By Jeanne Sager
LIVINGSTON MANOR May 14, 2002 Voters in the Livingston Manor Central School district will have different choices than expected when they go to the polls next Tuesday.
Two seats on the school board are up for election this year: that of nine-year member James Powell and six-year member Jeanne Shaver.
But in late April, charges came to light alleging that the incumbents cannot legally run for their positions this year.
According to Cathy Mead, one of the three residents up for Powells empty chair, when she approached the district clerk to review the petitions presented by other candidates, she was informed that incumbents arent required to submit the signatures other candidates must obtain.
However, state education law requires every resident up for election to provide the district with a petition proving other residents support their candidacy.
As far as anyone Ive talked to with the state education department knows, you all need to file, Mead said.
She approached the clerk when Powell decided on the last day of eligibility to run again for the board, Mead said.
I wondered how he could have gotten 25 signatures in one day, she noted. I wasnt looking for this, it just happened.
It wasnt done maliciously; it was just done to verify that we were all candidates.
According to school Superintendent Dr. Ken Gray, the district has allowed incumbents to run without a new petition for his 18-year tenure, and other sources say incumbents have never been required to submit signatures in the history of the district.
I didnt know that it was required, Gray noted, I wish I had.
I make a lot of mistakes, and Im not a liar I dont lie, but I wish Id known about this.
According to Gray, ignorance is no excuse for the incumbents mistake, but they were not trying to deceive the public.
This is the way its been done for as long as anyone can remember, Shaver said.
Powell and Shaver have both removed their names from the ballot and will be running as write-in candidates only. Because the date for submitting a petition has passed, the incumbents cannot turn around and submit new signatures.
They considered remaining on the ballot and allowing the state education commissioner to rule on the issue but decided against it.
They chose to be write-in candidates rather than risk the integrity of the election, Gray explained.
Our lawyers told us if we went to election with our names on the ballot, it could be contested, Shaver noted.
If the election was contested, any votes from the public for the incumbents would have likely been thrown out even if they were declared the winner. The candidate with the second highest amount of votes would have won.
That would be unfair to the voters, Shaver said, so theyve been advertising themselves as write-in candidates.
Shavers only complaint, she noted, is that other candidates have been claiming that she and Powell are not running.
We may not be on the ballot, Shaver said, but were certainly candidates theyre lying to the public.
We want people to understand that were just as viable candidates as those who are on the ballot.
According to Mead, the incumbents removing their names from the ballot satisfies her complaint making this election legal.
However, she said residents are not clear on why the ballot has been changed.
Theres an advertisement at Pecks saying they are write-in candidates, and there is a note at the bottom saying its because of a printing error, Mead explained. But its not.
I want a fair election, thats all I want, she said.
Running for Powells empty seat will be Mead, Danny Taggart and Elliott Schneider. Edna Simpson will be running for Shavers open position. The election will be held Tuesday, May 21, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the old gym at the school.