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Congressional candidate Doheny in labor dispute with former campaign staffer

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WATERTOWN — A former staffer has filed a workers’ compensation claim against Republican candidate Matthew A. Doheny for injuries she suffered in a car accident during his 2012 campaign.

Alicia E. Sirk, 34, of Morrisonville, one of Mr. Doheny’s first hires in his second bid for the seat held by Rep. William L. Owens, has a hearing Wednesday to determine whether she is eligible to receive benefit payments from the campaign. The hearing will be at the state Workers’ Compensation Board in Schenectady.

Mrs. Sirk is listed as a deputy campaign manager and director of campaign operations in documents from Mr. Doheny’s 2012 run for the 21st Congressional District seat. She said that she and her husband were driving to a campaign event in Plattsburgh during a blizzard early one morning in February 2012 when her car fishtailed, left the road and flipped over. She said she suffered injuries to her neck, back, arm and hand.

Mrs. Sirk continued working for the Doheny campaign until the summer of 2012, but maintains that her injuries left her unable to perform full-time work since then.

According to Times archives, Mrs. Sirk left to become chairwoman of Karen M. Bisso’s Assembly campaign, citing “many reasons” for leaving the Doheny campaign.

David M. Catalfamo, a spokesman for Mr. Doheny, said Mrs. Sirk was fired in July 2012 and has brought several legal actions against the campaign in the ensuing years, including a wage and labor dispute that Mr. Doheny settled. He characterized the recent claim as an attempt to derail Mr. Doheny’s current campaign and connected Mrs. Sirk with Mr. Doheny’s 2014 primary opponent, Elise M. Stefanik.

“Alicia Sirk is a disgruntled former campaign contractor who was terminated for failure to perform in July 2012. Since that time she has filed numerous legal actions against the 2012 campaign. Now that she is supporting Stefanik she has redoubled her efforts to sabotage the Doheny campaign,” Mr. Catalfamo said in an email.

Mrs. Sirk took exception with that characterization and said she received praise for her work on the campaign from Mr. Doheny and others in the weeks leading up to her departure.

She said that she was a volunteer on Mrs. Bisso’s campaign and that she left the Doheny campaign because of differences in strategy and a dispute over wages and reimbursements.

She also denied any involvement with the Stefanik campaign. Anthony Pileggi, director of operations for the Stefanik campaign, also denied there was an official connection.

“Alicia is in no way formally a part of the Elise for Congress campaign,” Mr. Pileggi wrote in an email.

To a great extent, the issue hinges on whether Mrs. Sirk was employed by the Doheny campaign as an independent contractor.

Mrs. Sirk contends she was a full-time employee, while the Doheny campaign maintains she worked as a contractor. On October 5, 2012, the unemployment insurance division of the New York state Department of Labor determined that Mrs. Sirk was an employee of the campaign for the purposes of receiving unemployment benefits.

Records show that Mrs. Sirk received a check for $34,383 from the Department of Labor for reimbursements and unpaid wages on April 17, 2013. According to Federal Elections Commission records, the Doheny campaign paid $1,275 to the Department of Labor for the purpose of “Employee Matter Resolution.” Mrs. Sirk notes the amount as part of a fine imposed on the campaign for breaking labor laws.

Ms. Sirk, who also worked on Mr. Doheny’s 2010 run, said that the campaign started out fine but that “it eventually became a nightmare.”

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