Upstate New York candidate: Military veteran claim 'a mistake'

By S. ALEXANDER GEROULD | The Observer-Dispatch (Tribune News Service) | Published: August 16, 2017

UTICA, N.Y. — The news release announcing Allen Thayer's candidacy for Utica Common Council states that he's a veteran of the U.S. Marines.

There's just one problem: He's not.

More than two weeks after the news release was distributed, Thayer said Tuesday he isn't a veteran, nor has he ever served in the military.

"It was a mistake on my part," Thayer said. "It was a statement that I put out and I want to retract that statement."

When asked why he indicated he was a veteran, Thayer initially blamed miscommunication with the person who helped draft the news release. He later changed his explanation during a second phone call, however: "I guess I was just bragging. Let's just leave it at that."

The release, which was emailed to several O-D staffers and others July 30, was sent by Tim Trent. On Aug. 4, the O-D published a brief announcing Thayer's candidacy that included the erroneous information.

"Allen asked me to help him prepare and send out a press release because he didn't have any experience doing that stuff," Trent said in a voicemail. "So I helped him, but all the content came from Allen and I can't speak to the content. That's why it carried his name and contact information as the source."

Thayer said he takes full responsibility.

"I don't want to blame Tim for any of this," he said.

Vincent Scalise, a staff sergeant with the Army who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and who is serving with the New York Army National Guard, said that false claims of military service are not unusual.

"Unfortunately, we see a lot of this, every day almost," said Scalise, founder and executive director of the Central New York Veterans Outreach Center at 726 Washington St.

"It makes me sick to my stomach," he said. "It really does because ... I don't understand personally. I don't understand why people feel the need to lie about it. I really don't."

Joe Hobika Jr., chairman of the city's Republican Committee, said that he hadn't seen the release so he had no knowledge of it.

Councilman Dave Testa, D-2, who is running against Thayer in November, said he was "disappointed that my opponent would go to that level" and that "military veterans deserve better."

"You're supposed to represent your constituents (and) be honest and up front with them," Testa said.

©2017 Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y.
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