A candidate running for Amityville trustee has been disqualified from the ballot after putting the wrong election date on his petition.
First-time candidate Frank Cruthers was hoping to gain one of the two at-large village trustee seats in the March 19 election. Trustee Tom Whalen is up for re-election and trustee Nick LaLota is not seeking re-election. Amityville volunteer firefighter Michael O’Neill is the only other candidate. The deadline to file was Feb. 13.
Village Clerk Catherine Murdock said Cruthers submitted a petition on Feb. 8. Bruce Pescitelli, 58, a retired Amityville police detective who is the campaign manager for Whalen and O’Neill, on Feb. 6 had filed a Freedom of Information request for the petition, Murdock said. Pescitelli said he has run campaigns for decades and this is standard practice.
Pescitelli said he saw “several errors that we were going to overlook” on the petition. He said it was only after Cruthers posted two videos of himself to Facebook on Feb. 11 stating March 20 as the election date, that Pescitelli reviewed the petition again and saw the date error. He said he then filed an objection to the petition, which went to the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
LaLota, as Republican commissioner for the board, had to rule on the matter. On Friday, he and Democratic Elections Commissioner Anita Katz ruled that under state election law, the erroneous date is a “fatal defect” and the petition therefore invalid.
“I made a rookie mistake,” Cruthers said.
Cruthers, 53, said he had been told that all Long Island village elections were March 20. State law requires village elections be held the third Tuesday in March unless another date is voted on by proposition. The village board of trustees at its Jan. 14 meeting passed a resolution affirming the third Tuesday, March 19, as Election Day.
LaLota, who said he would have voted for Cruthers, said that in his five years as commissioner, this was his first instance of a village petition objection.
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“The norm is for these minor mistakes to be permitted, because typically village elections are competition among neighbors and it’s considered to be more cordial in that neighbors wouldn’t use a technicality to get another neighbor off the ballot,” he said.
Katz declined to comment.
“Have there been instances in the past where some of these things have been overlooked? I’m sure there have,” Cruthers said. Pescitelli was “within his rights” to file the objection, he said, but questioned him “waiting till the eleventh hour.”
“It’s not up to me to go over his paperwork and go back and tell him that his paperwork’s wrong,” Pescitelli said.
Cruthers, who serves on Amityville's tax assessment board, said he’ll run again in the future.
“I hate to see in a village election with so much at stake that these seats would go unopposed,” he said.