LaPietra has been very successful at tapping into a general frustration with what some people perceive as high taxes and overregulation. He has combined this political tack with a personal flair and controversial style rarely seen in village politics.
In large part, this is the reason that many have leaped to his defense with regard to the recent volley of charges leveled against him. In an attempt to place his name on the ballot as a candidate for village trustee, LaPietra filed nominating petitions listing his address as 784 Main Street in the village of Cobleskill. After incumbent trustee Carol McGuire (who is running against LaPietra) attempted to challenge the validity of his petitions, questions arose as to whether or not LaPietra actually lives at this address. Following a three-week investigation by the sheriff’s department, LaPietra was arrested and recently indicted on 30 felony counts including perjury and filing a false instrument.
LaPietra immediately took the opportunity to frame himself as a martyr for his cause, calling himself Cobleskill’s “first political prisoner”. Despite having been arrested and indicted for potential ballot fraud, LaPietra is actually still going to appear on the ballot. The fact is, LaPietra could very well end up winning a seat on the board of trustees. In large part, this depends on whether LaPietra can keep up the lie. Many in the village, including some village officials, see LaPietra as an abrasive nuisance, whose greed and reckless disregard for the rules has actually placed his tenants’ lives in danger. Others however, really do see him as a troublemaker being targeted by the political establishment.
The Times-Journal even stoked these flames in a recent editorial which references LaPietra’s “lightning rod personality”, clearly implying that the charges against him are at least in part motivated by his attacks on village officials. While LaPietra’s supporters are free to believe any conspiracy theories they like, they must admit that LaPietra does have a history of behaving as if the law didn’t apply to him. For the past several years he has allowed tenants to live in the upstairs apartments at 784 Main Street in flagrant violation of local building codes and zoning regulations. No, this is not the crime of the century, but it does bespeak a certain arrogance with regards to local laws and procedures. It really isn’t much of a leap to imagine this disregard for the rules extending to the filing of nominating petitions. But of course LaPietra is innocent until proven guilty, and whether or not he actually does live at 784 Main Street will be for a jury to decide.
Before that happens, Cobleskill voters will likely have their say on LaPietra. This is the trial that concerns me now. For despite being on trial for committing numerous felonies and facing jail time if convicted, LaPietra is in a position to possibly be elected to the village board. Who knows how voters will perceive LaPietra’s current legal travails? In the past, voters have believed his rhetoric about cutting taxes and wasteful spending and helping businesses by curbing regulation. It is understandable to want to support a guy who can tell Carol McGuire to check his sheets in response to questions about his residence.
But make no mistake, Bob LaPietra only stands for one thing, and that is Bob LaPietra. Stubbornly renting out illegal apartments to clueless college students isn’t fighting the good fight, it’s reckless endangerment. LaPietra is not a patriot fighting “taxation without representation”, he is a slumlord motivated by greed and a belief that he is above the law. In the end, it matters little whether LaPietra is convicted, because wherever he lives, his behavior and business practices are a nuisance, and his politics merely an extension of that fact.
If elected, he and Mark Galasso will push hard for a dissolution of the village of Cobleskill and a subsequent extension of water and sewer services to any developer who wants them. A main street struggling to pick itself up will get a swift kick to the teeth. And slumlords will rest easier knowing annual apartment inspections are most definitely off the table. If convicted, LaPietra will have a lot to answer for. If elected, it will be all of Cobleskill who must answer for LaPietra.