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Joyce Shepard harassed by mystery phone calls

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City Council candidate Joyce Shepard of Bay Terrace claimed last week that at least some of a series of harassing phone calls to her campaign office and home have been coming from the Bayside headquarters of U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside).

A spokesman for Ackerman said Tuesday morning the congressman’s staff had checked out Shepard’s claims about the source of the calls and found no connection to their office. Ackerman and Shepard have been at odds in the past.

Shepard, one of several Democratic candidates for City Councilman Mike Abel’s (R-Bayside), said she filed a complaint about the harassing phone calls Friday with the 111th Police Precinct in Bayside.

Community Affairs Officer Santo Elardo of the 111th Police Precinct said he could not confirm as of press time Tuesday whether or not Shepard had filed a complaint with the precinct.

Jack Ballinger, Shepard’s campaign manager, said in an interview Friday that the calls began about two weeks ago and have been frequent since they started.

“Most of them are just hang-ups,” Ballinger said from Shepard’s campaign office just off the corner of 32nd Avenue and 200th Street in Bayside. “But they keep coming and coming. When it happens, other people can’t get through.”

Shepard said she was able to trace the calls, which she claimed were coming from about two or three different phone numbers, with the help of a local private investigator. The investigator refused comment Friday.

Ballinger and Shepard said they dialed *69 when the harassment allegedly occurred in an attempt to determine the origin of the calls.

Shepard said the harassment began in her home around May 20.

“I’ve gotten 20 calls at least,” she said. “I dialed back and it was a fax machine.”

The council candidate claimed the calls came from at least three different places: a pay phone at the Dunkin’ Donuts near 219th Street and Northern Boulevard, a pay phone near a Weight Watchers in Floral Park, and a number that Shepard said was a fax machine in Ackerman’s Bayside office.

Ackerman’s Bayside headquarters are located in an office building at the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Springfield Boulevard, just opposite of 219th Street.

Alan Gershuny, who described himself as a special assistant to Ackerman, said Tuesday he had spoken to Shepard about the calls.

“Those numbers are not associated with us,” he said. “We don’t have any numbers like that and there’s no one here who would do that.

“I think it’s disgraceful” that someone would be harassing Shepard, he said.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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