Flower Hill mayoral candidate seeks to invalidate rival’s nominating petition

Flower Hill mayoral candidate seeks to invalidate rival’s nominating petition
Village of Flower Hill Deputy Mayor Brian Herrington and Mayor Robert McNamara at a meeting last year. An objection to a petition submitted for their mayoral and trustee candidacies was filed on Tuesday by mayoral candidate and Trustee Kate Hirsch. (Photo by Jessica Parks)

A Flower Hill trustee who is running for village mayor filed an objection on Tuesday that seeks to invalidate the opposing party’s entire nominating petition.

Attorney Kate Maguire Hirsch, who has served on the Flower Hill Board of Trustees for three years, is running for mayor with trustee candidates Jay Silverman, Jeffrey Greilsheimer and Diane Turner as part of her Liberty Party slate for the March 18 election.

The slate will go up against representatives of the Flower Hill Party, which include current Deputy Mayor Brian Herrington for mayor and Trustees Randall Rosenbaum and Gary Lewandowski running to retain their seats. Sitting Mayor Robert McNamara is running for a trustee position.

An objection filed to the village by Hirsch on Tuesday alleges that among other things, Ronnie Shatzkamer, the village administrator and chief election officer, was “colluding” with the Flower Hill Party and that McNamara “witnessed” signatures to his own petition that witnesses say were “not affixed in his presence.”

Hirsch’s objection states that Shatzkamer’s handwriting is apparently present on five pages of the Flower Hill Party’s independent designating petition, which was filed on Feb. 11.

“Upon information and belief, Shatzkamer inserted the required witness information (name, address, number of signatures on the page, and date) on pages 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 of the [petition], and those pages bear the (purported) signature of current Mayor/Trustee candidate Robert McNamara,” the objection reads. “It is axiomatic that the official responsible for running an election should not take any action to favor one party over another.”

The document further alleges that Shatzkamer “engaged in a pattern of behavior designed to favor the Flower Hill Party in the March 18, 2020 election,” including “failing to appoint Flower Hill’s usual election inspectors and instead [attempting] to replace them with her personal friend” and a real estate professional who Hirsch claims works with Herrington, an allegation that Herrington denied in an email to Blank Slate Media on Wednesday morning. 

“First, the document does not say I know the person but rather tried to make a veiled connection,” Herrington wrote. “Second, I do not know the person she is even referring to and to my recollection I have never even met them. Just because two people are in the same profession does not mean they know each other.”

The objection further alleges that Shatzkamer was “providing information to the Flower Hill party candidates about [the Liberty Party] to facilitate their campaign at the expense of the Liberty Party candidates,” and “failing timely and properly to respond to [Hirsch’s] FOIL requests and otherwise stonewalling the disclose of information relevant to her improper conduct,” among other things.

At least five village residents named in the objection who signed the Flower Hill Party’s petition also say that contrary to McNamara’s signature on the page, the mayor “was not present at the time they signed.”

The objection also claims that due to the “innacuracies, errors, omissions and legal deficiencies” in the signature fields of the petition, it only contains 53 valid signatures instead of the legally required 75.

The document ends by asking that the Flower Hill Party’s petition be rejected in total due to the “improper conduct” of Shatzkamer and McNamara; failing that, that McNamara be stricken as a candidate for the March election and that Shatzkamer be removed as the village’s chief election official.

In a phone call on Tuesday afternoon, Shatzkamer said: “I’m a neutral third party, I’m Switzerland. As chief election officer, I remain neutral.”

Herrington and the Flower Hill Party called the matter “unfortunate” in an email statement Wednesday morning. 

“It is unfortunate that Kate Hirsch and her Liberty Party have resorted to trying to thwart the will of over 200 Village of Flower Hill voters that support the Flower Hill Party’s candidates for office,” the statement said. “We have more than three times the legally required amount of signatures and are confident that we will overcome these objections. The Flower Hill Party clearly has a great team with broad support from the community. We look forward to the Board of Elections resolving this matter expeditiously as we continue to talk to voters about our proven track record in governing our village, including fiscal discipline, sound management, and protecting our residents.”

Efforts to reach McNamara by email and phone were unavailing.

Such objections are referred to the Nassau County Board of Elections, which will review the complaint and provide findings to the village. If no resolution or compromise can be reached, the objection is then sent to Nassau County Supreme Court.

“All we want is a level playing field, and we aren’t getting one, and that’s what this is about,” Hirsch said in a phone call Tuesday afternoon.

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