Greenport election drama headed to State Supreme Court

The controversy swirling around the upcoming Greenport election took another turn Monday, when the Village Board filed a petition in State Supreme Court challenging its own clerk’s determination that seven of the nine prospective candidates failed to file the appropriate paperwork to get on the ballot.  

Those candidates — running in the March 21 mayoral and trustee elections — said they were misled by a pair of letters sent by, or at the instruction of, Village Clerk Sylvia Pirillo, causing them to unwittingly miss an important deadline for filing documents accepting their nominations. 

At last week’s board meeting, under enormous public pressure, the board voted unanimously to extend the deadline for the acceptance letters, “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” so that all seven candidates would “appear on the ballot,” the measure stated.

While that resolution managed to placate the outraged, standing-room-only crowd, it now appears it was legally meaningless, since only a State Supreme Court judge can make the determination as to whether or not the seven candidates can be listed on the ballot. 

On Monday, the Village Board filed a petition to the court stating that it had directed Village Attorney Joseph Prokop to request that the court “extend the time for filing acceptances and to do what is necessary to obtain the court’s approval so that the names of all nine candidates will appear on the ballot for the 2023 village election.” 

The controversy was sparked late last week when each of the seven affected candidates were informed that they would not appear on the ballot — despite having previously received apparent confirmation that their names and parties “shall appear on the ballot,” and noting that the deadline for declining the nomination was Feb. 17. 

A second notification letter, dated February 22 from Village Attorney Joseph Prokop, informed the seven candidates that they had failed to file a letter of acceptance of the nominations, and as such their names would not be on the ballot. 

The candidates, six of whom have never held elected office in Greenport Village, said that they were not made aware of the requirement by Ms. Pirillo, as has been customary in previous elections. 

Mayoral candidate Kevin Stuessi told The Suffolk Times that the petition should have been filed first thing on Friday, the morning after last week’s board meeting, instead of late Monday. He said it was another example of village officials undermining the affected candidates’ campaigns.

 “I believe there was a duty of care to do the right thing and file immediately Friday morning,” he said. “Every day lost is critical at this point with elections three weeks from today and people needing absentee ballots.”