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Candidate’s legitimacy questioned for June 16 Dering Harbor vote

JO ANN KIRKLAND PHOTO | Dering Harbor Village elections once again is attracting controversy.
JO ANN KIRKLAND PHOTO | Dering Harbor Village elections once again is attracting controversy.

There will be an election on June 16 featuring four candidates seeking two seats on the Dering Harbor Village Board.

Non-incumbent candidate Robert Ferris complained that his neighbor, John Colby Jr., tried to knock him off the ballot and that there were questions about whether the other non-incumbent candidate, his running mate Alfredo Paredes, and Mr. Ferris’ wife, Karen Kelsey, were registered to vote in Dering Harbor.

It was determined that both Mr. Paredes and Ms. Kelsey were registered to vote after Village Clerk Laura Hildreth inquired about several names on nominating petitions to establish that they were registered to vote. She needed to act to ensure that those who might request absentee ballots were eligible to receive them.

A list of specific reasons for Mr. Colby’s challenge to Mr. Ferris’ residency was sent to the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
Commissioner Nicholas LaLota said Monday he and Commissioner Anita Katz had signed a statement on May 22 indicating that a petition from the Shore Party listing Mr. Ferris as its candidate, would be “valid” as long as Mr. Ferris was registered in Dering Harbor on election day.

The Board of Elections records show that Mr. Ferris has changed his registration between Massachusetts and New York State seven times between 2007 and the present.

But the practice of moving registrations back and forth is both legal and engaged in by many residents of New York villages. It’s a way of voting by residents who own property and pay taxes in more than one place. Village elections typically occur in the spring, not during November when state and national elections traditionally occur.

But Mr. Ferris denies he’s been registered in Massachusetts for at least five years, while acknowledging he has “unregistered” after elections in Dering Harbor without declaring an alternative place to vote “as a matter of convenience.”

“Any ruling on the specifications of objections is not within the authority of the board,” the resolution issued by the Board of Elections stated.

Ms. Hildreth, who works at Village Hall only on Thursdays, couldn’t be reached for comment. But her role in submitting the challenge and the questions about voter registrations to the Board of Elections is in line with her job.

As for the man who challenged the candidate, Mr. Colby said, “I’m not the nominating police.” But what had bothered him was that while Mr. Ferris was passing his petition around for signatures to get on the ballot, and on the day he submitted that petition to Village Hall, he was still not registered as a Dering Harbor voter.

This year, Mr. Ferris and Mr. Paredes are to face off on June 16 against incumbents Heather Brownlie and Richard Smith. The winners will serve two-year terms.

In last year’s hotly contested Village Board election, Mr. Ferris sought a trustee seat, while resident Patrick Parcells tried to unseat long-time Mayor Tim Hogue.

The two men tied the mayor and incumbent Mary Walker in the June election, with 25 votes for each of the four and in a special election, Mr. Hogue and Ms. Walker prevailed handily.

At the same time, there were unsubstantiated charges from the pair who lost the special election that the voter rolls had been packed with new registrants who had no legitimate ties to Dering Harbor.