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August 16, 2013

‘Pops, Patriots and Fireworks’

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    


Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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Independence Party affiliations questioned


By ANTHONY R. MANCINI

Westchester county executive Robert Astorino’s office is appealing an Aug. 11 state Supreme Court decision that has blocked Mr. Astorino from being available as a write-in candidate on the Independence Party primary ballot.

The decision, handed down by Westchester County Supreme Court justice Robert DiBella, ruled the opportunity-to-ballot petition that would have allowed voters to write-in Mr. Astorino’s name on the Independence primary ballot was submitted over four hours past the July 18 deadline and is therefore invalid. The decision also cancelled the Independence Party enrollment of six individuals who were related in some way to Mr. Astorino or his staff. These individuals formed the committee to receive notices for Mr. Astorino’s opportunity-to-ballot petition, a body whose role is to defend the validity of an election petition.

Prominent Westchester Independence Party member Richard Rhoades initiated the lawsuit against the members of the committee to receive notices and said in court documents that there are 57 individuals who are attempting to raid the Independence Party’s primary. He said on Thursday that action is being taken against these 57 individuals.

“I am attaching a list of voters who claim to be enrolled in the Independence Party but actually are Republicans or Democrats who wish to take over the party,” Mr. Rhoades said in a July 21 letter to Westchester Independence Party chairman Dr. Giulio Cavallo that was cited in the decision. “They do not believe in our Party’s principles, which are to elect the best candidates regardless of party affiliation.”

New York state allows political parties to hold a hearing to determine if an individual who registered for a certain political party agrees with that party’s principals. If a political party’s organization determines that a member actually does not share the party’s values, they can initiate a petition against that person and have a judge determine if their party enrollment is justified.

The Westchester Independence Party did hold a hearing for the 57 members in question on Aug. 6, but none showed up to defend their registration in the party. Judge DiBella said in his decision that the fact that every individual who defended their party status used the same lawyer and issued similar written statement to Independence Party officials was evidence that they were not legitimately enrolled in the party.

The members of the committee to receive notices who were implicated in Mr. Rhoades’ petition were Evelyn McCormack, who is married to Ned McCormack, the communications director in Mr. Astorino’s office; Elisabeth Alberty, who is married to a campaign manager of Mr. Astorino; Christina Oros, the daughter of George Oros, Mr. Astorino’s chief advisor; Theodora Cerino, the mother of John Cerino, a confidential scheduling secretary to Mr. Astorino; Margaret Sculti, who is related to an assistant to the county executive, Christine Sculti; Nicole Deshensky, related to an employee of the county board of elections; and James Travalino, who was alleged in the case to be the son of a major supporter of Mr. Astorino.

With the exception of Mr. Travalino, who enrolled in the Independence Party in 2005, each of the case’s defendants enrolled in the Independence Party last year. Subsequently, Mr. Travalino was not stripped of his party status because of his much earlier registration. Before enrolling, some defendants were registered Republicans, while others were unaffiliated voters.

Not every implicated member of the committee to receive notices appeared in court to defend themselves. Judge DiBella said the three members who did defend themselves did not make a strong case.

“The self-serving declarations made by the three respondents during their testimony did little to establish their sympathy with the principles of the party and were suspect at best,” he said.

Judge DiBella said Ms. Alberty was not familiar with the party’s views. He said the same was true with Ms. Cerino.

“Tellingly, she first referred to the party as the ‘Independent Party’ in her testimony and was not too familiar with party principles,” Judge DiBella said.

The justice said Ms. Oros gave an invalid defense as well.

“Oros articulated that she is in sympathy with the social issues espoused by the party,” he said. “As noted by petitioners, the party does not take a position on social issues.”

Perhaps the most damning evidence in the case against the defendants was a recorded telephone conversation between Mr. Astorino and another prominent Independence Party member Sam Zherka, which Mr. Zherka testified was Mr. Astorino admitting to party raiding. Judge DiBella said that Mr. Astorino indicated in the conversation that he knew about the defendants’ actions.

“While the county executive did not use the word ‘raid,’ it is clear from the recording that he knew of the effort of individuals sympathetic to his reelection campaign to enroll in the party,” Judge DiBella said. “For example, in response to Mr. Zherka’s leading statements regarding a "raid" of the party, the county executive is heard to state on the recording, ‘We did that. We did that quite frankly, because it was insurance. I did not want it to come to that.’”

Despite stripping the party status from most of the members of the committee to receive notices, this did not figure into why Mr. Astorino’s ballot petition was ruled invalid, because Judge DiBella said there was no legal precedent establishing this. Instead, he said the petition was simply invalid because of its lateness. He said there was no legal precedent allowing late election paperwork to be accepted in New York state.

Bill O’Reilly, a campaigin manager of Mr. Astorino, said that the Independence Party is singling out the individuals in the case because members of the party did not receive jobs in Mr. Astorino’s office.

“Independence Party leaders are suing to block this primary because they were refused patronage jobs in the Astorino administration,” he said. “County executive Astorino did the right thing in protecting taxpayers over political interests.”

However, Mr. Rhoades said on Thursday this type of argument is “nonsense,” and that there were no demands from Dr. Cavallo for patronage jobs.

Mr. Rhoades also said he believes that there are emergent patterns of party raiding because of the number of people who registered for the Independence Party this year. He said there were over 4,000 people who registered this year throughout the county, when in previous years there would be 500 registrations.

The Independence Party endorsed Mr. Astorino’s Democratic opponent, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson in this year’s election.

“Today, the court ruled that Republican Rob Astorino’s closest political associates attempted to manipulate the political process in order to benefit Republican candidates," said Mr. Bramson’s spokesman Barry Caro, on Monday.

This case is similar to Aug. 6 Westchester Supreme Court decision that ruled that Bedford town council candidate Mary Beth Kass’ petition to allow her to appear on the Independence Party primary ballot was invalid. The decision said she was one day late in registering for the Independence Party.

The Aug. 11 decision is being appealed in the second department of the appellate division of the New York Supreme Court. A decision is projected to come out in the immediate future.


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