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Westbury school board seeks state OK for absentee ballot recount

The state education commissioner will review the Westbury school board’s petition for a recount of absentee ballots for a seat in the May election that was decided by one vote, department officials confirmed Thursday.

The action also delays the seating of candidate Sherley Cadet until Commissioner MaryEllen Elia decides on the board’s recount request, a department spokesman said.

Cadet had 720 votes to incumbent Rodney A. Caines’ 719 when all ballots, including absentees, were tallied.

Caines will remain on the board until the matter is resolved.

Two new board members — Pedro A. Quintanilla and Stanton Brown — will be sworn in Friday. The board scheduled its reorganization meeting for Tuesday.

Vying in the May 17 election for three at-large seats were incumbents Caines, Leslie F. Davis and Laura L. Pierce and candidates Brown, Cadet, Jan R. Figueira, Perelene Kaalund Perpall, Quintanilla and Tania Stamp.

Quintanilla got 848 votes to win her seat, while Brown got 779.

Pless Dickerson, the board’s president, said that at the end of election night, it appeared that Caines had won.

However, Caines said there was an affidavit vote — not confirmed at the time of the election, but confirmed later — that pushed Cadet ahead by one vote. Affidavit ballots are what poll workers give voters when they can’t be found on the voter list.

Dickerson said the board decided to ask the commissioner for a decision because of the close result. The district cannot do its own recount.

“In order to make certain we are doing what is fair and what the community wishes, we have asked for a recount,” he said. “We can’t automatically do a recount, so we are seeking the recount of the absentee ballots to make sure they are correct.”

Cadet said Thursday that she fairly won the election and it was certified. She said she has retained a lawyer. Cadet is a member of the PTA and has lived in the district for 22 years.

“I don’t understand how he can be allowed to stay, he is not the trustee-elect,” she said. “I won the election.”

Dickerson said Caines will remain on the board until the issue is resolved.

Under the state’s public officer’s law, “Every officer . . . having duly entered on the duties of his office, shall, unless the office shall terminate or be abolished, hold over and continue to discharge the duties of his office, after the expiration of the term for which he shall have been chosen, until his successor shall be chosen and qualified.”

Caines, who has served on the board since 2010 and has lived in the district for 35 years, said he agreed with the request for a recount.

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