The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

August 12, 2011


Peter Harckham wins spot on Independence line

Harckham is a candidate for Westchester County’s 2nd District  which includes Bedford, Pound Ridge, North Salem, Lewisboro and parts of Mount Kisco.
 

By DON HEPPNER AND R.J. MARX


County Legislator Peter Harckham won a victory in court Thursday in his bid for reelection to the Westchester County Legislature. Judge Gregory LaCava ruled in favor of Mr. Harckham’s challenge to signatures in petitions by Peter Michaelis, who was seeking to run for the 2nd District legislative seat on the Independence Party line.

“This is not a technicality,” said Mr. Harckham. “There’s a protocol — and that protocol was not followed.”

Mr. Michaelis was seeking the Independence Party line in the county race for Legislature in the 2nd District, which includes Bedford, Pound Ridge, North Salem, Lewisboro and parts of Mount Kisco. Mr. Michaelis has been endorsed by the Republican and Conservative parties. A primary, in which he is challenged by Lisa Douglas of North Salem, will be held Tuesday, Sept. 13.

This week, Mr. Harckham challenged signatures collected for Mr. Michaelis as being improperly gathered, citing improper procedure by two of Mr. Michaelis’s notaries, Dean Travalino and John Anthony Pappalardo.

‘This is not a technicality. There’s a protocol — and that protocol was not followed.

Peter Harckham

“The court’s ruling today that an additional 47 signatures gathered by two of Mr. Michaelis’s petition gatherers is a victory for legitimate and fair elections,” Mr. Harckham said.

“I am pleased but not surprised that Judge LaCava ruled overwhelmingly that the signatures gathered by my opponent’s campaign were not done in accordance with New York State election law.”

Mr. Harckham said that his campaign staff reviewed Mr. Michaelis’s petitions once they were submitted. “They noted what they perceived to be irregulaties,” said Mr. Harckham. “They contested them with the board of elections, who knocked off a number of them. We went to court, to get the judge’s opinion on the remainder, and they knocked off 47.”

Earlier Thursday, prior to the judge’s ruling, Mr. Michaelis sent out an email stating that Mr. Harckham “has filed suit against his constituents who want a choice on the Independence Party ballot this fall.”

According to Mr. Michaelis, Lewisboro campaign workers “painstakingly collected petition signatures in the heat of summer in order to give Independence Party voters the option to write-in Michaelis’ name on the ballot.”

Mr. Michaelis said that Mr. Harckham “hired a private investigator to subpoena his neighbors, including various elected officials and a disabled wheelchair bound man, and forced them to appear in court yesterday to endure hours of questioning on the witness stand.”

After Judge LaCava’s ruling, Mr. Harckham responded to Mr. Michaelis’s charges. “It is particularly shameful that Peter Michaelis would attempt to spin this into a disability disenfranchisement issue because one of the notaries involved is disabled,” said Mr. Harckham. “It is Mr. Michaelis who threatened to disenfranchise the Independence Party voters who awarded the official party endorsement to my campaign and who have a right to know that all candidates are playing by the rules.”

According to Mr. Travalino, one of the notaries whose actions were at issue, he and Lewisboro supervisor Charles Duffy drove door to door in Lewisboro seeking signatures for Mr. Duffy. He said that Mr. Duffy also carried petitions for Mr. Michaelis as an accommodation to Mr. Michaelis, since both are Republicans. Mr. Travalino, who is disabled and was unable to leave the car, listened to Mr. Duffy talk to petition signers. If Mr. Travalino was out of earshot, he said, Mr. Duffy would come closer to the car with the signer.

Mr. Travalino said that “it is enough to explain the seriousness of the document and sign a valid signature.”

Judge LaCava disagreed. Specifically, Judge LaCava wrote: “Nor is there any compelling reason to fashion an exemption due to Mr. Travalino’s disability. Mr. Travalino could easily have fulfilled all of his required notarial duties, by simply having Mr. Duffy ask the individual petition signers to walk a short distance and approach the automobile in which he was sitting. There is no evidence in the record that any of the signers were asked to go over to Mr. Travalino to be sworn.”

“All Charlie Duffy would have had to do was walk people to the car in order to have them sworn in front of them,” said Mr. Harckham after the ruling.

In a statement following the judge’s ruling, Mr. Michaelis was critical of Mr. Harckham. “Harckham knows that his constituents are sick and tired of him voting for down county interests instead of the interests of northern Westchester,” Mr. Michaelis said in an emailed statement on Thursday. “Harckham is afraid to face voters at the ballot box, so instead he’s dragging them into court. I do not know if the three women who Harckham sued will choose to appeal. Instead of hiring a private investigator and a high-priced attorney to use up taxpayer-paid court resources, Harckham’s time would have been better spent finding solutions to cut wasteful spending in county government.  Harckham’s constituents need to be served tax relief, not subpoenas.”

Mr. Harckham responded, “It’s really sad that Mr. Michaelis is resorting to saying anything to get elected. The judge clearly and unequivocally sided with our side. It was a clear rebuke for Mr. Michaelis and his team.”


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