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'We The People' Campaign Seeks To Restore Town Government

Conservative Democrat Neil Martin is challenging Beekman Supervisor Barbara Zulauf, a Republican, in Tuesday's election. Photo Credit: File Photo
Strong winds were blowing through Dutchess County this week, where "We The People" candidates Beth Gibson and Sean Johnston are running for Beekman Town Board and Meghan Sweeney is challenging Beekman Town Clerk Rachael Rancourt, a Republican. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Campaign signs near the Beekman Square Diner include support for Neil Martin, a Conservative-Democratic candidate for Town Supervisor who also is running on the "We The People" team seeking to oust Republican incumbents. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

BEEKMAN, N.Y. -- A contingent of longtime Town of Beekman residents is seeking to oust incumbent Republicans who they blame for mismanagement and an aura of arrogance on the Town Council.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Running as a "We The People" team, the registered Conservative Democrats are challenging Beekman Supervisor Barbara Zulauf and Town Council members Michael Moran and Werner W. Stiegler in Tuesday's election. The incumbents are all Republicans.

They're joined on the ticket by Meghan Sweeney, a Conservative-Democrat who is challenging Republican Town Clerk Rachael Rancourt.

Neil R. Martin, 57, "We The People" candidate for Beekman town supervisor, served three years as an Arlington School Board member and president. Martin also has served on the Beekman Planning Board, Citizens Budget Review Committee and Ethics Board. He is the vice president of sales and marketing for Rico Industries Inc. a manufacturer and marketer of licensed sport products.

Martin points to this year's conviction of former Beekman Comptroller Fred Knapp as evidence of problems guarding taxpayer coffers.

Knapp is serving three to nine years in state prison for stealing nearly $540,000 in taxpayer money from the town over a five-year period. Knapp's sentencing was reported here in May by The Poughkeepsie Journal.

Knapp pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny before Rockland County Judge Victor Alfieri who was assigned to Knapp's case after Dutchess County judges recused themselves.

Martin cited a lack of Town Council oversight including a lack of financial controls and executive leadership for Knapp's thefts. Martin and the other "We The People" candidates also want to eliminate pensions and health benefits for part-time elected officials.

Zulauf reported last month that the town's insurer had given Beekman about $440,000 of the money Knapp confessed stealing from the town

The Conservative-Democratic challengers for two council seats are Beth Gibson, an attorney, and Sean Johnston, retired as an employee with the New York City Housing Authority.

Gibson works as senior assistant public defender in Dutchess County.

Johnston is chairman of the Beekman Planning Board. He previously served as a town councilman, a member of the Arlington Board of Education, a Commissioner of Human Rights for Dutchess County and as chairman of the Ryan McElroy Children's Cancer Foundation Advisory Committee.

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