A state Supreme Court justice has cleared the way for Democrat Julie Lofstad to have the Conservative Party ballot line in the Jan. 26 special election for Southampton Town Board.
The judge also ordered a rare court hearing to decide if Republican county elections Commissioner Nicholas LaLota should be sanctioned for filing a frivolous lawsuit.
In his decision, Justice John Leo ruled that Republican candidate Richard Yastrzemski failed to file his lawsuit challenging Lofstad’s nomination within the 10-day limit. Leo also said Yastrzemski did not have standing because he is not a member of the Conservative Party, and could suffer no damage.
Republicans charged that the minor party’s executive committee gave only one day’s notice of the nomination by email when party rules require five days’ notice by mail.
Leo, a Democrat, ordered the sanction hearing for Monday after LaLota had filed a lawsuit trying to knock Lofstad off the Conservative ballot, and then failed to appear at an unusual Saturday hearing. Leo had requested that LaLota appear to “take the stand in support of his allegations.”
Leo said Lawrence Silverman, attorney for Democratic elections Commissioner Anita Katz, called for sanctions because LaLota “chose to absent himself . . . and . . . provide a self-serving hearsay affidavit . . . which was utterly insufficient.”
Leo called LaLota’s legal action, “an improper and baseless attempt to insert himself into the electoral process and circumvent . . . the requirements of election law.”
Leo added, “There is no authority permitting a single commissioner to unilaterally seek to remove a candidate for public office from the ballot.”
LaLota filed his suit even though the election board voted down Yastrzemski’s original challenge Dec. 22 in a split vote where LaLota backed the challenge and Katz opposed it.
Under state election law, if there is a split vote the nomination stands. In his affidavit, LaLota had acknowledged that, “notwithstanding the disagreement by the commissioners by reason of the split vote the nomination certificate was deemed valid.”
But after consulting with his attorney, LaLota changed his mind and said the nomination was not valid.
LaLota declined to comment on Leo’s decision. His attorney Peter Bee said, “We are disappointed by the decision, but we believe our client acted in good faith at all times and we look forward to a just resolution to the proceeding.”