April 30, 2010
Appellate court rules against Wood
Former Democratic election commissioner sought to regain his post
ALBANY — The state Supreme Court Appellate Division has upheld a lower court ruling on the appointment of the Cortland County Democratic election commissioner, rejecting the former commissioner’s lawsuit to regain his seat.
The five-judge panel rejected an appeal brought by Bill Wood seeking to overturn a Feb. 18, 2009, State Supreme Court ruling that found his replacement, Tom Brown, was legally appointed by the Legislature.
Wood’s attorney, Mary Leonard, argued in March before the appellate court that Rumsey’s ruling should be overturned, saying either she or Wood should have been appointed.
The Cortland County Democratic Committee filed a certificate of nomination for Wood in June 2008 and another certificate in August for Leonard after the Legislature’s Democratic caucus deadlocked twice on Wood’s nomination.
Wood sought a second two-year term as commissioner as his first term was closing on Dec. 31, 2008.
The appellate court’s decision states that a third certificate on Dec. 8, again recommending Wood, was not filed within 90 days of the previous certificate and hence invalid.
The Legislature was within its rights to appoint Brown by recommendation of the Democratic caucus on Dec. 11, the ruling found.
The appellate division supports Rumsey’s finding that since neither Wood nor Leonard were validly appointed to the post, the Legislature had the right to choose Brown for the position.
Brown said Thursday he had been concerned about the pending verdict since the March court appearance.
“I am happy with the decision and ... I am grateful to my Democratic colleagues and the whole Legislature for my initial appointment,” Brown said.
Leonard did not return a phone call for comment by press time.
Democratic Party Chairman Dan Tagliente said the committee is not paying for Wood’s legal fees.
But Tagliente said approximately $4,200 in checks signed by Wood in June 2009 when he was Democratic Party Chairman, remains unsubstantiated.
“There was a problem with the finances when he left so whether he’s used some of the money we can’t account for I don’t know,” Tagliente said.
Wood could not be reached for comment.
In July 2008 the Democratic Committee approved funding Wood’s election commissioner lawsuits. The checks were apparently used to pay legal fees and payment for a voter registration file for the Democratic Committee. But the party was never able to substantiate these expenses, citing missing paperwork.
When the party questioned the finances in February, Wood said all the proper documentation had been submitted.
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