Two state legislators introduced a bill Monday that would allow Smithtown Supervisor Patrick R. Vecchio and Councilwoman Lynne C. Nowick to complete their full four-year elected terms instead of having to run for office again in November.
State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) sponsored the bill for Republicans Vecchio and Nowick, who were appointed last month to one-year posts in a 3-0 vote by the town board.
Conservative Town Clerk Vincent Puleo declared Vecchio and Nowick's seats vacant in a previous memo because the pair failed to sign written oaths within 30 days of taking office on Jan. 1, as required by state law.
"The councilwoman and supervisor took their oath of office on the steps of town hall," before judges and dozens of supporters, Flanagan said Monday in an exclusive interview. "What we're doing is a practical approach to resolve an issue that I think everyone wishes had not been the case."
If the bill passes, Vecchio and Nowick would have to sign and file written oaths again within a new 30-day period from the enactment of the legislation, setting their elected terms from Jan. 1, 2014, to Dec. 31, 2017, Flanagan added.
If the bill fails, Nowick and Vecchio would have to seek re-election in November to serve the balance of their terms -- a prospect that Flanagan described in a memo accompanying the bill as "unjust, unfair and an unnecessary waste of taxpayers' time and money. Most importantly, it has the potential to nullify the results of a fairly held election."
The new legislation will move concurrently through the Senate and Assembly, Fitzpatrick said, adding that he hopes it will proceed quickly.
"The reason for the time sensitivity . . . is the political calendar, which everyone has to follow," he said. "The date to begin to carry petitions is a critical date."
Smithtown GOP chairman Bill Ellis said that date is typically in early June. Ellis said he is prepared to circulate petitions for Vecchio and Nowick so they would qualify for the ballot if the legislation fails.
Flanagan said the bill was crafted to be more localized to make it easier to vote for "because it's not a statewide approach." Still, Fitzpatrick said the bill has a "50-50" chance of success. "I think those are fair odds, when you have something you've never done before," he said. "You're asking the legislature to pass a local bill that could set a precedent affecting every other town."
Vecchio was not available for comment Monday.
Nowick said Monday that Flanagan and Fitzpatrick were "incredibly proactive" and hoped the State Legislature would work "just as expeditiously to pass this legislation and let us all get on with the business of the people of the Town of Smithtown, rather than worrying about getting petitions signed and running once again for an election that was already held and won."