The campaign for Republican Assemblyman Joe Errigo is calling into question a $20,000 payment his primary opponent made to Jason McGuire, the chairman of the Livingston County Conservative Party and a regional vice chair for the state Conservative Party.

According to campaign finance reports and confirmed by McGuire, GOP candidate Marjorie Byrnes contracted him to do consulting work for her campaign. He said he did not begin working for Byrnes, a former Rochester City Judge, until roughly a month after his county party endorsed her.

However, he was already Byrnes’ campaign manager when he wrote an email supporting her to the state party’s executive committee. McGuire released the July 12 correspondence on Tuesday in which he disclosed he was assuming the responsibilities.

The committee ultimately decided to authorize Byrne as its candidate for the 133rd Assembly District, but some members did not realize McGuire was receiving compensation and felt misled. State Party Chairman Mike Long said in the aftermath he asked for the regional vice chair’s resignation.

McGuire complied in an ensuing email to Long and committee members on July 23rd, in which he also announced he would return the $20,000. He said he didn’t mean to mislead anybody.

“I have every intention of continuing to support her as I have all along and still believe her to be the better candidate for this office, but I would rather do it as an unpaid campaign volunteer with integrity intact, than live under a cloud of suspicion before you with compensation,” McGuire said.

Long said he took the right steps and after reviewing the facts decided the incident was the result of a “clear misunderstanding.” He chose not to accept McGuire’s resignation.

The actions were not enough for Errigo’s campaign though, who said it “smacks of Albany pay-for-play.”

“This is the worst of what New York state politics is all about and it should not happen,” campaign spokesperson Arnie Rothschild said. “The fact that Mr. McGuire now says he has returned the money is an indication he recognizes this was wrong. However, if you rob a bank and return the money two days later, you’re still guilty of robbing a bank.”

Rothschild questioned why McGuire did not recuse himself from the state committee’s conversation about the race. He also said $20,000 is an unusually large amount to pay for an Assembly race and, to his knowledge, McGuire has not served as a campaign consultant before this year.

The Livingston County chair said he has in fact been involved in numerous campaigns although he typically works for free. The Errigo Campaign said it is reviewing the incident with attorneys and has not filed any formal complaints, although they believe it is potentially a felony.

The state Conservative Party is continuing to support Byrnes, although Long said it is not an indictment of the incumbent. He said Errigo has done a good job filling the seat left vacant when Assemblyman Bill Nojay committed suicide, however the party intended him to be a stabilizing candidate, not a long-term one.

Byrne also has the endorsement of the Livingston County Republican Committee while the Monroe County GOP is supporting Errigo.