Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ulster County Board of Elections: Shady or Stupid?

Ulster County Board of Elections Commissioners Kathy Mihm and Tom Turco are slated for reappointment at the June 15 Ulster County Legislature Meeting. Unfortunately, I have grave concerns as to whether they're actually up for the job.

There were a series of inconsistencies surrounding the May 5, 2009 Village of New Paltz elections, as outlined below. These inconsistencies were not merely accidents or oversights; they appear to be flagrant violations of the Election Law, enacted by the very individuals who should know right from wrong better than anyone.

For those who are unfamiliar with the situation, the May 5, 2009 election was run by the Village of New Paltz, rather than by the County Board of Elections, which handles many municipal elections across New York State. It was for two Trustee seats on the Village Board. Petitions were submitted on behalf of three candidates: Pete Healey, an incumbent who had won a special election for a one-year term the year previous, Patrick O’Donnell and Brian Kimbiz. If you read the blog, this should be at least somewhat familiar; Legislative Barbie has affectionately referred to Kimbiz in the past (aka Kazmin aka Kaztard aka...).

Healey and O’Donnell were both accepted onto the ballot; Kimbiz was disqualified from a spot on the ballot after his petitions were challenged by Vici Danskin, a decision made by the Ulster County Board of Elections (UCBOE). His petitions were disqualified on a number of violations, including invalid signatures, incorrect or absent dates and details, and his status as a voter registered in Islip, NY. According to Pete Healey, "I never liked the idea of petitions being challenged; anybody and everybody should have the right to campaign, and these petitioning rules aren't made to be fair or democratic. They're made to be unfair and exclusive. So when I heard his petitions had been rejected, I called the Board of Elections to find out why. When I got the answer, I called him. I suggested to him that he could do many things in response to that, including launching a write-in candidacy. When he did that, I went out of my way to make certain that he was included in the only public forum for the candidates. He never returned the call or reached out to me, he didn't show up to the forum, and he didn't seem to have any public campaign at all. I didn't think he was serious. When he petitioned to be a candidate for Village Trustee, he was a registered voter in Islip."

Kimbiz' failure to attend the forum wasn't a fluke. He also nearly skipped a local Green Party candidate interview, arriving 30 minutes late after repeated telephone calls from interview organizers, and has had lousy attendance at Village Board Meetings since his "victory." Some have questioned why Healey did not campaign harder, and whether he felt betrayed by Kimbiz' campaign seemingly targeting Healey after all his help. "Quietly, he joined with some disgruntled landlords, including his own, apparently, to launch this stealth campaign, when he didn't even know how many Village Trustees actually serve on the Board. It's not betrayal; I didn't think he was serious then, and now, after a year in office, it's clear he hasn't taken it seriously," said Healey.

The final canvass conducted by the Election Inspectors on May 5, 2009 reflected a victory for O’Donnell with 95 votes and Healey with 94 votes. Kimbiz received 91 votes and small numbers of votes were recorded for 6 additional write-in candidates. Kimbiz and Village Clerk Kelly Stengel requested a recanvass by the Ulster County Board of Elections.

On May 7, 2009 the UCBOE Commissioners conducted a recanvass of the results. The Commissioners found errors in the counting of write-in votes on the machine paper and of Absentee Ballots, in which three uncounted eligible ballots were discovered. This led to a gain of three additional votes for O’Donnell and Kimbiz. The corrected totals were O’Donnell with 98 votes, Healey remaining at 94 votes and Kimbiz at 94 votes. In addition, the UCBOE Commissioners overruled the decision of Election Inspectors to discount a vote for “Brian Kazmin.” The Commissioners credited this vote to Kimbiz, leading to his victory over Healey by one vote. Healey was not present, as he was working, and O'Donnell requested an additional count to confirm these recanvass results, but was denied by the Commissioners.

Had this been an issue of counting, there wouldn't be much to say right now. But it isn't about the election, or the outcome of the election. It's about the law and the responsibilities of those appointed to uphold, interpret and implement that law. The same can be said for sour grapes. Healey intentionally waited before beginning to investigate the outcome of the election, essentially waiving his 30-day grace period to challenge the final totals in court (but not to initiate an Article 78 proceeding; that option was waived for him by multiple levels of government dragging their feet and playing games). Healey's initial inquiry to the Village Clerk was submitted the first week of July. "The new village clerk (the one who supervised the election in May quit three weeks later, and a new person took over) delayed me seeing the machine paper rolls until the first of September, because she didn't 'understand' my requests for information on the election. As soon as I saw the bogus vote that was counted for Kimbiz, I contacted the Ulster County Board of Elections immediately, but was put off due to the upcoming Primary. I contacted them again after the Primary, and was told to wait until after the General Election. They stonewalled me for several months, tried bouncing me back to the Village, and the NYS Board of Elections delayed my requests for an additional few weeks. I was finally able to collect the information and meet with the UCBOE Commissioners in February of 2010. I've been bounced around between the three for nearly a year, and it continues to this day."

"In the end, it was the reporting of the changes that the Commissioners made in the recanvass that was the problem all along. No one, not the clerk nor the commissioners and not the media, ever said that the Commissioners changed a voted that had been disqualified on election night into the vote that won the election for Kimbiz, or should I say 'Kazmin.' The law states that they are required to file a report on any and all changes they make, and they didn't do it. That's why I'm pursuing this matter. It's because they didn't do their job, and they assumed powers that the law doesn't give them."

That's not all. A detailed 10-page report has been compiled, outlining the various violations occurring at all levels during the course of this election, and the references to relevant portions of the law, court opinions and media coverage. The report has been submitted to the Ulster County Governmental Services, Environmental and Administrative Committee, which has oversight of the Board of Elections. This report will also be provided to anyone requesting it through Legislative Barbie.

Sections of the report include:

1. UCBOE Commissioners empowering themselves with the ability to change votes upon recanvass, which is expressly prohibited in the law.

2. The failure of the Election Inspectors, Village Clerk and UCBOE Commissioners to count valid write-in votes (hint: does Lorin Rotzler = Rebecca Rotzler? We didn't think so, either.)

3. Flaws with "reasonable intent" and "past practice," the stated justification given by UCBOE Commissioners to disregard the law.

4. Roadblocks to access to timely information by the Village Clerk, UCBOE and NYS BOE.

5. Failure of the UCBOE and Election Inspectors to follow prescribed processes.

6. Failure of the UCBOE to compile and provide documentation reporting on the recanvass results, as required by law.

7. UCBOE Commissioners appear to have intentionally hid their duplicitous practice of vote changing from the media, the government and the public.

8. Failure of the Village Clerk to demonstrate specific duties of her position, as outlined in the law and leading to the destruction of permanent government records.

It is my strong belief that while the statute of limitations may have run out to oust Kimbiz, or take these agencies to court for specific FOIL violations, there should be NO restriction on ensuring that the law is correctly interpreted and enacted. It is the primary responsibility of these individuals to serve as caretakers of the election law, safeguarding our elections and ensuring that they meet the most rigorous standards outlined in the law. While the initial circumstances cannot and, in Healey's opinion, perhaps should not be changed, we MUST hold these officials accountable and take steps to prevent such gross abuses from occurring in the future. Healey trusted that the election was conducted properly, and that trust was severely violated. When elections become a game, or worse, an exercise in "because we said so," we are all violated and we all lose. Well, except for Kaz-whats-his-name. He wins.


  1. The simple fact that Mr. Kimbiz was registered to vote in a locale other than the Village of New Paltz should disqualify him from service. This is not an issue of election law. If - in the middle of a term - an elected official moves from the Town or Village in which he serves, he should not remain in his post.

    If indeed it is true that Mr. Kimbiz is registered somewhere else, it would have been his responsibility to rectify that issue. Not doing so is - at the very least - a sign that he is unwilling or unable to take seriously his obligations. It also calls into question his dedication to the municipality he purports to serve.

    Of course,this issue calls to mind the broader question of just what a "resident" of a Town, Village or other municipality is. New York needs more stringent definitions not out of a sense of regimentation, but to avoid confusion among the voters. After all, the rights of the voters - not the rights of the candidates - should take precedence.

    There can be no harm in defining a "residence" as a permanent domicile (as opposed to a motel or some other temporary location which could be used to subvert the entire purpose of a definition) in which a person spends more nights than any other location. We could also add criteria such as as the address on one's driver's license, thereby precluding those who actually live out of state but own a vacation residence or otherwise spend some of their time in a given locale from injecting themselves into local politics without actually being part of the community.

    Local politics is all about community building. It is not only preposterous but an abrogation of the rights and interests of those who are truly members of a community to allow those who have no long term stake, no understanding of local issues, no real roots in the community to alter the structure of a Town or Village.

    If one wishes to be part of the local political process, it would be relatively simple to establish roots in the community and become involved. If one does not wish to do so, isn't that a clear indication of their lack of dedication to the community?

  2. There is certainly a level of responsibility that individuals seeking public office should demonstrate; proper registration is just one. When Kimbiz was informed of his incorrect registration, he did change his registration to reflect his New Paltz address. I haven't double checked, but if my memory is correct, candidates for office need only be residents of the VONP upon June 1 and when taking their oath of office, not necessarily during their campaign or the election itself.

    I think this circumvents the bigger point, though. If more stringent residency requirements were put in place under the law, the would still be moot. The UCBOE has made it clear that they do not use the law to guide their practices. They use past practices, even when these practices are contradictory to the law. The complications are compounded by the fact that it is, usually, a Village run election, with the UCBOE only being called in during a recanvass. So, UCBOE Commissioners, under their stated logic, would continue to consider anyone an appropriate candidate, regardless of what the law says, because that's just the way they've always done it.

    Kimbiz is a moron. That's hardly debatable at this point, and doesn't really speak to the full issue. Whether Kimbiz, Healey, Obama or anyone else was elected to this office, the point remains that there are laws governing the process, and those laws have been disregarded every step of the way. If UCBOE Commissioners are not obligated to follow the law, what ARE they obligated to follow?

  3. Having been at the aforementioned Green Party meeting where Kimbiz waltzed in and airily reassured us that he was the best like dude like or whatever for like the job, I would like to second, third, and fourth his incredible idiocy. He knew next to nothing about the position and LITERALLY could not form a coherent sentence. It doesn't take much to impress the Green Party, people.

    Hilariously, we had just interviewed Daniel Torres, 4 or 5 years his junior, who was about 4 or 5 times as articulate.

    I haven't followed Kimbiz's political career since that horrible meeting, but I can only hope he's smartened up.

    And, not to be annoying, but I think that's what this comes down to. Laziness and smarts. Most people in our elected offices have an overabundance of the former and way too little of the latter. Sigh.

    And I'm still not on the dang Planning Board.

    Good job, lesbian lover.

  4. "I think I can be a great lesion between tenants/landlords."

    There's nothing more to say after that, is there?

    Thanks for props on LL Blog (like LL Bean, but better and lesbian loverer).

  5. Oh, right - there actually IS more to say. How's this?

    "I think my tech savvy can have a large influence on getting very close to me."

    Sigh. He's so easy to pick on and it distracts from much more important things!


  6. If any Government agency is intentionally disregarding the law, changes need to be made. That is beyond question.

    I also have to wonder about political parties - on either side of the Great Divide - which would choose people unfamiliar with the needs of the community as nominees for local office.

    I think there are many problems with the party system, but as long as we have it, shouldn't we at least be able to expect them to act as filters to keep those who are unfit for the office out of the race.

    Yes, I realize that's a pipe dream, but that is the way it should be. In an ideal world, that is.

  7. This is possibly the most biased blog I have ever had the misfortune of reading. It's quite clear that your personal relationship with Pete Healey has clouded your judgement. Why have you not mentioned that Pete, who had one of the worst attendance records in VONP history, has also had his fair share of inarticulate moments and often sounds drunk. As I recall, there was one meeting where he went as far as to open a beer in the middle of an important discussion, but you have made no mention of this gross misconduct. The fact of the matter is that Brian Kimbiz won the election because he conducted (though some what haphazardly) a more successful campaign than Pete. It is not a miscount that cost Pete his seat, but either over-confidence or LAZINESS which resulted in his running little to no campaign. I also notice that you have been citing this one encounter you had with Brian over a year ago, at the very beginning of his term. He has since learned a great deal and now speaks to large crowds with confidence and conviction. Also, just because he has not been as active as you would like in your particular area of interest, does not mean that he is Lazy. Brian has been working closely with the senior community to create important legislation that will ensure their well-being and ability to remain in the village (something which I believe is extremely important and often neglected by the Village Board). Brian has also reached out to the student's of SUNY New Paltz, and has been active in informing and in increasing their participation in village politics, which is something that has been missing from the Village for a long time. Perhaps if Pete had actually cared enough about students to speak with them or represent their interests at all then he would have been more successful when election results came in. Pete's loss can be seen as a vote of no confidence from his constituency. He may have inspired your personal hatred of Brian Kimbiz, but he has inspired little else in the hearts and minds of the citizens of New Paltz.
    concerned citizen

  8. I didn't miss a single regular meeting of the Village Board except for the last one(and I wasn't the only one who skipped that meeting. Two other trustees missed that meeting and there was no quorom). I missed one special meeting of the board, and it was during a workday, it lasted five minutes and I showed up as it adjourned). I wasn't lazy about campaigning. I didn't campaign because every indication was that Brian wasn't a serious person. It was also budget time and there were several budget workshops. I considered them more important than campaigning when I didn't face any serious competition. If you'll recall, there were several such workshop meetings, and I did bring alcohol to one of them, and I shared it with one other trustee. I don't believe the cameras were on and I don't believe anyone else was in the room except the mayor, trustees, and the clerk.

  9. You always have to take anonymous comments for what they are - someone who is too scared to attach their name to their thoughts. But since this one is at least readable, compared to the ones that usually pop up, I'll bother with one response (nothing more).

    First, I'm SO GLAD someone else gets to be the drunk for a change! It's usually attributed to me, so I'm glad to share the spotlight with Pete for a little while. It gets lonely! If you only knew the many, many things I've seen people ingest before and during VB meetings, a beer doesn't seem so bad, after all. Then again, I suspect you probably do know, dontcha? :)

    But since you bring up sobriety, it's a great point! We should definitely test Village Trustees for alcohol and drugs before meetings. If you can't drive while under the influence, you CERTAINLY shouldn't be allowed to legislate! While we're at it, maybe we should also have psychological evaluations. And syphilis causes insanity, so let's test for that, too. Although, now that I think about it, we've probably run out of Village Trustees... hmm... quite the conundrum, isn't it?

    My relationship with Pete doesn't really impact my ability to know right from wrong. Watch: BOE Commissioners following the law = right, BOE Commissioners making their own laws = wrong. See?

    As for Pete's attendance, well, you're off base there, too. And no good excuse for that one! You just didn't do your homework... tsk, tsk. Here, I'll give you a cheat sheet -
    http://legislativebarbie.blogspot.com/2009/05/committed-volunteers.html and http://legislativebarbie.blogspot.com/2010/02/where-exactly-is-village-board.html. You can even double check, if you feel like it. It's all in the minutes, how cool is that?! While you're at it, pay extra special attention to Kalamata's 77%, Gallucci's 61% and Osborn's 31%. HOLY CRAP! Combine those last two, and you STILL don't have a whole Trustee! Healey was 87%, right after the Mayor's 100%... so... um... good call on the anonymous, genius.

    I have had the pleasure of hearing Trustee Kalamazoo speak many times since a year ago, and I must admit, it IS pretty entertaining. But students have enough trouble keeping their right to vote around here, let alone run for office. I've seen so many losers come out of the campus with greater ambitions, some of whom have served on the VB and commissions, committees, etc., and I'm "SICK AND TIRED!!! (SQUARED)!!!" of it reflecting badly on the rest of us. When a competent, capable, responsible student shows up, I'll be the first to jump on board. Plus, us local yokels hardly constitute a "large crowd." Yelling at Sally Rhoads doesn't count as confidence and conviction, either. If Kazarooni would stop embarrassing every single SUNY NP alum, I MIGHT give him a pass. Maybe.

    (to be continued...)

  10. (blogspot really needs to allow longer comments! NOW I understand why Greenfield is such a cranky sonuvabitch!)

    My particular area of interest? Gee, I wish I knew what that was! If I asked Greenfield, it'd be running around acting slutty, I think. But you're not Greenfield, and I'm not really one-dimensional. There are a lot of issues I care about, and Kokomo said there were a lot of issues he cares about, too! Well, he hasn't followed through on any of them yet, so I'm not gonna start holding my breath, if that's OK with you?

    Actually, I take it back... he has fulfilled one. He definitely serves as a great "lesion" between landlords and tenants, and a lot of other people, too! Way to go, kiddo. Some of his promises are understandably difficult to fulfill; after all, he's serving on the Village Board, rather than the Town Board that he kept saying he was running for. Ooops!

    As for Pete caring about the students, well, it's kinda BECAUSE of Pete that they're even in New Paltz when Village elections occur. See, some sneaky sneaks on the VB were trying to move it to summer... guess who was organizing the New Paltz Greens at the time, joining with NYPIRG's Mara Hall, to form a coalition to stop the elections from moving to June? Jeez, you're like zero for 70 billion here... that was Pete Healey! So, please don't talk to me about being concerned about students. Kazakhstan cares about himself, and that's about it. If he cared about the Village or his position as a Trustee, he'd either DO IT, or resign. Same goes for Shari and Jean, times extra.

    In conclusion, yeah all that fun local politics insiders stuff. But people appointed to uphold the law oughta do just that.

  11. It always seemed to me that Kimbiz is a schill for the landlords. Do you have something more tangible than my hunch? As for Healy, reap what you sow. At least he stands by his own idiotic and self-defeating positions. Petitions are not anti-democratic, they simply seek to force a candidate to demonstrate some level of committment. If they were anti-democratic, different candidates would have different burdens for signatures etc. It's a level playing field and plenty fair. All it takes is an afternoon or two of walking around the village. But I guess Kimbiz got lost or was too out of it to leave his apartment.

  12. Kazmin's landlady is also, apparently, the owner of a taxi company that shuttled people to and from the polls on election day last year. Another landlord allowed use of his van. A third landlord 'apologized' to me some weeks later by saying that he 'didn't agree with the decision to do that, and he didn't go along with it'. The fight over the noise ordinance was as much about landlord's not wanting to accept responsibility for their tenants' actions as it was about 'youth' vs. 'locals'. Check out at least three landlords' public comments on the video of that meeting.
    Petitions for qualifying as a candidate for public office are never a level playing field. The Dems and Reps write the rules to give themselves every advantage, and election boards hire only Dems and Reps(they're privately hired by the parties and then placed on the public payroll!), so who do you think they're going to favor?
    It takes an afternoon to get ten signatures, so it's more like ten or twelve afternoons, not or two. Don't kid yourself, 'Jim'.

  13. Jim,

    I think Pete summed up the landlord evidence pretty well for you.

    Just to add to his comments about petitions, different candidates actually DO have different petition requirements.

    It's a common misconception that Village elections are automatically non-partisan (well, we make up those silly party names, but nobody runs as a "Democrat" or "Republican"). It's actually one of the few instances where independent candidates get a little bit of a break - the number of signatures required from a non-Dem/Repub candidate is 100, whereas a Democrat or Republican running in the election needs to obtain much higher numbers of signatures on their petitions in order to qualify.

    So, of course, the Dems and Repubs pretend that they're independent, don't formally nominate anyone, and act like the whole thing is inherently "non-partisan." But there is absolutely no rule making Village elections non-partisan, and it's actually quite the opposite.

    Really, they're just lazy.

    It's no secret who our major party candidates are, even if they call it something else. Terry, for example, still had access to resources available to Democratic candidates if the NP Dems chose to provide them to him, and his voters were still primarily NP Dems. Sure, he has to submit financial disclosures just like any other candidate, but since there's no OFFICIAL "D" on it, they can still pretend parties aren't involved.

    Pretty clever, huh?

  14. OK. Thanks for the information Brittany and, uh, 'Pete' (WTF, BTW?). Nonetheless, if I go out and fulfill the petitioning requirements and someone like Kimbiz (hypothetically) makes up names or has his non-resident or under-voting-age roommates sign it, then how is challenging that petition undemocratic? Who benefits by his or anyone's flouting the rules?

  15. Jim,
    I will accept rules for qualifying as a candidate when there are rules that are fair and roughly equal for everyone, and when people other than just Dems and Reps get to decide the validity of those petitions. At the moment, the two parties write the rules to give themselves the advantage and the Boards of Elections are only Dems and Reps. I won't go out of my way to hurt someone else who doesn't understand the game's rigged nature. And I won't criticize others for trying to 'game' this rigged game.

  16. Well, the time is nearing when all good citizens need to stand up and submit their petitions [to their respective Village clerks] in order to run for Village office.

  17. Sort of... the Village of New Paltz just had to do things differently, so the dates for our elections are different from every other Village in the state. Makes for a lot of backwards counting and a bit of a headache, but it accommodates the student voting population which, in my opinion, is better than the alternative.

    Independent candidates may begin collecting signatures February 15; the completed petitions are due to the Village Clerk between March 22 and March 29.

    This is not the case for Village candidates who are nominated by a party, but nobody ever does that because everyone can pretend they're non-partisan and get away with doing far less work. It must be nice to be a Republican or Democrat and be able to choose between options in order to determine the simplest avenue; Village elections are the one area where "independent" candidates have even the slightest advantage, and major-party candidates jump at the opportunity to snag that, too. It's all very frustrating.

    Anyways, this year a huge majority of the Village Board is up for reelection. The Mayor and three out of the four Trustee spots are open, so this should be an interesting one!

  18. Thanks for the information Brittany and, uh, 'Pete' (WTF, BTW?). Nonetheless, if I go out and fulfill the petitioning requirements and someone like Kimbiz (hypothetically) makes up names or has his non-resident or under-voting-age roommates sign it, then how is challenging that petition undemocratic? Who benefits by his or anyone's flouting the rules?

  19. Anyways, this year a huge majority of the Village Board is up for reelection. The Mayor and three out of the four Trustee spots are open, so this should be an interesting one!