Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

September 12, 2013

Objections filed to Black petitions

BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Objections have been filed with the Lockport Town Clerk in response to a pair of petitions submitted last week by former Town Board candidate Paul Black.

On Sept. 10, Town Clerk Nancy A. Brooks received the objections filed by Thomas Grzebinski, an alternate town Planning Board member.

Earlier this month, Black had filed a pair of petitions in hopes they would appear before voters in November. The first asks residents if the town should be divided into four wards, like many cities are including the city of Lockport. Residents in a particular ward would elect a town board member from among those who live within the ward.

Black’s second petition asks voters to consider a set of public meeting bylaws. The referendum would move all meetings, regular and work sessions, to evening hours. Anything requiring a board vote would take place at the regular meeting, not at a work session, while any punitive measures by the Town Board would be limited to a single meeting.

Town Attorney Michael J. Norris said the petitions and objections would be reviewed by Brooks. No Town Board action would be required, as the question of whether or not Black's are valid would be decided by Brooks, Norris said.

"It will be the clerk's decision," he said.

A ruling must be made by Sept. 20, which is exactly 45 days until Election Day. But a ruling by Brooks could be challenged in an Article 78 proceeding in New York State Supreme Court.

Grzebinski's objections charge the petitions are invalid for a few reasons, including that the 400-or-so signatures on each petition do not properly list the town of residence for each signer.

The objection also says the signatures were not obtained in a timely manner, as some were collected too early. Under election law, signatures made earlier than six weeks prior to the last day of petition filing do not count. The last day to file was Sept. 6, meaning the first day signatures could be collected was July 26.

So, there aren't enough valid signatures on either petition, the objection states.

Specifically for the meeting bylaws petition, Grzebinski's objection said such a referendum would not be legal because establishing meeting bylaws does not have statutory authority. That means the objection is saying creating meeting bylaws isn't allowed because there is a law that does not permit it.

Section 81 of the Town Law lists specific things that can be brought forth by residents. Meeting bylaws are not one of them, Norris said.

"It's up to the clerk, but in my opinion the statutory authority doesn't exist," he said.

But the town ward petition does have statutory authority and could move forward to the November ballot, if Black's petition is vali

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