Cortland County sheriff's candidates forum canceled

CORTLAND, N.Y. – Three candidates for sheriff of Cortland County will not participate in a public forum that was scheduled to happen this weekend.

The Cortland County League of Women Voters, which organized the event, learned on Monday that a second candidate would be unavailable for the forum, according to league president Alison King.

"We have been actively seeking a date where all three candidates would be available for a forum; however, we've learned today that may not be feasible," King said.

"We think opportunities for the public to hear from the candidates are an important part of the democratic process," she added.

The candidates – Cortland County Undersheriff Herb Barnhart, former state trooper Rich Berry and Village of Homer Police Chief Mark Helms – were scheduled to debate on Saturday, Oct. 17, from 10 a.m. - noon.

Barnhart is running as a Republican while Berry is running on the Conservative Party line.

Related: Former state trooper running for Cortland County sheriff

Berry said he would be unable to attend the event due to a prior engagement with his wife, who is being awarded at an event out of town.

He said he was not contacted by the league prior to the event to confirm his availability.

Helms, who is running as a Democrat, said he was "disappointed"to learn that he was the only available candidate for the forum.

"I know a lot of people were looking forward to this," he said.

Helms added that he was doubtful that another forum could be scheduled before the Nov. 3 election.

Barnhart could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Two forums planned for Saturday, Oct. 24, among candidates running for three contested county legislative seats and two city council seats will still go on as scheduled, King said. That forum will take place from 10 a.m. - noon.

Immediately following that, a forum will be held between Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin and Myshell Titus, a Cortland resident who is running against Tobin as an independent candidate.

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