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Dissident Suffolk Conservatives file suit to oust party chief Frank Tinari

Suffolk Conservative Party chairman Frank Tinari on Oct.

Suffolk Conservative Party chairman Frank Tinari on Oct. 18, 2016. Credit: Ed Betz

Dissident Suffolk Conservatives have filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court seeking to throw out the re-election of Frank Tinari as Suffolk Conservative chairman, prevent party officers from assuming their duties and prompt a new convention.

Dissident leader Kenneth Auerbach and eight other party committee members obtained a show cause order  Thursday signed by State Supreme Court Justice Carol McKenzie requiring the party produce records of its Sept. 26 convention for a court hearing Oct. 12.

The latest legal challenge comes after Tinari was re-elected by voice vote at a raucous convention attended by 800 people at the IBEW Local 25 union hall in Hauppauge. The convention was preceded by primary battles in 454 election districts for spots for elected committee members, who vote for county leader.  

Auerbach filed a lawsuit even though he did not put forward a competing slate of candidates for party positions. Auerbach, former Brookhaven Conservative co-leader, ran against Tinari two years ago and waged an unsuccessful legal battle challenging Tinari’s original election in 2016.

In court papers, Auerbach’s attorney Stephen Martir said the Sept. 26 “proceedings were defective” because  “there had been fraud and irregularity … [to] render it impossible” to determine “who rightfully was nominated or elected.”

Tinari said the election was valid and the party will be on “very strong ground” in court against Auerbach. “What he did was interrupt everything constantly at least a dozen times and his cohorts would just stand and yell to disrupt the proceedings.”

Tinari said he asked Auerbach at least three or four times if he wanted to nominate his own ticket.

“I truly believe he didn’t have the numbers and that is why he didn’t put up a slate,” Tinari said.

Auerbach’s lawsuit alleges that the notice of the convention was not sent to all party committee members to ”wrongfully” obstruct and prevent Tinari foes from voting.  

The suit also says party officials improperly allowed voice votes for leader and officers despite state election law requiring the use of a “weighted vote” — where committee members' votes for leader are based on the result of the last gubernatorial race in their election districts. The suit argues that such voice votes are not permitted except where they are unanimous or near-unanimous.

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