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Hoehmann’s Nominating Petition Likely To Be Invalidated On Friday; Appellate Court to Review Cases
By Tina Traster
The tortuous saga over whether George Hoehmann can run for Town Supervisor in the Town of Clarkstown continues to lie with the courts. Later this week, a Rockland County justice will decide whether to disqualify Hoehmann’s eligibility to be a candidate for Town Supervisor.
Despite being barred by term limits, Hoehmann filed a nominating petition to run for Town Supervisor in the upcoming election. The town code, adopted back in 2014, says no political office holder can serve more than eight consecutive years in the same role.
Justice Amy Puerto in Rockland County Supreme Court has twice upheld the validity of Clarktown’s term limits law. In the first case filed by Hoehmann, the judge dismissed his petition challenging term limits. Hoehmann has appealed that ruling in the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department. A decision on that case is expected mid-May.
In a second case that Puerto ruled on in early April, she invalidated the town’s repeal of town limits because the Town did not have a four-vote super-majority as required by the code. No appeal is pending on that decision.
Last week, Town Clerk and Democratic candidate for Clarkstown Town Supervisor Justin Sweet filed a lawsuit challenging Hoehmann’s eligibility as a candidate for Town Supervisor based on Puerto’s back-to-back rulings that say term limits in Clarkstown are valid. Puerto on Monday in Rockland County Supreme Court told Hoehmann’s Attorney Lawrence Garvey, who is also Chairman of Rockland County Republican party, and Daniel Szalkiewicz, of Daniel Szalkiewicz & Associates, who is representing Sweet, she’d rule on Friday.
Last week, Puerto ordered Hoehmann to make an appearance in her court. He was absent. When Puerto asked where he was, Garvey said he was representing Hoehmann.
As of Monday, the Board of Elections had not yet made a determination as to the validity of the signatures and witnesses in the petitions filed by Hoehmann, but Sweet, through counsel, waived the issue in court and is relying solely on Hoehmann’s ineligibility based on the term limits law.
If he loses on Friday, Hoehmann will have to appeal Puerto’s decision to the Second Department, which is hearing election cases on May 10th.
Earlier this month, Puerto ruled that the Town of Clarkstown’s January vote to repeal its term limits law was illegal. In her ruling, she had said that the Jan. 4th Local Law repealing term limits by a 3-to-2 vote was “illegal, invalid, null, and void.” This ruling affirmed an earlier one in which Puerto said the town can only repeal the term limits law by a “supermajority,” which requires four council votes.
On Friday, Hoehmann filed a brief with the appellate court challenging Puerto’s earlier ruling on term limits. Hoehmann’s legal counsel Robert Spolzino has reprised the argument he unsuccessfully put forth in the lower courts. In the appellate brief, Spolzino claims Clarkstown never had a term limits law in place because it would have needed to be passed by a public referendum. He argued that a public referendum is required whenever a Town requires a repeal by supermajority. He also argues that there is no statute of limitations that would bar a challenge to the law.
Puerto based her original ruling in part on the Plaintiffs claims being time-barred by the statute of limitations.
“This Court is bound by the Second Department’s decision in Islandia (controlling precedent here in the Second Appellate Department), and finds that since the Plaintiff’s challenge to the statute of limitations could have been maintained in an Article 78 proceeding, the four-month statute of limitations is applicable.” Puerto denied Plaintiffs’ Motions for Summary Judgment and granted the Intervenors’ (Councilmember Frank Borelli and Pat Carroll) Motion to Dismiss the case. She held that the defect in passing the law was procedural and subject to a four-month limitations period.
Then, on April 1, Puerto ruled that the Clarkstown Town Council’s January 4, 2023 Local Law repealing term limits by a 3 to 2 vote was “illegal, invalid, null, and void.” The judge also affirmed her earlier ruling that the town can only repeal the term limits law by a “supermajority,” which requires four council votes.
The appellate court will rule some time after May 10.