Village of South Blooming Grove Awaiting
Election Court Decision
Villagers are hoping that the third appearance at the Orange County Courthouse this week will bring a decision by Judge Robert Onofry that will let them move forward with the village election as planned. Late on Thursday the judge said he will give a decision early Friday morning.
Three individuals who wanted to run for the open positions had instituted charges against Mayor Jim LoFranco, Trustee Sue Anne Vogelsburg and Trustee Jim Mullany, that 95 of the petition signatures were fraudulent. But on Tuesday when the attorney for the Petitioners said that the signatures that looked to be irregular was all that was required to prove their point, Attorney Lawrence Garvey protested that in the first place more proof was necessary. The other two attorneys representing the village, Joe McKay and Brittany Cordero, added emphatically that the village representatives were being accused of potentially criminal behavior if the signatures and witnessing was in fact fraudulent, should have the right to depose the petitioners and defend themselves. Attorney Daniel Szalkiewicz Esq. pronounced that he had represented similar legal cases in Rockland County many times, and that depositions were not required. But McKay responded that the contention that there was possible fraud could have serious legal ramifications and that therefore those being accused had a right to question their accusers. Judge Onofry agreed and said he would allow the depositions to be done in the room adjacent to the chambers on Wednesday. The questions about Jim Mullany’s petition signatures was dropped because he had suddenly passed away . On Wednesday two of the “accusers/petitioners” did not show for the deposition. According to villagers the 3rd petitioner said he did not know what the questions were about the signatures.
By the end of Thursday, of the 95 petition signatures that had been questioned by attorney for the petitioners, only one remained in question. Town Councilmember Sonia Ayala and Trustee Sue Anne Vogelsburg had gone and gathered 17 legal affidavits and license proof from signees that they had in fact signed the petition and that it had been witnessed. Remaining was one signature that the plaintiffs said did not appear the same as the one on record at the Board of Elections. Ayala had an affidivit as to its legitimacy as well.
Villagers were concerned because they thought that the residents asking to be on the ballot and who had just recently moved into town, were part of an attempt by an outside Hasidic group to take control of their Village This was reinforced somewhat by villagers who went door to door over the weekend encouraging people to come out and vote on the 18th. They said that every home they went to that had Hasidic residents said they did not know anything about the new people and were very happy with the existing board. Several, they said, also voiced sadness at the death of Jim Mullany.
A group of residents from the Village who attended the hearings were touched this week by a large group of Hasidic men from the Peace and Justice Coalition led by Rabbi Joel Loeb, who stood in front of the Orange County Courthouse with signs that on Tuesday said, “We want to live in peace with our neighbors.” On Thursday their signs were replaced with new signs that read:
“WE SUPPORT MAYOR JIM LOFRANCO”