Judge rules Greenport Village candidates can appear on March 21 election ballot

A group of candidates running in this month’s Greenport Village election will appear on the ballot after all, following a dispute in which they claimed they were kept off the ballot after being misled by the village clerk about paperwork requirements.

On Monday, a state Supreme Court judge signed a stipulation between the village board and candidates Patrick Brennan, Lily Dougherty-Johnson, Monique Gohorel, Kevin Stuessi and Richard Vandenburgh that clears the way for the candidates’ names to appear on the ballot.

 “I would say not only is [this] a victory for the candidates and me, who are going be on ballot, but it’s a victory for fairness,” said Mr. Stuessi, a mayoral candidate.

Candidate Patrick Brennan, who is running for one of two open trustee positions, called it a “positive development that I think will hopefully restore the public’s trust in the election process.” Trustee candidate Lily Dougherty-Johnson said that while she is “pleased and relieved,” she still “hope[s] we get answers on how and why this happened, so it doesn’t happen again.”

 Trustee Alison Tuthill withdrew from the race because she is in the process of moving to a home just outside the village border. Candidate William Swiskey declined to sign the stipulation, saying he planned to run for trustee as a write-in candidate. Mr. Swiskey filed a complaint over the issue with the New York State Attorney General’s office and shared a copy with The Suffolk Times.

At the heart of the initial dispute was a pair of letters sent to the presumptive candidates by village officials last month. 

In the first letter, dated Feb. 14, Village Clerk Sylvia Pirillo informed the candidates that they had been nominated and that their “name and party shall appear on the ballot as such. Kindly note that the last day to file a certificate of declination is Feb. 17, 2023.” 

However, in a subsequent letter from Town Attorney Joseph Prokop, dated Feb. 22, the non-incumbent candidates were informed that they “did not … comply with the requirements of Election Law Section 6-144, which required you to file a proper certificate of acceptance with the Village Clerk by Feb. 17. I am therefore writing to inform you that pursuant to State Law your name cannot appear on the ballot as a candidate for office in the 2023 election.” 

Although none of the five candidates have previously held village office and said they were never made aware of the need to file a letter accepting their nominations, Mayor George Hubbard Jr. and trustee Deputy Mayor John Martilotta — who are both running for reelection — filed their acceptance letters, according to court records.

At a tense village board meeting on Feb. 23, facing vocal public outrage, the board voted 5-0 to extend the filing deadline for the prospective candidates so they could file letters accepting their nominations, a provision Monday’s court ruling officially affirmed.

The second and final debate among the trustee candidates is scheduled for Wednesday evening, March 8 at 6:30 p.m. The second and final mayoral race debate is scheduled for Tuesday, March 14 at 6:30 p.m. Both debates will be held in the Greenport High School auditorium at 720 Front Street.

The election is Tuesday, March 21 at the Third Street Fire Station and polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.