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‘Unique’ Smithtown political case heads to Albany

ALBANY — New York’s State Legislature is expected to intercede in a case in which the Smithtown supervisor and a councilwoman may not be allowed to serve the full terms to which they were elected.

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said they will introduce a bill next week to allow Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio and Councilwoman Lynne C. Nowick to serve out their full, four-year terms.

On Thursday, Vecchio and Nowick — both Republicans — were appointed by the town board to one-year terms, the maximum length allowed for an appointment.

The town clerk, who is a member of the Conservative Party, had declared Vecchio and Nowick to be out of office. They had neglected to sign oaths of office by Jan. 31, as required by state law.

Action in Albany could, in effect, forgive the missed deadline. Another option would be to conduct a special election during the fall general election. A Suffolk County Board of Elections spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request about how much a special election in Smithtown would cost.

“We’re having discussions back and forth on which way to go,” Flanagan said Friday. “I’m not dismissing for an instant the need to sign an oath of office. But it strikes me as absurd the prospect of a special election — even if the general election was close, which it wasn’t.”

He said legislative action could settle the issue and he expects it would be embraced by Smithtown voters.

“Everybody is scratching their heads,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’re hopeful, but this is a unique situation.”

He said legislative attorneys are trying to determine if a local bill can address the issue without setting a precedent, or if a more complex bill that could be applied statewide is needed.

Flanagan’s version of the bill would likely be supported by the Senate’s Republicans, which share majority control of the chamber. Fitzpatrick is a Republican in the Assembly dominated by Democrats, but a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) didn’t dismiss the bill’s chances.

Silver spokesman Michael Whyland said Friday that the speaker will consider the bill when it’s introduced.

Historically, each house has cooperated with the other on local issues that don’t change statewide law, particularly when action would support the will of voters.

Vecchio and Nowick were sworn in by judges Jan. 1, but apparently forgot to sign the oaths.

Conservative Town Clerk Vincent Puleo declared their seats vacant late last week, after the deadline to sign.

 

Tags: election law

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