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Court rejects Hardwick appeal in Nassau exec bid

Former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick speaks about his

Former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick speaks about his campaign for Nassau County Executive at the Nassau Supreme Court in Mineola. (Oct. 2, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

A state appellate panel Thursday unanimously rejected former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick's appeal of a lower-court ruling that knocked him off the ballot in his bid to run for Nassau County executive.

The 4-0 decision by the Appellate Division, Second Department, of State Supreme Court said: "Although a . . . witness testified that he was paid to collect signatures on a per-signature basis, in violation of Election Law . . . we conclude that, even without this evidence, the petition to invalidate the independent nominating petition was properly granted, since the candidate was chargeable with knowledge of the forgeries and the otherwise fraudulent manner in which several signatures were procured, and he approved of such methods."

Neither Hardwick nor the lawyer who argued his case could be reached after the Brooklyn court's decision was made public late in the day.

Hardwick was appealing an Oct. 10 decision by Nassau State Supreme Court Justice F. Dana Winslow that removed him from the ballot after ruling that his nominating petitions for the We Count Party line were "permeated with fraudulent practices."

Hardwick has repeatedly denied one of the major accusations against him -- that he had paid $1.25 for each signature collected, a violation of election law.

The appellate panel did not deal with that issue during its hearing Thursday, although Hardwick's counsel, former Appellate Justice Robert Lifson, tried to raise it, saying Hardwick "was not allowed to impeach" such testimony.

What drew most of the panel's attention was testimony that many signatures were collected by two people not registered to vote, which is illegal, and that someone learned they were unregistered voters, got them registered and then changed the date that the signatures were gathered.

Garden City lawyer Steve Schlesinger, who led the Democrats' team before the panel, contended that person was Hardwick. Lifson challenged that contention, but also said "correcting dates is common" under certain circumstances.

Democrats accuse Hardwick -- a registered Democrat who lost his bid for re-election as Freeport mayor in March -- of running only to siphon votes from their candidate, former County Executive Thomas Suozzi, in his challenge to Republican County Executive Edward Mangano.

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