Judge denies motion in county clerk challenge

by Carol Thompson

State Supreme Court Judge James McCarthy has denied a motion to allow the governor to appoint a successor to the office of Oswego County Clerk.

A petition seeking to remove the names of Michael Backus and Phillip Vasho from consideration for the Oswego County Clerk was filed by former legislator James McMahon.

McCarthy submitted a ruling this morning that the state Election Law and the New York Public Officers Law stating any vacancy occurring before Sept. 20 should be filled at the next general election is valid.

Attorney’s for the plaintiff argued that the election for county clerk cannot be held before November 2012 because the vacancy occurred less than three months prior to the general election, as stated in New York State County Law.

Former County Clerk George Williams died Sept. 3 and Backus and Vasho were nominated to run for the seat by the Republican and Democratic county committees.

Scott DelConte of Bond, Schoeneck and King argued for the plaintiff that “there is no ambiguity” in the state’s county law that states a vacancy occurring less than three months before an election must wait until the general election of the following year to be on the ballot.  In his ruling, McCarthy said it is clear from the legislative history, amendments and enactactment of Article V that it was the intent of the legislature to impose the three-month limitation only upon those offices listed within the second sentence of the statute.

During the hearing held yesterday, McCarthy questioned why Governor Andrew Cuomo had not appointed a successor if state county law was indeed valid. There is no word as of yet if an appeal will be filed or if an appeal will be made to the governor to appoint a successor through the end of the year.

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