Willis Stephens

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Willis Stephens Jr.
Assemblyman, 99th District (1994-2006)
In office
Preceded by Vincent Leibell
Succeeded by Greg Ball
Personal details
Born 1955
Brewster, New York
Spouse(s) Ginny Stephens
Children 3
Occupation Lawyer

Willis “Will” Stephens Jr. (born 1955) was a politician that represented the 99th District in the New York State Assembly. After serving in the Assembly for twelve years, Stephens was defeated in the September 2006 primary by Assemblyman Greg Ball and lost the Republican nomination. He was one of only three Republicans in the Assembly to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood.[1] Stephens, his wife, Ginny, and their three children reside in Brewster, New York.

Political career and background[edit]

Assemblyman Stephens represented the 99th District of New York which encompasses the municipalities of Patterson, Mahopac, Carmel, Southeast, Putnam Lake and Brewster, in Putnam County; Yorktown, Lake Mohegan, Somers and North Salem in Westchester County; and Pawling in Duchess County. His family held the seat nearly continuously for eighty years: his grandfather, D. Mallory Stephens, held this seat from 1926 to 1952; his father, Willis Stephens Sr., held the seat from 1953 to 1982; and Stephens himself served from 1995 to 2006.

Stephens is a member of the law firm of Stephens and Charbonneau, in Brewster, New York. He was awarded a Juris Doctor degree from St. John's University school of Law in 1980 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University in 1977.

Stephens served on the Ways and Means, Rules, and the Judiciary Committees. The former Assemblyman has drawn heavy criticism from conservative groups due to his endorsements from traditionally liberal leaning organizations such as the CSEA (Civil Service Employees Association), AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations), New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), Planned Parenthood, and EANY (Environmental Advocates of New York).[2] While serving as a member of the Assembly Ethics Committee, Stephens was cited by watchdog groups after using campaign contributions for personal expenses, including a clown for a children's party.[3]

For the first time since taking office in 1994, Stephens was involved in a heated primary campaign for the Republican nomination in the 99th Assembly District mounted by opponent Greg Ball—a retired Air Force Captain put on the ballot by the submission of about 1800 petition signatures.

On September 12, 2006, in the Republican Primary for New York's 99th District, Ball defeated Stephens with 71.14% (4,750 votes) to 28.86% (1,297 votes) for Stephens, the lowest vote total for any incumbent running for reelection to the State Assembly.[4]

Stephens claimed he had been the victim of a negative campaign, citing mailings that were distributed calling him a 'country-club liberal' and highlighting his close relationship with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. However, Stephens himself drew criticism when he refused to repudiate a letter about challenger Greg Ball which falsely claimed Mr. Ball had received a dishonorable discharge from the United States Air Force. Stephens was also criticized heavily for not returning campaign contributions from indicted Connecticut trash magnate James Galante.[5]

Due to New York's electoral fusion system, the Assemblyman had vowed to remain in the race on the Conservative and Independence lines. Ultimately, Stephens decided to withdraw from the race altogether, instead taking a nomination for Supreme Court Justice in Queens.[6]


"Pontificating idiots" email[edit]

In June 2005, Stephens sent an email to a discussion group, or "listserv" that focuses on the community of Brewster. He thought the message was going to Beth Coursen, an aide in his Assembly district office.[7] Instead he sent his reply to all subscribers, referring to them as pontificating idiots.[8]

The discussion group, called "Brewster10509", has a web site describing what the list is for. Members are free to post anything that has to do with government, education, community organizations and a host of other things related to Brewster and the surrounding Town of Southeast.[9] After realizing his mistake, he issued an apology to the users of the message board to which he said, "In fact, now I most closely resemble the type of poster I described."[10]

Text of Stephens' email[11]

Re: Comments on Stephens Campaign Website

more interesting crap.

I'm "on" 10509 to monitor what is going on in Brewster. I do not post anymore. Just watching the idiots pontificate. Keeping informed is important and it also gives me a window to what GB and some of his supporters are thinking.

Let me know how you think we should proceed with the website. I'd like to get it up and running before too long and don't want to hurt Michele and Jay ... I like them and they are talented. Maybe a collaboration of some sort? I'll let you be my guide.

What's the scuttlebutt on the election ... is Hauser circulating a Conservative petition ... are you going to do an opportunity to ballot on the "D" line? How about an independent line ... like the Save Pawling Party or "Chicks with Balls Party" or some such thing?

If it is really hot tomorrow you are welcome to come for a swim (a suit would be appropriate :0 ) ... I don't think I'm around this weekend for Guinans ... sounds like a blast though.

Got pozzi's announcement in the AM and then its back to the Law Office .... I feel like I've been away for a month!


Stephens' e-mail also included what some might consider to be offensive remarks directed towards his intended recipient, Coursen.[12] "If it is really hot tomorrow you are welcome to come for a swim (a suit would be appropriate :0) ..." he added. Assemblyman Stephens apologized publicly to the members of the group as well as the entire district.[13]

Putnam victory fund[edit]

Stephens, who also serves as the legal counsel to the town of Southeast, New York, drew heavy criticism after accepting $9,355 from trash magnate, convicted felon and reputed mob boss James Galante, who was in turn awarded a $1.5 million no-bid garbage contract by the town board on Stephens' recommendation.[14]

Assemblyman Stephens refused to provide a copy of the secret memo recommending that Galante's contract be renewed for a record $1.5 million without allowing public bids even as Galante had been recently arrested under the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), stating that "[t]hat's a legal opinion that is a matter of attorney–client privilege. It's not subject to the New York Freedom of Information Law... it would be up to the town, not [me], whether to release the memo."[15]

According to the Danbury News-Times, "Willis H. Stephens, Jr. has received millions of tax dollars in aggregate payments as Southeast's municipal counsel for more than ten years. In 2005 alone, Southeast taxpayers paid Stephens, Jr. an estimated $190,000 for legal work, which included legal work involving a no-bid municipal contract worth an estimated $1.5 million tax dollars to an admitted felon at that time under investigation by Federal law enforcement authorities for alleged racketeering. Although Southeast taxpayers paid Stephens, Jr. for legal work, although pertinent Southeast garbage contract negotiations ceased nearly a year ago, although Southeast taxpayers are bound today under contract terms negotiated by Stephens, Jr. and the Southeast Town Board with a major campaign contributor presently under Federal indictment for alleged racketeering, Stephens, Jr. asserts that taxpayers have no right to see his legal work."[16]

Galante, who was previously convicted of tax evasion and arrested in June for allegedly conspiring with organized crime to prevent competition in the garbage business in Connecticut, was accused of donating to a Political Action Committee which laundered money to several politicians who may have used their influence to award contracts to Galante's trash hauling business.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Planned Parenthood of NY Endorsements "Planned Parenthood Endorsements" Check |url= value (help). Planned Parenthood. October 3, 2005. 
  2. ^ "Ball's Military Record Assailed". Newscopy.org. June 2006. 
  3. ^ "Watchdogs say elections include questionable spending sprees". The Journal News. April 2005. 
  4. ^ "Primary 2006". NY1 News. September 2006. 
  5. ^ "Ball Defeats incumbent Stephens for GOP Line in Assembly Race". The Journal News. September 2006. 
  6. ^ "99th Assembly District Race - Now the Fun". Newscopy.org. September 14, 2006. 
  7. ^ "Politician Tells Voters They're Idiots". Associated Press. June 30, 2005. 
  8. ^ "IDIOT POL RIPS VOTERS IN MASS E-MAIL SLIP" (PDF). New York Post. June 30, 2005. 
  9. ^ Washington Post "'Hey Morons, I'm sorry...'" Check |url= value (help) (PDF). Washington Post. June 30, 2005. 
  10. ^ "Politician tells voters they're idiots" (PDF). Fox News. June 30, 2005. 
  11. ^ "Errant e-mail post from assemblyman calls Brewster villagers 'idiots'". The Journal News. June 29, 2005. 
  12. ^ "Assemblyman's wayward email refers to voters as idiots" (PDF). WSMTV. June 30, 2005. 
  13. ^ "E-mail gaffe leaves lawmaker red-faced". Poughkeepsie Journal. June 29, 2005. 
  14. ^ "Ball Fires at Will". North County News. August 23, 2006. 
  15. ^ "Ball assails Stephens over Southeast trash contract". The Journal News. August 23, 2006. 
  16. ^ "Secrecy is not best reaction to Federal Investigation". Danbury News Times. August 24, 2006. 
  17. ^ "Galante an issue in NY election". Danbury News Times. August 23, 2006. 

External links[edit]

New York Assembly
Preceded by
Vincent Leibell
New York State Assembly, 91st District
Succeeded by
Ronald Tocci
Preceded by
Patrick R. Manning
New York State Assembly, 99th District
Succeeded by
Greg Ball