Judge holds off on Lyons petition ruling
LYONS — Wayne County Judge John Nesbitt said Tuesday he is “inclined to grant standing” toward OneLyons’ latest Article 78 proceeding.
However, Nesbitt won’t issue a ruling until the pro-dissolution group is allowed a chance to respond to the village of Lyons’ latest rebuttal, which village attorney Art Williams filed Monday. OneLyons will have until 4 p.m. Friday to submit its documentation, a window Nesbitt granted at yesterday morning’s hearing.
OneLyons’ latest Article 78 filing relates to the Save the Village of Lyons petition that forced a second permissive referendum on dissolution. Lyons voters, who approved dissolution in November 2012, are slated to return to the polls March 18 for a second vote on the matter.
OneLyons contested 165 of the 615 signatures submitted Dec. 18, saying they should have been discounted for various reasons. Village Clerk-Treasurer Denise Darcangelis validated the petition Dec. 26, and the Village Board set a date for the referendum last week.
OneLyons representatives and Williams presented oral arguments Tuesday in state Supreme Court.
OneLyons addressed its right to file the Article 78, stating that allowing a fraudulent petition to be pushed through would disenfranchise those who cast votes in November 2012 for dissolving the village. Jack Bailey and Andrew DeWolf also contested that they fall within a “zone of interest” in their ability to file the Article 78, and if the court dismissed the case it would create “impenetrable barriers, denying electors the right to challenge petitions.”
The organization claims the overall petition does not meet the statute, is facilely flawed, and that 165 signatures could be contested based on the Dec. 20 county Board of Elections list of registered village residents.
“The missed areas on the petition are there to protect against fraud,” DeWolf stated.
DeWolf said handwritten notes Darcangelis made verifying the method used for certifying the petition were submitted after the issue was brought to court and that there was no valid proof that the notes were not completed within the past seven days to “go back and cover up” mistakes in the process.
Nesbitt asked if the certification process was clarified, why OneLyons would still consider the validity of the petition an issue.
DeWolf said the statutes and process used to validate the original petition in 2012 and the petition that was submitted for the upcoming referendum weren’t comparable.
When it was his turn, Williams said OneLyons was using municipal law as a “sword and a shield,” and that the outlines for creating the petition were based on direction, not law. He argued that in Cairo v. Harwood, “although this phrase is used on the form provided by statute for petition sheets, its omission has been held not to result in invalidation of the designating petition.” The phrase Williams was referring to was what OneLyons claims invalidates the petition: “in witness whereof, we have signed our names on the dates indicated next to our signatures.”
“Legislatures could not have foreseen that one would unsettle a legal vote using a flawed petition,” DeWolf countered.
Williams stated that Darcangelis invalidated 45 of the 165 contested signatures, noting that the 570 remaining signatures surpassed the 491 needed to force another referendum.
Many of the signatures OneLyons contested contained irregularities such as lacking a person’s suffix, missing apartment numbers and informal names — Tom instead of Thomas, for example.
“We cannot get lost in the forms and irregularities. We need to stick to substance,” Williams said. “There are 570 residents that want to be heard.”
Nesbitt questioned why a resident moving from one side of the street to the other, but not listed as such on the Board of Elections registration list, should be discounted if he or she is still living in the village.
OneLyons said its argument goes beyond that, and that there was a potential bias in certifying the signatures because Darcangelis was a signer on one of the petitions.
Nesbitt said he was inclined to rule for OneLyons but will wait to issue a decision until after the group files its final rebuttal to the village argument.By JULIE ANDERSON
Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 11:02 am