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Party leaders argue campaign finance in Brookhaven race

The candidates have pledged to stick to the issues. But Democratic and Republican leaders continue to trade jabs over campaign finance in the race for Brookhaven's vacant Sixth District council seat.

Brookhaven Democratic chairman Jon Schneider Tuesday accused Republican candidate Dan Panico of missing a state-mandated campaign finance disclosure deadline. The charge, which Panico disputed, came a week after Brookhaven Republican chairman Jesse Garcia accused Democratic candidate Doug Dittko of the same mistake.

Garcia also launched new charges Tuesday that Dittko failed to disclose a contribution of about $15,000 to the state.

Panico and Dittko, who serve together on the town's planning board, distanced themselves from the accusations.

"This campaign is not about filings. It's about the quality of life," Panico said.

Dittko said the charges are "typical political season stuff."

Schneider faulted Panico for missing a Feb. 5 campaign finance disclosure deadline. Panico's filings were not available to residents through state records until Feb. 8, Schneider said.

Schneider said it was "hypocritical" for Republicans to fault Dittko with missing the same deadline. Garcia said Panico met the deadline, but the filings were not posted on a state Web site until Feb. 8 because they were submitted late on a Friday.

Garcia said Brookhaven Democrats spent $15,432.93 on Dittko's behalf earlier this month, and the payment should be listed on Dittko's disclosure reports. State records show the Democrats spent the money on Feb. 1.

Schneider said the expense will be included on Dittko's next disclosure report, which is due Friday. He said Garcia is "trying to create an issue that doesn't exist."

State elections officials did not return phone calls.

The candidates are scheduled to meet with voters at a pair of public forums Wednesday and Thursday night. Wednesday's meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at the East Moriches Fire House on Pine Street; Thursday's is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Center Moriches Library on Main Street.

The election, which became necessary when councilman Keith Romaine died in November at the age of 36, is scheduled for March 9.

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