The Suffolk County Board of Elections has denied a nominating petition challenge filed by former Westhampton Beach Trustee and resident Joan Levan, ruling Deputy Mayor Toni-Jo Birk did in fact submit her petitions in time to qualify for the ballot.
Levan had claimed that Birk's petitions were time stamped at 4:46 p.m. which fell after the village's normal business hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
But in the May 15 ruling, the BOE disagreed, saying election law permits Birk up until 5 p.m. to file a petition and that petitions are also accepted if they are mailed and post marked on the day petitions are due.
“What if an ordinary resident got there at quarter to five could they file a petition?" Levan said, contending the ruling gives Birk special treatment.
Charles Palmer, a candidate running for village board posed the same question: "I don’t think had anyone else gone to the village hall to turn in petitions that they would have been able to. The BOE ruled that it was perfectly legal, but I think it was a little unethical or unfair when she was able to turn hers in and the village closes at 4 p.m."
But, Birk says the doors weren't locked on May 11 when the petitions were due in and Rebecca Molinaro, the village clerk, was still handling other village business when she brought her petitions in to be time stamped.
"The BOE clearly denied the challenge," said Birk. "If they did their due diligence they would find that the doors were open."
Mayor Conrad Teller confirmed that the clerk's office was still doing business just before 5 p.m pointing to a time-stamped FOIL request submitted by a resident asking to inspect the petitions at 4:57 p.m.
And Molinaro said, "As required by Election Law, the office was open until 5 p.m. on May 11."
Charles Palmer, who is also vying for one of the two open seats on the board, said, "We really don't know if the door was open. I just think it's important that voters have as many choices as possible."
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