Election Season Brings Petition Squabble And Lawsuit
By Edie Johnson
Village of South Blooming Grove – Election season is coming into full swing and this little village is up to its neck in election petition issues. This is not the first time that some of their new neighbors, some of which are from Kiryas Joel and Monroe, have filed lawsuits against the Village, usually related to one issue or another between a village that wants to keep their scenic views and open spaces and new residents with large families who feel the need for higher density and more building. In recent months the old and new neighbors have largely assimilated and reached a tentative peaceful existence. But with a Village election coming up next month legal threats over petition signatures have made the recent quiet status quo very tenuous. There are 9 candidates (including the 3 current officials up for re-election) seeking 3 seats. The issue of whether signatures on required petition sheets on both sides are legal will be heard in court next month by Hon. Justice Robert A. Onofry. The three village board members who are up for re-election (Mayor Jim LoFranco, Trustee Jim Mullany, and Trustee Sue Anne Vogelsburg), collected their petition signatures, some of which were contested by candidates who are new to the village. Sources familiar with the matter say that the trustees are confident about the legality of the petition signatures they have. Village Clerk, Kerry Dougherty and the Orange County Board of Elections have also been named in the filing. One of the 6 new candidates reportedly recently said she had no intention of running and has had her name removed as a candidate.
There are also questions about a number of the petition signatures for the new candidates which some residents say are looking to “take control of the Board” so they can loosen the village’s housing codes. But the village already has serious water and traffic issues that residents say should preclude any further building in the near term. In fact, residents near the Monroe border have struggled with brown water that is so bad they not only fear drinking it, but fear bathing in it or ruining more pipes as well as clothes when trying to wash them. Grants are in the works to deal with the water issues, but solutions will take time. The Village is and has been on a restricted water regulation for a long time.
A FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) search is being done by some residents to determine the status of one single-family home that is said to have over a dozen petition signers. They wonder whether this home actually has that many registered adult voters. Another house that petition signatures list was said to not even have a Certificate of Occupancy though it does have a Permit for work.
The lawsuit filed to the Orange County Supreme Court is of special concern because it lists the officials as individual candidates, so there could be question whether Village insurance offers any legal protection. At the very least the preparation of defense materials will cost not only significant money, but a lot of time, time that will detract both from running for office and attending to the village’s regular business.
The Village is a tight-knit group that includes many who have lived there for generations, along with a large number of police and fire department personnel who either moved there after working in New York City during 911, still work in the City, or now have jobs in the several local police and fire departments. It has taken a great deal of effort to find a meeting ground between the old-timers and new neighbors with different ways, and residents are on high alert about this new controversy being settled fairly. Democracy will be put to the test as it has elsewhere this year while the courts determine how votes will be counted
Caption: Pictured above is the Village of Blooming Grove Hall and community center which was renovated in late Fall and outfitted with a new American Flag and landscaping.