groups, then to other groups he says something different – certainly at his law firm," Coleman said. "They bankroll and help big fracking companies roll out their businesses across the United States and throughout the world."
Coleman brought with him Pennsylvania resident Craig Stevens, who said he had met Ball when the senator had come to Pennsylvania to research hydraulic fracturing and its negative effects.
“Chesapeake Energy is on this board, and Chesapeake Energy went to my 95-year-old grandmother in her nursing home and got her to sign a land lease for $135 on the family home with promises that we would be rich, and we haven’t seen a dime," Stevens said.
Coleman is calling on Wagner to disclose his law firm's client list, as well as clarify the terms of the leave of absence he took from the firm. Coleman also alleged that Wagner took campaign contributions from employees of his firm.
Wagner was not at his office when the event took place, but several of his staff members were on hand and interrupted Coleman's presentation. Some staff members held Wagner signs and denied the charges while pointing out that Assembly member Sandy Galef (D-Ossining) had also come out against hydraulic fracturing. Other staff members held up signs such as one that said, "Greg Ball is Desperate."
Wagner spokesman Steve Napier said that Wagner did not have any say in what companies his firm did business with, and that his candidate was the only nonincumbent Democrat in the state to be endorsed by the New York League of Conservation Voters.
"Justin Wagner is an associate at that law firm. He has no say over the client list of the firm," Napier said.