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Challenges to Poquott village ballots end up in court

Dolores Parrish, current mayor of the Village of

Dolores Parrish, current mayor of the Village of Poquot, looks on while Joan Hubbard and Mayoral candidate and ex-mayor Barbara Donovan speaks to village residents during a "Meet the Candidates" event at the Emma S. Clark Library in East Setauket, May 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

Former Poquott Mayor Barbara Donovan, trying to make a comeback after she was voted out of office two years ago, is seeking to have her successor removed from the June 21 village election ballot.

Donovan, in court papers filed on May 24, said petitions submitted by Mayor Dolores Parrish should be thrown out because they contained illegible signatures and other errors.

Donovan’s running mates, Joan Hubbard and Michael Schaefer, who are seeking two open trustee seats, also have filed court papers claiming that Trustee Sandra Nicoletti, who is seeking re-election, and trustee hopefuls Gary Garofano and John Mastauskas also filed petitions that were riddled with errors.

The dispute could result in an uncontested election in the small North Shore village if Parrish, Nicoletti, Garofano and Mastauskas are removed from the ballot.

Donovan, who had served as mayor for 12 years before Parrish ousted her in 2014, said in an interview that she and her running mates noticed “improprieties” while examining the petitions.

“There was just a lot of things wrong with it that you just look at right away, and that was when we decided that there was definitely something wrong here and we should definitely contest it,” Donovan said.

Lawrence Silverman of Commack, an attorney representing Donovan, Hubbard and Schaefer, said State Supreme Court Justice W. Gerard Asher last week issued an injunction dropping Parrish, Nicoletti, Garofano and Mastauskas from the ballot. The dispute is scheduled to be heard on June 3 in State Supreme Court in Riverhead.

Parrish’s attorney, Robert Lifson of Islandia, said that he may seek an earlier court appearance. “It will resolve itself at some point in time,” said Lifson, who also represents Nicoletti, Garofano and Mastauskas.

Parrish said that she and the others had been asked by Lifson not to comment. Village attorney Joseph Prokop could not be reached for comment.

The election dispute is the latest controversy in tiny Poquott, which in the past year has seen a former village trustee charged with stealing money from the community’s civic association and lawsuits involving elected officials and civic leaders.

Donovan, Hubbard and Schaefer said in court papers that their opponents’ petitions included mistakes such as missing dates and incorrect addresses.

Garofano, appearing May 24 at a “meet the candidates” event sponsored by the Poquott Civic Association, told an audience of about 70 people at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in East Setauket that he had been served with court papers hours earlier. He said the petition challenge was an attempt to keep him off the ballot.

“We’re going to be wasting taxpayer money,” he said.

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