As published in Blue Stone Press – January 4, 2013
To the Editor: When attacked – most recently by Steven Fornal in his December 21, 2012 letter – I remember what a good friend told me in church, on a Sunday morning: “with so many attacks, you must be doing something right!”
I came to America with a suitcase, little English and a Master of Arts (class Valedictorian). I worked full time while getting an MBA in Marketing/Advertising (top 10% of the class). My last year in college I won the Phillip Morris Marketing / Communication competition. After graduation I joined my husband’s advertising agency as VP of Point Blank, Inc. For 25 years I managed the advertising budgets of quite a few countries. We built a reputation for creativity and excellence in service. As Kent Victoria’s Board President I was in charge of the co-op’s million dollar budgets for over 20 years. And I have the records to prove everything.
Apparently, moving upstate in 2001 completely altered my character. My applying for a volunteer position on the Historic Preservation Commission triggered accusations of being responsible for the Internet pornography. Two judges ruled in my favor but Fornal still brags of seeing my porno site. Nice man.
Daughter of a political prisoner in Communist Romania, I was granted political asylum in the USA. I kept my maiden name in my father’s memory. Becoming an American citizen in 1989, I added a “c” to my last name, to make it easier to pronounce. In 2007, Ruth and Alan Bendelius sent a letter to every town resident asking “who is this woman with two identities?” and absurdly suggested that I changed my name “to get away from the porno site.” Nice couple.
Our travel advertising business was greatly affected by the 9/11 tragedy. One by one, our clients closed their New York offices until there was no business left. Upon moving to Kerhonkson we started another business; unfortunately, the recession began a few months after we spent all our money to finish building the antiques store on Route 209. We chose to simplify a complicated financial situation through a voluntary ASSET bankruptcy. Terry Bernardo posted our bankruptcy petition online. Guess who sent defamatory letters to NYS Bankruptcy Trustee and to Attorney General’s office? Very nice.
Fornal writes that we “somehow” secured “over THREE DOZEN credit cards and MAXED OUT every one of them to a total of just under a MILLION DOLLARS.” Final court documents – accessible here and here – show that the proceeds obtained by selling our paid-in-full-properties ($304,000) exceeded by $45,000 the total of the legitimate creditor claims ($259,000). Steven Fornal is a liar.
Here is another Fornalism: “Serving on the Town Board Manuela received a salary from taxpayers while failing to pay her own taxes.” The inconvenient truth: we never owed back taxes. You might have heard the double-dipping-double-residence rumor. The Attorney General dismissed it three years ago, but Fornal is still spreading it. You might have heard the grant-restoration-money-used-to-build-the-store rumor. The inconvenient truth: when the economy deteriorated, NYS rescinded the grant. That did not stop a Bernardo campaign worker to tell people not to vote for “Manuela the thief.”
Rumors and innuendos – spread by the same bunch of people – have been used for years in order to damage my reputation. When I defend myself, they accuse me of playing the victim. I have courage, determination, and – because my father could not be heard – I always speak the truth. When I tell the truth, they accuse me of seeing imaginary conspiracies.
When you are told in front of 10 witnesses – by former UC GOP Chairman Catalano – “you are not married to the right guy” and “I’d do everything in my power to get you out of my way,” that’s reality. When same Catalano writes “Terry Bernardo needs to be one of them. The Chairman of the Independence Party would like his wife to win as a Republican and I EXPECT you to honor that request!” – THAT is conspiracy.
My message to the Bendeliuses, Bernardos, and the Fornals in our town: enough is enough. Stop repeating the same spicy rumors of your own making. If you can’t help it, at least come up with something new.
Wonderful letter! This idiot Fornal needed a good slap of reality as well as the others that feel the need to to prop Terry Bernardo up as a decent person by trying to make someone else the bad guy.
Keep the faith Manuela. You know you’re a good person and so does everyone else. What goes around comes around.
An incredible letter… an amazing story… yet sad that it was written under such ugly circumstances!