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Republican assembly candidate asks court to overturn board of elections decision tossing his nominating petitions

Mike Yacubich, left, seeks to challenge incumbent Anthony Palumbo in a party primary election Sept. 13.

Second Assembly District candidate Mike Yacubich of Shoreham has filed suit in State Supreme Court to overturn the Suffolk County Commissioners of Elections’ decision invalidating his nominating petitions.

Yacubich, a Republican, is looking to force a party primary to wrest the Republican Party nomination away from incumbent Assembly Member Anthony Palumbo, a New Suffolk attorney first elected to the seat in 2013.

Objections to Yacubich’s petitions were filed by three Southold Town residents, Brian Andrews of New Suffolk, Gregory Dickerson and David Januzzi, both of Mattituck. The objectors complained that the petitions did not clearly describe the office being sought by Yacubich and did not clearly identify the candidate. Yacubich’s petitions described the office as “Republican Member of Assembly, Second Assembly district” and identified the candidate as “Mike Yacubich.”

The candidate and his son are both named Michael and both are registered to vote at the candidate’s Shoreham address, though his son moved from that address to Brooklyn about a year ago, according to Yacubich’s attorney, Gary Donoyan of Manhasset.

The candidate, a fire department chief in Rocky Point and a former member of the Shoreham-Wading River school board, is known in the community as “Mike Yacubich,” Donoyan said in an interview. He is campaigning by that name and there is no confusion about who is running for office, Yacubich’s lawyer said.

The inclusion of the name of the party in the description of office sought on Yacubich’s petitions also did not create any confusion. The filed objections stated that there is no such office as “Republican Member of Assembly.”

The commissioners of elections — Republican commissioner Nick LaLota and Democratic commissioner Anita Katz — met on Aug. 3 to review the objections to Yacubich’s and others’ petitions. They issued an order finding Yacubich’s petitions invalid.

Yacubich filed a petition in State Supreme Court seeking to overturn the decision of the board of elections.

His petition also seeks a ruling that the commissioners of elections violated the State Open Meetings Law in the way they conducted the Aug. 3 meeting without public notice and without opening the meeting to the public. Yacubich is also seeking a declaratory judgment ruling that meetings of the commissioners of elections are meetings of a “public body” covered by the State Open Meetings Law.

The candidate’s attorney made the argument about the Open Meetings Law last year for another candidate, without success. But he said in an interview today he believes the 2017 court decision was wrong and he has corrected technical deficiencies in his previous application.

The portions of the State Public Officers Law known as the Open Meeting Law requires meetings of every public body, as that term is defined by the statute, be noticed and open to the public. The law exempts “quasi-judicial proceedings” — except those held by the NYS Public Service Commission or a zoning board of appeals. However, Donoyan argues, the Committee on Open Government at the N.Y. Department of State has interpreted the Public Officers Law as requiring that meetings of county boards of elections be noticed and open to the public. The New York State Board of Elections and the New York City Board of Elections comply with the requirements of the Open Meetings Law, Donoyan said.

The commissioners may deliberate in executive session, Donoyan said, but they must give public notice of the hearings, hear evidence and vote at open meetings.

Neither the Republican Commissioner of Elections Nicholas LaLota nor a spokesperson for the Suffolk County law department returned phone calls seeking comment.

A hearing on Yacubich’s petition was begun Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Central Islip. It is scheduled to be continued on Friday morning.

Donoyan said he is hopeful the court will rule on his client’s petition on Friday.

“All we’re trying to do is give the taxpayers a choice,” Yacubich said in an interview today. “We think the voters should decide.”

If Yacubich is successful in court, he will face off against Palumbo in a party primary election on Sept. 13.

The Republican candidate will face Democratic challenger Rona Smith of Greenport in the November general election.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.