Tom Lanning sworn in as Oceanside sanitation commissioner after disputed June election

Tom Lanning, left, defeated Oceanside restaurant owner Mike Tom Lanning, left, defeated Oceanside restaurant owner Mike Franzini by 42 votes when paper ballots were combined with about 1,600 votes from two voting machines rented by the sanitation district. Photo Credit: Facebook

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Oceanside Sanitation District 7 swore in its newest commissioner Wednesday after more than two months of legal challenges and counting ballots.

Commissioners swore in Oceanside Chamber of Commerce president Tom Lanning and voted unanimously to certify the June 19 election after a Nassau Supreme Court's review of 184 paper ballots.

Lanning defeated Oceanside restaurant owner Mike Franzini by 42 votes when paper ballots were combined with about 1,600 votes from two voting machines rented by the sanitation district. The board voted to certify the election after meeting in executive closed session with attorneys.

Franzini did not attend Wednesday's meeting and could not be reached for comment.

Both men, along with Stephen Edmondson, who runs a private security company, vied for the five-year term, which pays $7,500 annually. Lanning will replace retiring Commissioner Fred Morse.

The special district controls an $8.65 million budget and collects about $600 in yearly taxes from each of the district's 13,000 homeowners.

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Certifying the election was put on hold in June after Jerry Cline, an attorney and clerk for the district, reported that one of the voting machines recorded 133 more people entering the booth than actual ballots cast, representing an 18 percent error.

Lanning filed an injunction to order the district to count paper ballots. They were initially not counted after votes were sealed with resident affidavits that were supposed to be kept confidential.

Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Arthur Diamond oversaw the count but would not declare a winner during a hearing last week. He directed the board to decide whether to certify the results.

The district hired Uniondale-based attorney Jack Libert at $300 per hour in June to advise the board on the election and mediate between the top two candidates. The final combined tally put Lanning ahead of Franzini 897-855. Edmondson received 13 votes.

"The judge gave a strong indication that he thought the board would certify the election after canvassing the vote," Libert said. "The board still has the option of saying the results are inconclusive."

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Libert told board members Wednesday that they still had not determined the cause of the voting machine discrepancy.

Cline and Libert warned that the board could still be subject to additional litigation after the election was certified.

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