Bethlehem Independence Party lawsuit dismissed

A judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought on by an Independence Party member to invalidate petition signatures for Supervisor Jack Cunningham and other Independence Party candidates for the fall elections in Bethlehem.

Acting Supreme Court Justice Kimberly O'Conner ruled in Albany County Court against attorney James Walsh, who was representing the party member, Jeanette Whitbeck, on Thursday, Aug. 6, after a witness verified her petition signature. She subsequently claimed she was bullied by a private investigator into saying she was not read an oath before signing it.

The decision approves the Independence Party ballot petitions for Cunningham, Councilman Kyle Kotary and Bethlehem Independence Party Chairman Mark Jordan for Town Board, as well as Nanci Moquin for town clerk and Gregg Sagendorph for highway superintendent.

I'm pleased with the outcome but I'm not surprised, said attorney Justin O. Corcoran, who represented the Independence Party candidates. "We asked the judge to formally validate the petitions, which was included in her decision."

Independence Party Councilman Sam Messina is running against Cunningham for town supervisor. His campaign suffered a similar blow last week when the Albany County Board of Elections dismissed a Working Families Party objection against Cunningham's opportunity to ballot. Messina contends the objection was tossed out "on a technicality."

Both he and Fernando (Fred) Di Maggio were also named in the suit against Cunningham and Kotary. Di Maggio is running for Bethlehem Town Board on the Republican and Conservative lines.

The court ruling stated "Any remaining arguments have been considered by the court and found to be without merit and/or rendered moot."

The stage is now set for an Independence Party primary as well as an opportunity to ballot primary for the Working Families line in September.

Walsh called the ruling "disappointing."

"The judge had ruled that she had not believed that failing to administer an oath is wrong and I think she read the law wrong," Walsh said. "I'd have to respectfully disagree with her ruling."

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