Vecchio, Nowick officially out of office in Smithtown

Having failed to sign an oath within 30 days of taking office on Jan. 1, the Republican, along with several other town officials, has had his seat declared vacant by the town clerk. Videojournalist: Steve Pfost (Feb. 10, 2014) Photo credits: Joseph D. Sullivan, Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan, David Wexler for Newsday, Alejandra Villa

Having failed to sign an oath within 30 days of taking office on Jan. 1, the Republican, along with several other town officials, has had his seat declared vacant by the town clerk. Videojournalist: Steve Pfost (Feb. 10, 2014) Photo credits: Joseph D. Sullivan, Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan, David Wexler for Newsday, Alejandra Villa

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Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio and Councilwoman Lynne C. Nowick are officially out of office after failing to sign an oath of office, the town attorney said Monday, prompting the remaining town board members to call a special meeting to vote on reappointing the pair.

The decision reaffirmed Town Clerk Vincent Puleo's memo late last week that declared Vecchio and Nowick's seats vacant, along with three other appointed town officials, because they did not file written oaths within 30 days of taking office, as required by Section 25 of New York State Town Law.

"I've sought out every resource that I could possibly think of, and it all came to the conclusion that the failure to file is fatal," Smithtown Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski said.

That law is more than 100 years old and the officeholder's signature is "intended to be written evidence that you took the oath," Jakubowski said.

Republicans Vecchio and Nowick were sworn into office by judges on Jan. 1 on the steps of town hall. But they did not sign an oath of office.

Vecchio, a 35-year incumbent, beat GOP town board member Robert Creighton, a former Suffolk police commissioner, in a fierce race for supervisor. Puleo supported Creighton's bid for supervisor.

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"It's upsetting that this happened. It could have been avoided," Vecchio said in his Fort Salonga home.

In past years Puleo would bring the paperwork to his office, Vecchio said. "I would think that it's a moral imperative, or even one of courtesy, to call, send a memo, send an email or even visit."

Creighton, Councilman Edward Wehrheim and Deputy Supervisor Thomas McCarthy are to meet Thursday night to vote on reappointing Vecchio and Nowick.

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Puleo and Wehrheim are out of town through Wednesday night, officials said.

Nowick said Monday that she was shocked by the vacancies.

"I was a newly elected councilwoman. Nobody came into my office at any point" requesting a signature, she said.

Nowick questioned the timing of Puleo's memo and his allowing a town board meeting to take place on Feb. 4 if he knew the documents were not signed.

"In all those days he can't walk 10 feet down the hall and say the book has to be signed?" she said Monday.

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McCarthy, now acting supervisor, said he was not concerned about getting Wehrheim and Creighton's votes to reappoint Vecchio and Nowick. All three votes are needed to make the appointments.

"I think they're both extremely honorable councilmen that understand the wishes of the people from the November election, and they will uphold the people's wishes," McCarthy said.

He also said he planned to sponsor a resolution requiring the town clerk and town attorney to notify officials about completing paperwork in advance of oath deadlines.

Vecchio said he also believed Creighton and Wehrheim would be "honorable," but added that he would take legal action if he was not reappointed. Late last week he called Puleo's memo part of a conspiracy against him.

While the board cannot vote on any issues, including transferring funds to cover expenses, until Thursday because they do not have a quorum with Wehrheim on vacation, the government will still function, Creighton said.

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"It is not a government shutdown," he said. "It's an unfortunate set of circumstances."

Creighton suggested Vecchio should have known a signed document was necessary.

Vecchio has been sworn into office, and signed the oath, a dozen other times, Creighton said. "Why not do it this time? To accuse somebody of conspiracy, to me, is ridiculous."

Linda Henninger, a member of the Kings Park Civic Association, said more than 15 civic groups plan to gather on the steps of town hall Tuesday afternoon to support reappointing Vecchio and Nowick.

"The citizens of the Town of Smithtown exercised their right to vote this past November. Votes were cast and the town board was chosen by the people," she said. "This is America. Votes count."

Henninger said residents were shocked by the news, adding, "What appears to be a simple failure to timely file a document can void an election . . . seems unbelievable."

Thursday's special meeting is to start at 7 p.m. at the Eugene A. Cannataro Senior Citizen Center, with public comment following the vote about returning Vecchio and Nowick to their elected positions.

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