Earlier this week, one of the Republican candidates for the June 3 special election to fill a City Council seat in Queens, Tom Ognibene, accused the Board of Elections of giving the other Republican candidate, Anthony Como, preferential ballot placement. (Como is the former Queens Board of Elections commissioner).
In a letter dated May 7, the B.O.E. responds, saying that Como got to the office to hand in his petitions before Ognibene, which determined his placement on the ballot:
“A review of the official records of the Board shows that the first documents relating to the candidacy of Mr. Como were clocked in at 9:00 AM on Monday, April 21, 2008, notwithstanding the fact that he signed into the visitor’s log at 8:25 AM. A similar review of the petition documents relating to your candidacy shows the first documents relating to your candidacy were clocked in at 9:14 AM on April 21, 2008 and that your authorized representative signed the visitor’s log at 9:15 AM on that date."
Here is the full letter:
May 7, 2008
Thomas V. Ognibene, Esq.
P.O. Box 790245
Middle Village, NY 11379
Dear Mr. Ognibene:
The Board of Elections in the City of New York is in receipt of your letter dated April 30, 2008. In your letter, you question another candidate’s presence in the Executive Office of the Board on the second day to file independent nominating petitions for the June 3, 2008 Special Election for Member of the City Council for the 30th Council District prior to 9 AM.
The candidate you refer to is Anthony Como, Esq., a former Commissioner of Elections in the City of New York.
You go on to write: “Under these circumstances, it is imperative that a full investigation be conducted to determine if Mr. Como abused his former official position to gain early entry to the Board office and secure a ballot position advantage”.
The Board of Elections in the City of New York is committed to the highest ethical standards and conduct in its administration of the electoral process. Accordingly, in accordance with standard practice, upon receipt of your letter, Board staff conducted a prompt internal review of the facts in this situation. The Board’s General Counsel interviewed the relevant Board employees on duty at the location and on the date under review.
The bipartisan staff at the Board’s reception counter at its Executive Office (located at 32 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10004) advises that it is the standard practice for the reception counter staff to “open the doors” upon their arrival, usually at or even before 8:00 AM on a daily basis.
However, in accordance with the provisions of the New York State Election Law, no documents are received for filing until 9:00 AM. That has been and continues to be a long standing operating procedure of this Board.
A review of the official records of the Board shows that the first documents relating to the candidacy of Mr. Como were clocked in at 9:00 AM on Monday, April 21, 2008, notwithstanding the fact that he signed into the visitor’s log at 8:25 AM. A similar review of the petition documents relating to your candidacy shows the first documents relating to your candidacy were clocked in at 9:14 AM on April 21, 2008 and that your authorized representative signed the visitor’s log at 9:15 AM on that date.
Therefore, it is clear that the actions of the Board’s staff in this instant matter are consistent with Board’s policies, practice and procedures and are fully compliant with the requirements of the New York State Election Law. In addition, the Board officially rejects your allegation that Mr. Como received any special treatment or advantage.
Please be advised that your communication and related materials together with the report of the Board staff on this matter and copies of the relevant documents were provided to the Commissioners of Elections in the City of New York at their public meeting held on May 6, 2008. After full consideration and deliberation thereon, the Commissioners unanimously accepted the report of the Board’s General Counsel in this matter and directed me to communicate their findings and determination in this matter to you by this letter.
I trust that this letter clearly sets forth the actual facts and circumstances involved in this matter along with the unchallenged record that no candidate received any special treatment or advantage. Further, this letter demonstrates that the Board of Elections in the City of New York acted in a lawful manner consistent with the Election Law of the State of New York and the polices, practices and procedures approved by the Commissioners of Elections in the City of New York in accordance with the powers vested in them by the Constitution of the State of New York and the Election Law of the State of New York.
Since you did not provide an address, please provide a copy of this letter to your attorney Gabriel Tapalaga, Esq.
Very truly yours,
THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK
Steven H. Richman, General Counsel
Copy: The Commissioners of Elections in the City of New York
Marcus Cederqvist, Executive Director
George Gonzalez, Deputy Executive Director
Pamela Perkins, Administrative Manager
Joseph LaRocca, Coordinator, Candidate Records Unit
Valerie Vasquez-Rivera, Director of Communications
Steven Denkberg, Counsel to the Commissioners
Charles Webb, Counsel to the Commissioners
Jack Courtney, Temporary Staff Attorney
Matthew Smith, Reception Counter Staff
William Trucio, Reception Counter Staff