Supreme Court Judge
Gerald Loehr upheld the validity of absentee ballots submitted under the
Working Families banner in the Clarkstown Town Highway Superintendent
primary. Loehr dismissed the petition on
Monday after stating that Frank Sparaco who had organized an absentee ballot campaign
to get people to vote in the primary did not violate the law.
Dennis Malone, who is running for highway superintendent against incumbent Wayne Ballard, had raised questions about possible irregularities with the absentee ballots. Ballard was the recipient of the majority of the absentee ballot votes.
“I feel vindicated from all the accusations,” said Ballard. “I’m just grateful for the decision.”
Malone, who is currently the fleet manager of the highway department, is the Democratic candidate for the post and was the only candidate listed on the Working Families primary ballot. Ballard is the candidate of the Republican, Independence and Conservative parties.
Malone won the in-person vote with 45 votes to 29 Opportunity to Ballot write in votes for Ballard in the September 10th primary. However, he unofficially lost the primary to Ballard whose name was on 93 of the absentee ballots while Malone was designated on three.
As of today, Ballard said he had not received official notification from the Rockland County Board of Elections declaring him the winner of the Working Families primary. Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Kristen Stavisky sajd formal notification would take place after the election was certified, which she expected would happen in a few days unless the decision is appealed.
Stavisky said absentee ballot regulations needed to be tightened.
"I think the system was manipulated and the loophole has to be closed," she said.
Stavisky said she would like the rule re-implemented limiting people to picking up three absentee ballots not large numbers of them.
Loehr ruled that the 97 absentee ballots, which had been counted earlier in the day in front of the county board of elections commissioners and attorneys for both sides, should be saved. Malone and Ballard’s attorneys agreed that two of the 93 absentee ballots for Ballard should not be counted because they had other marks on them.
Loehr also said Sparaco’s prediction of Ballard winning by a three to one margin was not surprising considering the effort put into the collection of absentee ballots.
Ballard, Sparaco, Election Commissioners Kristen Stavisky and Lou Babcock, Working Families Party Interim Chair Bob Milone and Rockland County Republican Committee Chair Vincent Reda were in the courtroom for the decision.
Malone’s attorney Alan Goldston said it was up to his client if he wanted to appeal the decision to the Appellate Division. Goldston said their case was based on a concern that the guidelines for voting by absentee ballot were not being followed.
“It is our position and has been our position that the encouragement of people to use the absentee ballot process on the mere speculation that something might come up does not comply with the statutory scheme,” he said.
According to the Board of Elections website, the conditions for using absentee ballots are: “Unavoidably absent from your county on election day, unable to appear at the polls due to illness or disability, a patient in a veteran's administration hospital or detained in jail awaiting grand jury action or confined in prison after conviction of an offense other than a felony.”
Another legal action by Malone is pending. He filed a Defamation of Character lawsuit following the release of secretly recorded tapes by Sparaco, who is the part-time constituent service representative at the highway department. He filed the lawsuit against Ballard, Sparaco, Reda and Robert Axelrod, the chair of the Clarkstown Republican Committee.
Sparaco covertly recorded conversations with Malone, Councilman Frank Borelli and Rockland County Democratic Committee attorney Larry Weissman. He released excerpts which he claimed showed attempts to influence him to help Malone in the highway superintendent election.
Axelrod said he was served with the summons early last week.
“Unlike Mr. Malone, I believe such unfounded, publicity-seeking complaints are best resolved in a Court of law where actual evidence of wrong-doing is required and where I expect to be fully vindicated,” said Axelrod.
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