Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

September 19, 2013

Black referendum requests denied

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A pair of suggested referendums pursued by former Town Board candidate Paul Black will not make it onto the November ballot.

Town Clerk Nancy A. Brooks ruled Wednesday that Black’s petitions — which called for splitting the town into four wards and enacting a new set of town board meeting bylaws — were invalid because they did not comply with election law.

Brooks found that the petitions did not contain enough valid signatures. Her decision says that the 400-or-so signatures on each petition were not accompanied by listing of the signer’s town of residence, thus making the signatures invalid.

The town bylaw petition also did not have statutory authority, Brooks’ decision said, meaning creating meeting bylaws isn’t allowed because town law does not permit it.

Town Attorney Michael J. Norris said according to election law, a separate column was needed on the petitions allowing signers to put their town of residence. Some of the signers did write Lockport next to their addresses.

A petition needs 322 valid signatures — 5 percent of town residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election — in order to become a referendum for voters to consider in November.

“I’m disappointed,” Black said, adding that he did not feel bitter or malice toward anyone.

Earlier this month, Black filed the petitions to try getting referendums going. He wanted town residents to decide whether the town should be divided into four wards and town board members elected from those wards, as happens in many cities including the City of Lockport; and he also wanted residents to decide whether to set some new rules for town board meetings.

Black also proposed town meeting bylaws including: all board meetings, regular and work sessions, would be held during evening hours only; board votes on business would take place at the regular meetings only; and punitive measures by the board — such as barring a resident from addressing the board — would be limited to a single meeting.

Brooks’ ruling could be challenged in an Article 78 proceeding in New York State Supreme Court, Norris said. However, the deadline for that isn’t clear in the election law, he added.

Black said Wednesday he was unsure whether or not he would challenge the ruling, mainly because of the cost to do so.

”But I really think I have the grounds to have this reversed,” Black said.

Black wanted to submit a letter prior to Brooks making the decision, but submitted it on Wednesday unaware that Brooks was making her ruling. The letter was a response to the objections filed last week to Black’s petitions by resident and alternate Planning Board member Thomas Grzebinski.

In the letter, Black charges that while he received a copy of Grzebinski’s objections on Sept. 14, that the petitions should be allowed on the ballot because he did not receive the objections from Grzebinski. Black said election law 6294.1(b) and 6215.7(b) say objections to petitions cannot be considered unless “the objector filing the specifications personally delivers or mails by registered or certified mail a duplicate copy of the specification to each candidate.”

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241, or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.