by Denise Civiletti
Wading River fire commissioner candidate Glenn Erick has filed a lawsuit contesting the fire district's ballot count in last week's election.
State Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Hazlitt Emerson on Thursday signed an order temporarily restraining the Wading River Fire District from certifying any candidate as a duly elected commissioner as a result of the Dec. 10 election. The order also directs the district to preserve all ballots, canvass sheets and other records connected with the election.
The judge directed the parties to appear before her in Riverhead on Jan. 6.
Erick's write-in campaign to unseat incumbent commissioner Tim Deveny came up one vote short in last week's balloting, 231-230, according to a count by an election board appointed by the district.
Erick is objecting to the election board's exclusion of 10 ballots from the count. Eight were excluded because the candidate's name was not written in the area on the ballot designated for writing in a candidate's name, according to papers filed with the court. Two were excluded because voters wrote the candidate's last name only.
The actions of the Wading River Fire District were contrary to law, according to an affirmation signed by Erick's attorney, Vincent Messina of Central Islip. "[I]t is well established that votes for an individual in a fire district election involving only two candidates are valid regardless of which column in which they are written," Messina wrote, citing case law.
"We believe it was an error to exclude those ballots," Messina said in a phone interview yesterday. "We believe that every voter's voice should be heard and we're confident that e will prevail in this action," he said.
"The courts will have to judge whether the election board is correct in its determination that certain ballots were invalid because they did not comply with the insturctions on the write-in ballots," Wading River Fire District attorney Sal Sapienza, of Massapequa, said yesterday.