Challenge to signatures gathered by commissioner

If a legal challenge is upheld, Neal Sullivan, the chair of the Putnam County Legislature, may not appear on the Republican line on the November ballot because of an error made by the head of the county party committee.

Sullivan, who is seeking his third term representing the Town of Carmel and Mahopac, is being challenged for the line by another Republican, Erin Crowley. To appear on the primary ballot, candidates had to submit petitions by April 7 with a specified number of signatures from eligible voters.

If both candidates’ petitions had been ruled valid by the county Board of Elections, Republican voters in District 9 would have decided on June 28 who would appear on the line in November. There is no Democratic candidate.

Neal Sullivan

Sullivan also submitted a petition for the Conservative Party line, while Crowley did not, so he will appear on that line. In the general election, voters can select any candidate, regardless of their own party registration, if any.

To appear on the ballot, a candidate for Sullivan’s seat had to submit at least 149 valid signatures of voters registered in the district. Each page has room for 15 signatures and a space at the bottom for the person who gathered them to sign and date it.

The dispute centers on one of two pages of signatures collected by Anthony Scannapieco Jr., the longtime head of the Putnam County Republican Committee who also happens to be the county’s Republican election commissioner. One page is dated March 26 and the other April 26 — or 19 days after the deadline.

The witness statement signed by Scannapieco Jr. had an incorrect date.

For a signature to be thrown out, both of the two election commissioners must agree it is invalid. In an affidavit filed with the Putnam Supreme Court on Monday (April 25), the Democratic commissioner, Catherine Croft, characterized most situations where she and Scannapieco diverge as “ordinary disagreements,” such as whether to allow a signature that has an incomplete address.

During a review of Sullivan’s petition on April 19, Scannapieco and Croft agreed that 54 signatures should not be allowed, leaving Sullivan with 156, or seven more than required.

However, the 15 signatures on the misdated page were not among those tossed out. According to the minutes of the meeting, Croft ruled they should be invalidated based on the incorrect date, while Scannapieco recused himself because he had collected the signatures. His deputy, Kelly Primavera, also recused herself, saying the matter should be decided in court, according to Croft’s affidavit. Because neither agreed with Croft, the signatures remained valid.

Kevin Osika, who is Crowley’s husband, filed a legal challenge to Sullivan’s petition the next day, asking Judge Victor Grossman to invalidate the 15 signatures, which would drop Sullivan’s total to 141, below the required limit, preclude a primary vote and give Crowley the line on the November ballot. Grossman’s decision is forthcoming.

The commissioners who oversee the Board of Elections are paid county employees nominated by their party organizations and appointed by the Legislature.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

A former longtime national magazine editor, Rowe has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Idaho and South Dakota and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Northwestern University. Location: Philipstown. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.