Councilmen Borelli and Carroll File Lawsuit Over Gerrymandered Clarkstown Map Adopted On Feb. 7

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Plaintiffs Say Maps Were Drawn In Retaliation Over Division Around Term Limits; Lawsuit Takes Aim At Splitting African-American Community in Central Nyack

By Tina Traster

Two Town of Clarkstown public officials, councilmembers Frank Borelli and Patrick Carroll, have filed a lawsuit to challenge the adoption of a newly drawn redistricting map that pits the two plaintiffs against one another in the upcoming election.

The suit, filed this week in Rockland County Supreme Court, names defendants Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann, Councilmembers Don Franchino and Michael Graziano, along with Town Clerk Justin Sweet, the Town of Clarkstown Town Board, the Rockland County Board of Elections, the New York State Board of Elections, and Attorney General Letitia James.

“This type of political gerrymandering is profoundly undemocratic and cuts deeply into the public confidence in their representative government,” the suit says.

The lawsuit alleges the map was drawn in retaliation over dissension concerning term limits. It claims the redistricting was unnecessary because the original districts were compliant with the law. It says the map is illegal because it “discourages competition” or was drawn “for the purposes of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties.”

Further, it says the gerrymandering of the map undermines the African-American community in Central Nyack by splitting its population into two wards, “thereby resulting in a retrogression of the impact of this minority’s community vote.”

Schenley Vital, a resident of Central Nyack, a former failed candidate for Ward 3, and the co-chair of the Clarkstown Democratic Party, is also a plaintiff in the suit.

The suit is asking the court to declare the newly adopted map “as invalid” and to restore the original map and to prevent the town from conducting elections under the newly drawn map. The plaintiffs are also demanding legal fees. The plaintiffs are being represented by attorney Stanley Kalmon Schlein of the Bronx.

This suit represents the latest chaos swirling around Clarkstown that began with Hoehmann’s efforts and subsequent lawsuit to eliminate term limits in the town. On Feb. 7th, Hoehmann, Franchino and Michael Graziano voted to adopt a redistricting map that potentially topples the political careers of either Borelli or Carroll despite overwhelming opposition from the public.

In a show of solidarity between Borelli, a Republican, and Carroll, a Democrat, they voted against the gerrymandered map which pits two incumbents against each other in the same ward. The map, drawn by Skyline Consulting of Schenectady, extends Ward One to the north but it also shifts the boundary to the east. By doing so, it excises Borelli’s residence at 12 East Cavalry Drive in New City out of the ward and pushes him into Carroll’s territory or Ward Four. To take office, a council member must live in the ward that they represent.

The pair say the redistricting is retaliation because they have fought against Hoehmann’s campaign for Clarkstown to divest itself of a law it passed in 2015 to impose eight-year term limits on its public officials. The pair had hoped to hire outside counsel to defend the town but suffered the first legal blow when Rockland County Supreme Court Judge Amy Puerto recently gave Deputy Town Attorney Kevin Conway the green light to defend the town. The pair of councilmen have intervened in the suit.

The adopted map presented to the town council for approval met all of the statutory requirements for redistricting, except one: Districts cannot be drawn to discourage competition, or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents. Drawing and approving a map that forces two incumbents into the same ward runs afoul of the law.

The plaintiffs during the board meeting in which the map was adopted took issue with the process. They said that during an executive session on May 10th  2022, the council reviewed three maps drawn by Skyline. All adhered to the requirement for districts to have roughly equal populations after the 2020 census.

Every ten years, municipalities must divide the voting population within a 5 percent deviation. Each of Clarkstown’s wards, which together total a population of 86,912, must ideally have a population of 21,728, according to Skyline Consulting’s David Schaefer, who presented the map at the tumultuous town board meeting.

There had been little to no discussion about redistricting since the May meeting.

The lawsuit says that on January 26, 2023, three weeks after Borelli and Carroll voiced their opposition to the repeal of  term limits, “Hoehmann sent a letter to the councilmembers indicating that a fourth map, that was not discussed in the May 10, 2022 meeting would be proposed for adoption at the Feb. 7, 2023 public hearing.

Hoehmann contacted Skyline to create a fourth map, the suit alleges.

“It is patently clear that Map four was drawn and presented for a vote by the Town Board for the sole purpose of consolidating incumbent Councilmember’s Borelli’s home in the same ward as incumbent Councilmember Carroll’s home.”

The fourth map was the only map presented and voted on during the public hearing.

“It is inescapable that the combination of Councilmember Borelli and Carroll’s residences drawn into the same ward is solely in retaliation against their vote in opposition to the repeal” of term limits, according to the suit.

It also says Map 4 was drawn after Skyline’s contract has concluded at the end of 2022. Skyline had been notified in writing that “its services are no longer required,” according to an exhibit filed in the lawsuit.

The newly drawn map also affects Clarkstown’s most racially diverse Ward. Central Nyack had been wholly contained in Ward 3, Franchino’s district. The community is outraged because it had not been consulted or informed of the proposed change. Several residents and civic leaders from Central Nyack spoke out at the Feb. 7th public hearing.

“This type of political gerrymandering is profoundly undemocratic and cuts deeply into the public confidence in their representative government,” the suit says.