A state Appellate judge on Monday refused to stop Wednesday’s Suffolk Conservative Party convention, despite challenger Kenneth Auerbach’s assertion that acting party leader Frank Tinari illegally filled committee spots to gain an edge in their leadership fight to succeed convicted ex-leader Edward Walsh.
Justice Robert J. Miller, after a half-hour hearing in chambers in Brooklyn, denied Auerbach’s bid for a temporary restraining order. Miller said insurgents could legally challenge the outcome of the leadership vote after the convention at the Huntington Hilton in Melville.
Auerbach, Brookhaven Conservative co-leader, appealed after State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Pitts on Friday permitted a Suffolk Conservative executive committee meeting to go forward later that night, where about 250 committee posts were filled in cases where there were ties or no one voted.
Pitts said party rules and state law allowed the executive committee to take such action.
Tinari, also the Huntington Conservative chairman, is seeking to succeed ally Walsh, who was removed as leader after his federal corruption conviction in April for illegally taking pay as a correction lieutenant when he was golfing, gambling or politicking.
Auerbach says the party must distance itself from Walsh and elect new leaders.
“At this point, the fight is much larger than just the Conservative Party,” Auerbach said after Miller’s ruling. “We’re fighting for the people’s right not to be disenfranchised, no matter what party they are in, and to get rid of the political emperors.”
“We’re very happy with the appellate ruling,” Tinari said later. “We already had the votes and this will give us overwhelming numbers.” Tinari said he does not expect any problems at the convention, saying, “We’re all civilized people.”
Auerbach forces have said they had an edge after the Sept. 13 primary elections, with 730 committee members elected to Tinari’s 570. That amounted to 63 percent of the gubernatorial vote on which the leader election is based, Auerbach said.
Tinari said he has wide support on the committee and that many of Auerbach’s backers were just names on the ballot, who will not attend the party convention to vote.
If Tinari wins at the convention, Auerbach said he will return to court to challenge the “rigged” outcome.
Auerbach backers say the executive committee cannot legally can take action to fill committee vacancies after the primary, and must wait until newly elected committee members can all vote for new leaders and fill committee vacancies at their convention.
Tinari backers say voters in election districts with ties or where no votes were cast have a right to representation at the convention and party rules allow the executive committee to fill those spots.
Justice Robert J. Miller’s name was incorrect in a previous version of this story.