Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 9, 2013

Challenges to two school board incumbents' petitions thrown out on technicalities

Niagara Gazette — On the advice of school district attorneys Angelo Massaro and James Roscetti, a pair of challenges to the legitimacy of petitions for two Niagara Falls City School Board candidates have been dismissed.

Niagara Falls resident Ken Hamilton submitted a written objection to district clerk Ruthel Dumas, questioning the accuracy and integrity of the nomination actions of both incumbents, the Rev. Kevin Dobbs and Donald King, Tuesday.

However, Massaro said, the deadline for objections to candidates was actually Monday, three business days after petitions were due to the clerk. Though Hamilton previously submitted a general objection to all petitions to all candidates April 28, Massaro added the specific actions taken against Dobbs and King were invalid and should be thrown out.

The objections were also dismissed due to an interpretation of both election and education law, which governs the petitioning process, concerning the information on the petitions, he said.

"It's the opinion of the commissioner that ... petitions be reviewed liberally," Massaro said. "For example, we shouldn't be throwing out petitions because a resident didn't put apartment 1, so long as the person's identity can be verified."

Hamilton's objections, though not limited to, were focused on the petitioning process itself. He said the candidates, who signed at the bottom of the individual pages, weren't present at the time of each signature to legally validate the integrity of each name.

Actions like table petitioning, where the candidate leaves the blank petition in a community location and collects the completed paper when it's filled, is illegal, he said. And he said he believes both Dobbs and King participated in the behavior.

Especially Dobbs, he said, saying several names which appear together on a page all get their haircut at the same local barbershop where a Dobbs family member works. He added other names, consecutively on the page, all belong to Dobbs's church, which could indicate a community approach to signature gathering.

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