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Board of Elections Denies Westhampton Beach Petition Challenge

BOE says Toni-Jo Birk's got her petition in on time to be on the ballot.

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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WHB Yankee June 05, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Levan or Levine? Molinaro or Molinar? WTF?!?!?!
Erica Jackson (Editor) June 05, 2012 at 02:56 PM
WHB Yankee, they typo has been fixed.
Wingman June 05, 2012 at 10:27 PM
This sounds very fishy. Village Hall officially closes everyday at 4 pm. How would anyone but an "insider" know that the office would be open until 5pm on that one day of the year? Mrs. Levan was right to question the after hour filing, no matter what some state law says. Were all potential candidates notified that there was a 5 pm deadline on the last day? It certainly doesn't sound like it. Why would Deputy Mayor Birk wait to the very last hour to file her petition. Does she even really want to serve a fourth term.
Charles Palmer June 06, 2012 at 03:30 AM
The voters should have a choice, and the Board of Elections has ruled to preserve that choice. If an incumbent were given preferential treatment, that certainly would be unfair. But it appears that was not the case here. As I told the Patch reporter who called me, "no harm, no foul". Westhampton Beach has a choice of three candidates for two trustee seats and I believe that my experience as a municipal accountant for 29 years will be a valuable contribution to the village board of trustees. Every board member and the Mayor each have talents to contribute. In the election on June 15th, residents will consider the credentials of three long time residents and make a choice. That is the way it should be. It would be my privilege to serve.

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