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Board of Confusion: Bombay reponding to election fiasco

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BOMBAY - A series of misinterpretations by various Bombay officials will result in Town Councilman Mike Kelley losing his seat on the town board at the end of the month, but his departure from town government could be very brief.

The realization that longtime Councilwoman Mary Lacerenza’s seat wasn’t the one up for grabs in November’s election hit the board Wednesday when the Franklin County Board of Elections confirmed Ms. Kelley had been elected in 2009 and Mr. Lacerenza in 2011. Bombay councilmen serve four year terms.

Town officials –– including Mr. Kelley –– had believed that Ms. Lacerenza’s term expired at the end of the year, while Mr. Kelley still had two years remaining to serve, when in fact the opposite is true.

Because of that belief, Mr. Kelley did not run for re-election in November, while Ms. Lacerenza –– who wanted to step down from her position –– must now submit a letter of resignation to do so.

Multiple town officials expressed shock and dismay at the mistake, which means Mr. Kelley must be appointed to Ms. Lacerenza’s seat in order to stay on the board.

The confusion began at an August meeting, when Bombay Democratic Caucus Chairman Don Dabiew approached the town board and asked whose seats would appear on the November ballot. Ms. Lacerenza responded that she didn’t want to run again, which led Mr. Dabiew and the rest of the board to assume it was the end of her term.

“I said ‘I’m done, I’m done.’ I really wanted to be out. I’m tired of going to the meetings. I’m old, I thought somebody new should be in there,” said Ms. Lacerenza. “I wanted to quit, and I just wanted to be home.”

She never meant to mislead everyone into thinking her term was up, she said. Ms. Lacerenza only wanted to let them know she was thinking of resigning. But when the Democratic caucus rolled around in early September, Mr. Dabiew announced the seats currently held by Ms. Lacerenza and Phil Reardon would be on the November ballot.

Mr. Reardon, whose does expire at the end of the year, opted not to seek re-election.

Town Clerk Jennifer Reardon and Supervisor Mary Taylor agreed that if they’d known it was actually Mr. Kelley’s seat that was up they would have nominated him for re-election instead of bringing up two new candidates.

“We like Mike. We want him to stay,” Ms. Reardon said.

Incoming Councilman Jim Brann even said that he and fellow incoming Councilman Jacque Leduc only ran because the presumed incumbents were presented as “uninterested in re-election.”

Even Mr. Kelley misinterpreted Ms. Lacerenza’s statement, saying he’d forgotten he’d served his full four years on the board because he enjoys the job so much.

“I had no idea my term was up. And if I knew I would have definitely run again,” said Mr. Kelley, who nominated Mr. Leduc at the party caucus. “I am a little shocked. I just don’t know what to say about it.”

Ms. Lacerenza did not attend the Democratic caucus in September.

Ms. Lacerenza attempting to submit a letter of resignation just a few weeks ago. She said that Ms. Taylor and Ms. Reardon thought she was joking about having time left on her term and told her it was unnecessary to resign when she was already on her way out.

“I feel bad because Mary did say something. We argued with her,” Ms. Reardon said. “I never looked it up because I didn’t believe her.”

Democratic Commissioner of Elections Kelly Cox explained that Franklin County only notifies towns of what positions are open, not the names of the people currently holding those positions. While they do have that information, it’s the duty of the town clerk, not the BOE, to keep track, she said.

While Ms. Reardon accepts responsibility for not checking her own list, she wonders why the BOE doesn’t include the information in their election notices.

Ms. Lacerenza is expected to submit an official letter of resignation over the next few days, and the board plans to appoint Mr. Kelley to her open seat at their first 2014 meeting.

Ms. Cox said Mr. Kelley must run for the remaining year on Lacerenza’s seat in November 2014, and then again in 2015 for a full four-year term. Mr. Kelley says he’ll do whatever he needs to in order to stay on the board he loves.

“I will definitely run again. I guess that’s what I have to do,” he said.

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