Published: Saturday, October 10, 2009
By Danielle Sanzone
STEPHENTOWN —A lawsuit which would have left the town’s Democrats without a slate in next month’s elections was dismissed Friday.
Three town residents filed the suit against the Democrats stating that the Democratic caucus on Sept. 18 was not advertised sufficiently in the community. Democrats admitted that they “unintentionally” did not use the newspaper to announce their caucus but they did post information about the event at about 10 locations, said town Democratic Chairman Andrew White.
Local law states that either a newspaper should be used or 10 announcements in the community. The town Republicans used both methods, said Tammy Madden, the town’s GOP chair, who was subpoenaed to give testimony Thursday. She said she was unaware of the suit until then.
Democratic officials claim that three residents — James Phillips, Stacey Shufelt, and Kelly Beebe — were asked by Neil Gardner, the GOP candidate for highway superintendent, to file the suit so he would not have any competition for his position.
“We’re obviously very pleased with the court decision,” said White. The case was decided by state Supreme Court Judge Roger McDonough. “This was a completely frivolous suit, and represents the action of a desperate candidate. It was filed in an attempt to divert the focus of this campaign away from the fact that a convicted felon is running for the same office in which he committed 24 felonies.”
Gardner held the highway superintendent position for more than two decades until he was ousted after being convicted in October 2008 on 24 felonies, including 12 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and 12 felony counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing.
The charges stemmed from Gardner purchasing gravel in 2004 and 2005 for the town from an illegal mine on Route 22 which did not have a permit. Gardner could have faced seven years in prison but he was sentenced to five years probation instead.
Since he did not serve any time, he is eligible to run for the office again, said Madden.
“He had the job for more than 20 years and did a good job. The people nominated him to serve again,” she said.
Gardner was unable to be reached for comment.
The GOP faces an all-incumbent slate, including Gardner’s opponent in the race Aldie Goodermote who was appointed to the position after Gardner’s conviction. The rest of the slate is made up of both Democrats and Republicans: Cyril Grant for town justice, Chris Demick and Philip Roder for council, Patty Gallup for town clerk, and Ruth Rieger for town tax collector. The two latter candidates are Republicans.
The GOP slate includes: Larry Eckhardt for supervisor who is running unopposed, John Meekins for councilman, Donald Burdick for councilman, and Joe Champion for town justice. Both Rieger and Gallup are also running on the Republican line.
Danielle Sanzone may be reached at 270-1292 or by email at email@example.com.