Working Families party, board of elections await decision

The outcome of the Columbia County Working Families party case remains uncertain after hearings Tuesday and Wednesday. A decision from the judge is expected soon. Aliya Schneider/Columbia-Greene Media

Two officials from the Working Families party testified about signatures challenged in a lawsuit filed by a Ghent resident and a Hudson Ward supervisor.

The challenge against the Columbia County Working Families party candidates was consolidated with cases from 13 other counties throughout the state.

Ghent resident Christopher Cornell and Hudson 2nd Ward Supervisor Abdus Miah challenged local Working Families Party candidates spots on the ballot in Columbia County Court. Their attorney, John Ciampoli of Messina, Perillo and Hill, LPP, of Sayville, claimed signatures from Working Families Party officials and the notary on the certificate of authorization were not authentic.

Judge Scott DelConte, a justice of the Supreme Court, 5th Judicial District in New York, from Oswego County, presided over a hearing for the consolidated case Tuesday through Onondaga County Supreme Court. The hearing took place online through Microsoft Teams.

Paul DerOhannesian, of DerOhannesian and DerOhannesian, of Albany, representing petitioners in the Dave Knapp v. Christopher Hess, et al., Onondaga County case, questioned witnesses Daniel Langenbucher and Jonathan Westin from the Working Families Party and the notary William Sacks, who testified about their signatures on the certificates of authorization.

The witnesses were questioned about how and when they signed the certificates of authorization.

Langenbucher and Westin both described meeting on Zoom with Sacks. During the meeting they showed their driver’s licenses to the camera and signed a blank piece of paper that they showed the camera. Both men said they uploaded the photo of their respective signatures to their computers and copied and pasted their own signatures onto each digital certificate while sharing their screens on Zoom.

After DerOhannesian questioned each witness and Alexander Rabb, of Levy Ratner, P.C., of New York City, representing the Working Families Party, gave his rebuttal questioning, the attorneys from the other cases were permitted to ask each witness questions.

Ciampoli asked Westin whether Langenbucher and Sacks could see him attach his signature to the certificate of authorization and Westin responded they could see him attach the signature through his camera as well as see him copy and paste his signature onto the document on a Zoom screen share.

The action of digitally pasting his signature onto the documents was intended to represent his signature, Westin said. The party officials performed the action of signing the documents over Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. He was able to read the documents through a shared Google Drive before signing them, he said.

In the Columbia County portion of the lawsuit, Cornell and Miah targeted Ghent town board candidates Mallory Mort, Laurie Johnson and Carl Quinn, and Hudson 2nd Ward Alderwoman and Common Council Majority Leader Tiffany Garriga.

The case could affect almost 30 candidates in the county. Garriga is running against Miah for the 2nd Ward Supervisor post.

Ciampoli argued the signatures were inauthentic because they were clipped from other documents, copied and pasted to digital certificates and that the documents submitted to the Board of Elections were not original.

No counsel was present specifically for the respondents in the Columbia County case.

Ciampoli, who represents Cornell and Miah, was present. He also represented petitioners on at least one other cases. Ciampoli said he received an email from an attorney in Columbia County who could not access the online meeting.

Three individuals streamed from the Oswego County Courthouse, where the certificates of authorization and relevant documents were due by 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The court had not received documents from Columbia County.

Ciampoli called a Columbia County clerk during the proceeding, who said she was looking for the documents, according to Ciampoli.

Documents from Albany County, Onondaga County, Rensselaer County, Ulster County, Broome County, Monroe County and Dutchess County were scanned on camera.

Erie County, Suffolk County, Monroe County and Rockland County were also part of the consolidation.

The court took a break around 11 a.m. as the Oswego workers finished scanning the documents.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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