Edgemont Community Council president Bob Bernstein today expressed concern that Town Supervisor Paul Feiner intends to deny Edgemont residents their right to vote on incorporation without legal grounds to do so.
Mr. Feiner is supposed to decide by tomorrow, May 5, whether he will certify Edgemont’s petition for incorporation, but does not legally have to make the decision public until he files it with the Town Clerk, which state law does not require him to do until May 10.
In a letter to Mr. Feiner dated May 4, 2017, Mr. Bernstein noted that Mr. Feiner had already used an unknown amount of taxpayer dollars on outside consultants to try to come with the grounds to block the petition, including funds for private investigators to enter the homes of Edgemont residents who signed the petition to trick them into invalidating their signatures, as well as funds for private consultants who secretly provided information to one or more residents to raise as formal objections to the petition.
Using town funds to manufacture evidence for residents who oppose Edgemont’s incorporation to use in order to file objections to the petition violates the New York Constitution and two opinions of the New York State Comptroller on what town officials in New York may do when presented with a petition for incorporation.
Mr. Bernstein said he believed Mr. Feiner gave clear signals as to his intentions based on what the Town concealed from public disclosure until immediately prior to the last hearing on April 24, 2017.
“The two 11th hour arguments the Town sponsored were obvious, transparent and insufficient. You question the map and you question some signatures,” Mr. Bernstein stated.
Mr. Bernstein dismissed the significance of the questions being raised about the legal description of the proposed village because he said no court in the history of the State of New York had ever rejected a proposed metes and bounds description that had previously been reviewed and approved by a government agency. He said the borders that Edgemont had proposed were reviewed and approved on July 2, 1923 by the Westchester County Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Bernstein also dismissed last minute claims that certain signatures on the petition did not match the signatures of those individuals on voter registration rolls. Mr. Bernstein suggested that the six signatures identified at the last minute as being “suspicious” were not enough to invalidate the rights of 1400 residents whose signatures were not questioned and who were more than enough to qualify under state law to have the petition certified.
If Mr. Feiner certifies the petition, he could call for a vote to take place before the end of the school year. If he does not certify the petition, Edgemont residents would have a legal right to challenge his ruling as well as bring claims against Mr. Feiner and the Town for conspiring to engage in voter suppression in violation of their First Amendment rights to petition government
If the ruling on the certification issue succeeds, it is possible that a vote could take place in early fall.