Judge: Zecca, Vescera Don’t Have Enough Valid Signatures To Force Democratic Primary
Sitting Utica Councilman Frank Vescera and former city councilor Jim Zecca did not collect the required number of valid signatures to force a Democratic primary in their respective races this fall.
That ruling coming from Oneida County Supreme Court Justice Norman Siegel after he spent the better part of two days reviewing the petitions, specifically, those that were challenged by the Oneida County Board of Elections.
He did overturn the board's decision in some instances, but upheld a large majority of their objections.
Vescera is looking to primary incumbent city council president, Frank Meola, while Zecca is looking to primary Jack LoMedico for a council-at-large seat. Both Meola and LoMedico have the Democratic party's endorsement.
Meanwhile, Vescera and Zecca already have a spot on the November ballot under the Conservative line.
The determination of how many petitions are appropriate for these two races is likely headed to the state Court of Appeals, as the attorney for Zecca and Vescera still contends that each candidate only needed 500 signatures. Judge Siegel ruled earlier in the week that each needed 708 - representing 5% of the city's active registered Democrats.
Attorney James Walsh's appeal centers on interpretation of state election law: Section 6 - 136, paragraphs 'E', 'F' and 'J'. He also contends that county Democratic Election Commissioner Russell Stewart misinformed his clients, via email, that they needed just 500 - something that is not disputed by Stewart.
Zecca and Vescera gathered more than 800 signatures and the BOE challenged over 200 of those. Following a line-by-line review of the disputed signatures, it was agreed by both sides that 653 of the petitions were valid - more than the 500 the candidates believed they needed, but less that the 708 the judge deemed necessary.
During the three-day proceeding, assistant Oneida County Attorney Raymond Bara was seen consulting with the two Board of Elections Commissioners - Stewart, and Rose Grimaldi - and Meola, who is also the Utica Democratic Party Chairman.
The opposition suggested that Meola's presence in the meetings was inappropriate.
When asked, Bara said the Frank Meola is 'a party to the petitions just like the board of elections is', and that they were 'discussing matters about objections in our case.'
On Tuesday, Former councilman Zecca went so far as to photograph and record all four walking out of a conference room together, and sent the photo to WIBX labeled 'corruption & conspiring??'.
On Wednesday, when Grimaldi mentioned the incident to Judge Siegel, he said he had no issue with the recording and photographs being done outside the courtroom.