MAYVILLE - Responding to Pat Lucariello's recent endorsements made as chairman of the Chautauqua County Conservative Party, Jan R. Potter said Tuesday that she has been and continues to be the local party's legitimate leader.
There has been some confusion about the party's leadership since last September, when three separate lists of executive members were submitted to the Chautauqua County Board of Elections. In June, Lucariello cited the confusion as a reason to call for a meeting of the party's members - a meeting during which he says he was elected chairman. As chairman, Lucariello said last week that his endorsements void those previously made by Mrs. Potter.
For some candidates, the endorsement of the party can mean a winning edge in local elections. Though both individuals have thrown their support behind some of the same candidates, such as David Foley for the office of district attorney, Lucariello and Mrs. Potter are split in their support of the county executive candidates and on other races.
To call for the June meetings, Lucariello said he secured a petition signed by 20 percent of the party's membership. On Thursday, Mrs. Potter filed an objection with the Board of Elections alleging that there were not enough signatures on Lucariello's petition to call for a meeting.
"There were many significant rules violated in the course of the meeting Mr. Lucariello convened on June 10 and the 25," Mrs. Potter said Tuesday. "The meeting was a sham as there were less than a dozen committee members present and no record of committee members' proxies recorded for inspection by those present at the meeting. Mr. Lucariello refused to disclose the proxies he carried in the meeting to those in attendance so there is no record of a quorum or if the proxies carried were those of registered conservatives."
Mrs. Potter said Tuesday that documentation backing her objections were also filed with the Board of Elections.
Though the Board of Elections is not responsible for deciding the true leaders of the local Conservative party, Norman P. Green, the county's Democratic election commissioner and his colleague, Brian Abram, Republican election commissioner, will have to evaluate whether Lucariello's petition met the party's requirements to call for a meeting.
On Wednesday, Abram said he and Green have looked into the matter, but were not yet ready to make any announcement.
A registered Conservative her entire life and chairwoman of the local party for the last five years, Mrs. Potter questioned Lucariello's credentials, saying he only recently registered as a conservative and that there is no documentation on file with the Board of Elections indicating him as chairman.
"Pat Lucariello is not the recognized chairman of the county Conservatives and he has done the Conservative party a grave disservice by claiming to represent the committee," Mrs. Potter said. "This is not the first time he has attempted a hostile takeover of the Conservative party. He once took over the Chairman's seat of the County Conservatives in the 1980s and was subsequently ousted from the seat and the party in 1988, losing his case after taking the party and the two commissioners to court."
Calling the leadership issue "long" and "drawn out," Lucariello said last week that as "Jan Potter's group still thinks they're in charge" he will "probably go to court to throw them out."
Reiterating that she holds the position of Chautauqua County Conservative Party Chairwoman, Mrs. Potter said Tuesday she is presently recognized by the New York State Conservative Party. The state party posts the chairperson for each county online at www.cpnys.org. For Chautauqua County, Mrs. Potter is listed.
An e-mail to the state party questioning the county's local leadership was replied to Wednesday with the explanation that information is being reviewed - and that a response will be issued by the state Conservative Party after the review.