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Dec 10, 2014 11:58 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Update: Re-Vote Will Be Held For Bridgehampton Fire Commissioner's Election

Dec 19, 2014 9:43 AM

UPDATE: Thursday, 10 a.m.

A second round of voting on January 20 will decide who fills the seat on the Bridgehampton Fire District Board of Commissioners.

After the votes cast by two people were challenged following Tuesday’s vote, attorney Brad Pinsky said that the district’s current commissioners decided, and the candidates agreed, that a runoff election would be the easiest way to settle the issue.

The re-vote will be held at the Bridgehampton Fire Department headquarters on School Street on Tuesday, January 20.

On a roller coaster ride Wednesday, fire district election officials first validated some questioned ballots, giving the election victory to John O’Brien, but then raised doubts about two other ballots, whose disqualification would potentially have given the election to Philip Cammann.

The district on Wednesday also invalidated the votes cast on a proposal to extend the amount of time a person must serve in the department in order to receive a state service stipend. The initial count of the ballots indicated the issue had been defeated by a 2-to-1 margin. But in canvassing the ballots on Wednesday, Mr. Pinsky said it appeared to him that the measure may have actually passed but that a confusing ballot design may have led some residents to cast unclear votes. He said the vote on the proposal would have to be re-held, but that it would not be on the night of the commissioner election re-vote.

On Tuesday night, 187 people turned out to cast ballots in the Bridgehampton election. Three of the ballots cast were left uncounted in the official tally because they were not filled out correctly, leaving the two candidates at a tie. On Wednesday afternoon, election tellers and Mr. Pinsky declared the three ballots valid because the intentions of the voters were clear. But then a question was raised about whether two of residents who had cast different ballots were living in the district at the time of the vote.

UPDATE: Wednesday, 2:30 p.m.

No sooner had the Bridgehampton Fire District’s appointed election tellers certified the three disputed votes and given the commissioner seat to John O’Brien, then a new concern about the vote tallies was raised and the validity of the entire vote called into question.

Fire district attorney Brad Pinsky and district election tellers had already declared that the vote on the retirement awards would have to be thrown out and re-held because of mistakes on the ballot, when the new concerns about the commissioner’s race came up.

With just one vote separating the candidates, there is now a question of whether two people who cast ballots in Tuesday’s vote are still residents of the district. The certification of Mr. O’Brien’s election had been withdrawn as of 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday and district officials were trying to determine whether any votes were cast improperly.

Mr. Pinsky said that if the two individuals who voted were found to not currently be legal residents of the district, the entire vote would have to be set aside and re-held because there would be no way to legally determine who those individuals voted for. The throwing out of their ballots would only impact those votes that could have the outcome changed by two votes.

“It would have no effect on Earl Gandel’s election because the margin of victory is greater than these votes could change,” Mr. Pinsky said. “But because it’s only a one-vote difference between the commissioner candidates, we’d have to throw it out.”

The district has 72 hours in which to determine whether the vote is valid.

Shortly before 2 p.m., three of the five election tellers—Barbara Damiecki, Harry Halsey and Jean Smith—had determined that all three of the ballots left in doubt on Tuesday night should be counted. That appeared to give John O’Brien a one-vote margin of victory in the commissioner’s race over Philip Cammann, though Mr. Cammann had left open the possibility that he would challenge the tally.

“I’ll have to give that some thought today,” he said shortly after the tellers had declared Mr. O’Brien the winner. The two men shook hands.

The question about whether two individuals, who Mr. Pinsky would not name, came up a short time later and the attorney said that their residency status must be determined before the vote can be certified. He said the two people are believed to be selling or have sold their house in Bridgehampton and may already be living outside the district.

ORIGINAL STORY:

As of Wednesday afternoon, the results of the Bridgehampton Fire District’s commissioners election were unresolved, as the official ballot count on Tuesday night left the race between Philip Cammann and John O’Brien in a dead heat, 86-86.

But three ballots cast Tuesday were not counted by election monitors because they were not filled out properly. On all three ballots, the same problem arose: The voter made no mark in the designated box next to either of the candidates’ names on the ballot, but instead wrote in the name of one of the two candidates. All three voters also failed to check the box next to the space for write-in votes, as instructions on the ballot form indicated was necessary for the vote to count.

One of those ballots had Philip Cammann’s name on it. The other two had John O’Brien’s name on them.

Both candidates and the four designated election officials were due to meet with the district’s attorney, Brad Pinsky, on Wednesday afternoon to determine whether the three questioned ballots should be counted, as they would appear, at face value, to have been cast—giving the race to Mr. O’Brien by a one-vote margin.

But Mr. Pinsky said on Wednesday morning that there is another wrinkle that could further complicate the resolution of the vote.

While the two write-in votes cast for John O’Brien contained the same errors as the one for Mr. Cammann, there actually are three men named John O’Brien on the district’s voter rolls—who could all technically be eligible for write-in votes for district commissioner, even though only one of them was listed on the ballot. There is only one Philip Cammann on the district’s rolls.

There are a number of possible outcomes, Mr. Pinsky said, for election officials to consider. The questioned ballots could be set aside, the vote called a tie, and a runoff election scheduled. The election tellers also could rule that because there is no doubt about the intentions of the voter who wrote in Mr. Cammann’s name, only that ballot might be ruled permissible, and Mr. Cammann could be declared the winner. Or the election officials could find that the two John O’Brien write-in votes were clearly intended to be votes for the official candidate, and all three votes would be counted, giving the race to Mr. O’Brien.

“If the tellers choose Mr. Cammann, Mr. O’Brien could appeal. If the tellers choose Mr. O’Brien, Mr. Cammann could appeal,” Mr. Pinsky said. “The law would not throw out Philip Cammann’s one vote. But it might take a judge to decide the issue with John O’Brien, if it comes to that.”

In the other election on the Bridgehampton ballot Tuesday, Earl Gandel won election to the district treasurer’s office. He will replace Charles Butler, who has been the district’s treasurer and financial secretary for more than 30 years, but was stripped of most of his duties and all of his $60,000 salary by the commissioners following questions about some bookkeeping and accounting practices.

Mr. Butler, who is suing the district for wrongful termination, did not submit a candidate’s petition and was not on the ballot. Nonetheless, he received 42 write-in votes for reelection. Mr. Gandel collected 108 votes and will take over what is currently an unpaid and largely responsibility-free role, since most of the department’s financial management duties have been handed over to Mr. Pinsky’s firm as part of a contract.

Bridgehampton voters also rejected a proposition on Tuesday’s ballot that would have extended the amount of service time needed in order to earn a state retirement award for extended volunteer service. The vote on the measure, which would have extended the time served requirement from just one year to five years, failed, 101-53.

Other Races

In the Southampton Fire District vote, incumbent David Price won another five years as fire commissioner, beating Rodney “Chip” Pierson, 82-46. Mr. Price, 54, has served as a fire commissioner since the board was first created 11 years ago and for the past two years as chairman.

In North Sea, Greg Robins was elected to the district board of fire commissioners. He was unopposed.

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Mr. Pinsky , please go back to Syracuse. You have made a bad situation worst. You have done nothing but make money for yourself and the residents of the Bridge Hampton Fire DIstrict are left funding your shenaigans.
By Colt (36), Wainscott on Dec 10, 14 4:16 PM
Bridgehampton is one word.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Dec 11, 14 11:35 AM
1 member liked this comment
agreed! and it is Bridgehampton, not bridge, or east or south or hampton or west......
By bh nematode (10), bridgehampton on Dec 12, 14 9:36 AM
Wait until we have to pay up for Butler. By then Pinsky will be long gone. Then who will we have to blame . . .oh, I know!
By nazznazz (276), east hampton on Dec 10, 14 7:34 PM
2 members liked this comment
From what I have learned, Mr. Pinsky does not seem to last long anywhere. Opinions seem to be that he is a great salesman and a crappy lawyer.
By Fire Fighter (9), Bridgehampton on Dec 15, 14 11:46 AM
So if the fire district officials are not capable of constructing a simple, understandable ballot are they capable of managing our tax dollars and emergency services? I think not. Also, why does a "successful" fire service lawyer have to make an 800 mile round trip twice a month to find work? Just saying.
By Fire Fighter (9), Bridgehampton on Dec 11, 14 10:57 AM
2 members liked this comment
Will the two people that voted unlawfully be charged with voter fraud? Did they sign the qualification petitions of any of the candidates? What a mess.
By Fire Fighter (9), Bridgehampton on Dec 11, 14 2:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Not surprised at the confusion of the ballot. Last year there was the same problem. You would think they could have learned from their mistakes. Typical because the District board has been asleep at the wheel for years now. They can't make decisions without Pinsky giving them the OK. They're not bad people but who would let let a mechanic or a truck driver with a high school education oversee nearly $6,000,000 in assets while micromanaging the fire department. Apparently the tax-payers of Bridgehampton ...more
By TerryElkins (1), Bridgehampton on Dec 11, 14 7:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
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