Lawsuit Charges Fraud in East Hampton Election Petitions

Manny Vilar, pictured during last year's race for East Hampton Town supervisor, is running again for a seat as a councilman on the town board. Michael Heller photo

Manny Vilar, the Republican Party nominee for a seat on the East Hampton Town Board, and Independence Party member Gerard Larsen, have filed a lawsuit alleging that Independence Party members falsified petition signatures in support of David Gruber, the party’s nominee in the same race for a one-year term this November.

According to a press release issued by Republican Party Chairman Amos Goodman, he has “sworn affidavits from nearly a dozen people whose names were forged and we have spoken to a number of other victims in this scam.”

The suit is accompanied by affidavits from eight Independence Party members whose names appear on petitions in support of Mr. Gruber, but who allege they never signed the petitions.

The lawsuit, filed last week, seeks to have Justice Robert Quinlan invalidate the petitions. The case will be heard on August 10 at 9:30 a.m. in Riverhead.

Also, Mr. Larsen has submitted a challenge of the nominating petitions before the Suffolk County Board of Elections, which has two weeks to complete a review and render a decision.

On Wednesday morning, long-time Independence Party chair Elaine Jones said she has carried petitions for 25 years since she first became involved with the party in 1993 without incident. While Ms. Jones was unable to carry petitions herself, and acknowledged mistakes can happen, she said she had reviewed the petitions herself, determined they looked accurate and that the county party chairman, Frank MacKay, also reviewed them before they were submitted to the board of elections.

She questioned the accuracy of Mr. Goodman’s own petitions for Mr. Vilar and said she has hired a handwriting expert to review them. It was too late to file a complaint with the board of elections, noted Ms. Jones, although the party could file suit.