Celoron Village Caucus Objection Overruled

MAYVILLE — For a small lakeside village, the race for the mayoral seat has caused some waves.

After receiving a letter detailing an objection to the Celoron Conservative Party Caucus and the nomination of Jacob Feldt for mayor, the Chautauqua County Board of Elections held a hearing to determine the validity of the objections on Monday morning.

The letter, submitted by Paul Shanahan, village of Celoron resident, voter and Republican Party Caucus chair, stated that he understands the rules which govern caucuses and that he is familiar the Conservative Caucus chair who “should and is also well aware of the rules governing such.”

In the letter, Shanahan states that the Conservative Caucus notice was not posted in areas where other notices were posted for other caucuses.

After a visit to the Post Office in Celoron, he noted that a Democratic Party notice was posted there and Shanahan himself posted a notice there, but noticed that a Conservative notice was not posted there. Conservative notices were also not posted in a variety of other public places that were noted by Shanahan, including the community bulletin board, the community building, the village park, the village fire hall or the village highway building.

“At that time, I contacted a village official who also then went and observed that he, too, did not see any notices posted anywhere,” Shanahan wrote.

Shanahan noted that on other occasions, after Sept. 5, he noted there were no notices hung in certain locations throughout the village, but was made aware that some had been posted on utility poles. He then quoted the New York state election law which states that notices must be posted in six public places in the village at least 10 days preceding the day of caucus.

“The lack of properly posted notices, and the attempt to satisfy said requirement by posting a couple of them on utility poles should clearly be considered a case of dereliction of duty, a case of obfuscation and a case of election law violation, as aforementioned, by the Conservative Party caucus chair,” Shanahan wrote. “Therefore, it is the opinion of the objector that the Board of Elections should rule that the caucus be deemed invalid and therefore any nominations made and certificates of acceptance filed thereafter, specifically that of one Jacob Feldt, be deemed invalid as well.”

“To summarize, it appears that the objector says that the proper six notices were not posted, in his opinion, where they should be posted,” Chautauqua County County Board of Elections Commissioner Norman Green said.

Commissioner Brian Abram was also present. Green opened the meeting for public comment.

Rick Slagle, Conservative Party Caucus chair, offered public comment after the letter was read.

“He’s exactly right. I did caucuses in the past, and in the past, we’ve always posted notices on telephone poles in public areas,” he said. “I called up here to make sure that hadn’t changed and there was no specific areas that were outlawed as long as they were public. So, I did post six notices.”

Slagle said he has evidence of six notices which included pictures of the six notices and the corresponding telephone pole numbers for the telephone pole locations.

“I also have what’s left of the notices,” he said. “The top one, obviously, met it’s fate with a lawn mower before I could get there, but I did pick the pieces up in the yard, and these five notices are still intact. That’s all the evidence I can provide.”

Green said the commissioners were not taking evidence, but were accepting public comment.

“I have documentation, I have proof that the notices were put up,” Slagle said. “In regards to his statement, they were put up on the fifth. I went to the clerk’s office first, posted a notice with her, then I came up here and dropped the notice off. Then I went back and posted a second notice at the clerk’s office because the first notice did not have Celoron, N.Y., on the location.”

After that, he said he went and put the notices up on the telephone poles.

Vickie Slagle, Celoron Conservative Party Caucus secretary, said many people don’t go down to the village itself. The notices were put into places in neighborhoods where they would actually be read, she said.

“The election law states that the posting of a village caucus notice should be done in six places in the village,” Green said. “It does not specify within election law where these six places are. There is no information that’s provided that says it has to be some place other than the village clerk’s office. It’s the village clerk’s office, five other places within Celoron and it also has to be posted at the board of elections. The objection is that it was not posted in six places, the presumption goes to that it was posted when the chairman of the caucus certified to us a certificate of nomination was filed here and a certificate was accepted. It goes to a thought that it is a valid caucus, and there’s no information here that’s been provided here that suggested that the caucus notices were not posted.”

Green then moved that the objection be declared invalid and that the nomination of Jacob Feldt as the conservative party candidate for Celoron Village Mayor move forward. Abram seconded the motion, and it was approved.

“The reason I did all of this is because I know Celoron and none of this (evidence of notice posting) really comes in to play, other than I can prove that I did,” Slagle said. “You don’t take evidence, you said.”

Green said it is the “objector’s job to prove that you didn’t” post the notices.

“It’s not your job to prove that you did,” Green said. “Much of election law goes to a belief of validity. Elections are supposed to move forward.”