Republican Patrick Vecchio's position as Smithtown Town supervisor was in doubt Thursday after the town clerk declared the job vacant because Vecchio failed to file a written oath within 30 days of taking office on Jan. 1.
Town Clerk Vincent Puleo, a Conservative who is aligned with political opponents of Vecchio's, sent a letter Feb. 5 to Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski saying that Vecchio, newly elected Republican town board member Lynne Nowick and three other appointed town officials "have not completed the oaths of office on file" as required by Section 25 of New York Town Law.
"I declare these offices vacant," said Puleo.
Puleo made the declaration even though Vecchio and Nowick were both sworn in on the steps of Town Hall on Jan. 1 -- an event to which Puleo, who was also re-elected, was not invited. Puleo said that in the past he has collected the written oaths at those ceremonies.
Vecchio did not return a call for comment Thursday. Nowick said Puleo should have told her before the deadline that she had to file a written oath, but that she hoped the issue could be worked out.
It was unclear last night whether the error can still be corrected.
The clash is the latest in a series of political battles that have split the town in the past year, including a heated supervisor's race between Vecchio and town board member Robert Creighton.
Town GOP chairman William Ellis said he believes Vecchio and Nowick were legally sworn in. He said County Court Judge John Toomey, who gave the oath to Vecchio, and Appellate Division Justice Sandra Sgroi, who swore in Nowick, are drafting letters expected to delivered to Puleo Friday, stating that both officials were properly given their oaths well before the deadline.
Paul Sabatino, who served as counsel to the Suffolk County Legislature for 20 years, said only the written documents count. "Everyone gets hung up on the ceremony, but there's a century worth of precedent that failure to file a written oath of office is fatal," he said.
Puleo said that if he prevails, the remaining town board members can make an appointment to the board vacancy, but will have to call a special election for supervisor.