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Poquott election contenders to run as write-in candidates

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. Credit: Daniel Brennan

Poquott Mayor Dolores Parrish and three other village board contenders will run as write-in candidates and may drop their legal efforts to remain on the June 21 village election ballot.

Robert Lifson, an Islandia attorney representing Parrish, trustee Sandra Nicoletti and trustee candidates Gary Garofano and John Mastauskas, said Friday that they would not defend themselves against allegations that they filed candidate petitions that included illegible signatures and other errors.

The petitions had faced a legal challenge filed by former Mayor Barbara Donovan, who is seeking to unseat Parrish, and Donovan’s running mates, Joan Hubbard and Michael Schaefer, who are seeking two open trustee seats. Each seat carries a two-year term.

Parrish said in an email that she, Nicoletti, Garofano and Mastauskas would run write-in campaigns. Parrish had ousted Donovan, a 12-year incumbent, in village elections two years ago.

Donovan, Schaefer and Hubbard had argued in court papers that their opponents’ petitions were riddled with errors such as incorrect addresses, missing dates, and signatures from people who may not be Poquott residents.

Hubbard, who had been village clerk when Donovan was mayor, said in an interview Friday that the petitions included “egregious” mistakes, such as signatures that she believed had been photocopied from other petitions.

“We were confident all along that we would win” the election, she said. “It’s just that I didn’t want to have people running my government who have so little respect for the way things are supposed to be done that they would file petitions that appeared to have photocopies of names on one petition that had been taken from another person’s petition.”

Parrish previously had declined to comment on whether the petitions contained mistakes.

“We feel that ultimately, it is the taxpayers who will be harmed by these actions,” Parrish wrote in an email. “It’s also a shame that a precedent may be set by this case — one which could serve to deter individuals from committing their time and energy to volunteering to serve our village.”

Lifson blamed the faulty petitions on “antiquated” state laws that require candidates to collect signatures to be placed on election ballots. He said he had concluded “the outcome would be uncertain” and could be too costly for his clients if they had continued to defend themselves in court. Elected officials in Poquott are unpaid.

“I didn’t think it was probable that they would succeed,” Lifson said in an interview.

Lawyers in the case will return to court on Tuesday, when state Supreme Court Justice W. Gerard Asher will hear arguments in Riverhead over whether the court challenges filed by Donovan, Schaefer and Hubbard are valid. Lifson said their legal papers lack information such as dates and courthouse locations.

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