Sacco Admits to Use of 'R' Word; County Democrats Distance Themselves from Former Party Official
By Craig Tretiak
Niagara County Democrats spent much of last week in damage-control mode, cutting many of their visible ties with a long-time party activist and their now-former number three official, who admitted Friday to using an abusive term that unintentionally derided people with developmental disabilities.
In a clear sign that the fallout continues from Democrat and union official James A. Sacco Jr.'s use of the derogatory putdown for people with developmental disabilities - the word "retard" - that is now being widely referred to as the "R" word, Sacco is no longer listed as the party's second vice chairman- a post he was elevated to just 14 months ago as Democratic Chairman Nick Forster swept to power.
Within 48 hours of the Niagara Falls Reporter publishing details of Sacco's use of the "R" word in a profanity-laced tirade attacking Niagara County Legislator Tony Nemi (R-Lockport) on a widely-viewed Facebook page, county Democrats scrubbed his name from their webpage's list of county party leaders. Through last Wednesday, Sacco was listed as both the Democratic Party's second vice chairman and the state committeeman for the 146th Assembly District.
When contacted by this publication about his Facebook rant last week, Sacco denied having heard of the Facebook page "Lockportians," where he posted the profane comments. Despite those claims, within hours Sacco's initial comments were taken down.
Sacco, who is also a chief union steward with the state's powerful Public Employees Federation labor union, returned to the "Lockportians" page Friday night to offer a defense of his actions and a qualified apology:
"A recent article was published in the Niagara Falls Reporter about my posting on the Lockportian Face Book [sic] page in which I used a derogatory slang term to describe the person currently serving as my County Legislator [sic]," Sacco wrote. "I posted this from my house, on my own time and as a private citizen. I am sorry that my work, union and other affiliations were mentioned in the article and I apologize for any embarrassment I may have caused them."
He added that his comments were "not directed toward anyone with a disability." Nowhere in his post does Sacco actually apologize to Nemi, and his latest remarks seem to attempt to indirectly blame the Reporter for actually identifying him.
Several postings on Facebook blasted Sacco for both his initial comments and his partial apology. In addition to the fallout with county Democrats, sources tell us that Sacco's employer, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, is conducting or has conducted an investigation or review of Sacco's actions to determine whether agency computer equipment was used in his online diatribe.
Meanwhile, the target of Sacco's wrath told us he was taking Sacco's comments in stride.
"I'm a big boy, and I signed up for criticism when I went into politics. If someone wants to criticize me, make fun of me, even insult me, I can live with that. I expect that will happen," county lawmaker Nemi said.
It was Sacco's use of the "R" word that troubled Nemi, a former employee of the Lockport Youth Bureau and active baseball umpire.
When contacted by telephone, Sacco hung up on a reporter.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
Jan 21, 2014