A state appeals court on Wednesday upheld the re-election last fall of Frank Tinari as Suffolk Conservative Party chairman, saying opponents failed to prove it was “impossible to determine who was rightfully … elected” since no one ran against him.
The four-member Appellate Division panel in Brooklyn unanimously overturned state Supreme Court Justice David Reilly's ruling last month ordering a new party convention and appointment of an outside monitor to oversee a new election for party chair.
In the ruling, Justice Alan Scheinkman said Reilly should have “denied the petition and dismissed the proceeding” brought by Kenneth Auerbach and other dissidents challenging Tinari’s re-election.
Scheinkman found Tinari’s foes “failed to meet their burden to demonstrate … the organization meeting violated the election law, or involved … fraud or irregularities that would render it impossible to determine who was rightfully … elected.”
Scheinkman said not only were no rival candidates to Tinari put forward, but his opponents failed to demand a roll-call vote, or to show they had the support of a majority of the party committee.
“Use of a voice vote to select an unopposed candidate or slate … is not prohibited … and is not unusual or unprecedented” in a meeting attended by hundreds of party members, Scheinkman wrote.
“I feel completely vindicated by the Appellate Division’s complete and unanimous reversal of Judge Reilly’s decision,” said Tinari.
Auerbach said he was disappointed but “not surprised” by the ruling and would appeal.
However, Auerbach needs leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, because the ruling was unanimous. He said he expected the high court to take the case because it involves the issue of weighted voting to elect party leaders.
“Ultimately, we knew the Court of Appeals would have to finally make clear this has got to stop this or the average person is going to decide the government is captured,” Auerbach said.
Said Tinari: “He can take his shot but it is very difficult to appeal a unanimous decision.”
Tinari was elected to a second two-year term as chairman Sept. 26 at a raucous convention attended by some 700 people.
Auerbach said he objected that nearly 200 people who were not elected in a primary that month were allowed to take part in a voice vote.
The party's attorney said Auerbach had no standing to sue because he never put his name forward as a candidate.
In his ruling, Reilly found, “as leader of the opposition … Mr. Auerbach was a candidate aggrieved by an unjust process employed … to avoid a roll call vote.”
Reilly said participation of nonelected Conservatives in the convention violated election law and the rights of properly elected committee people.
The appeals court ruling came a day after Suffolk Conservatives held their spring fundraiser, which drew more than 200 people Tuesday night.