City Council Debate: Gleason Sharply Critical of Gerson Tenure

IMG_0340 The five candidates competing to represent District 1 (including the LES) on the City Council debated the issues Monday night at a forum sponsored by The Villager and Downtown Express newspapers. The evening was marked by an aggressive attack on incumbent Alan Gerson by challenger Pete Gleason. By the end of the forum, held at Pace University, the contours of the race began to take shape. In the absence of major disagreements on the issues, the voters will likely make their choice in September's Democratic Primary based on differences in personal styles and backgrounds. Gerson vigorously defended his tenure, trumpeting a record of "unparalleled accomplishments." Gleason positioned himself as the outspoken fighter against the status quo at City Hall. Chin portrayed herself as the champion of affordable housing and education who would brings decades of experience as a community organizer to the Council. Kim touted his fresh approach to issues and an ability to build consensus. And Gregory presented himself as the affable, shoot from the hip businessman and activist, who wouldn't be afraid to speak his mind.

Multiple Lawsuits Filed in First District Council Race

It appears the State Supreme Court is going to be kept busy next week dealing with the legal maneuverings of the candidates running for the First District City Council seat. Earlier today, we reported that candidate Margaret Chin has filed suit against rival PJ KIm. Now comes word that Councilman Alan Gerson, who has been thrown off the ballot, has filed a suit against the city's Board of Elections. Also, another candidate, Pete Gleason, has filed an "invalidating petition," against Gerson and the Elections Board, arguing that he should not be allowed back on the ballot.

The Gerson campaign has said a printer's error was responsible for an incorrect address on the cover sheet on one volume of his petitions. This is how the Downtown Express has characterized what happened next:

When the Board of Elections wrote Gerson about the
mistake, he sent one of his campaign volunteers down to fix the error.
The volunteer, who is an elections lawyer, crossed off the extra “1”s
but forgot one key thing: At the bottom of the amended cover sheet, he
was supposed to write, “This is to certify that I am authorized to file
this amended cover sheet” and then sign and date it, said Valerie
Vazquez, spokesperson for the Board of Elections. Gerson
said the volunteer realized his mistake while he was still in the
building and tried to correct it, but the Board of Elections would not
allow him to do so. “You only have one
opportunity to cure a defect,” Vazquez said. The cover sheet “was not
presented to the board in accordance with the rules.”

The article, in yesterday's newspaper, continues:

Gerson, who is a lawyer, defended his decision to not
go down to the Board of Elections himself when the issue with the
petitions first came to light last week. “I’m
not an election lawyer, I didn’t think it was necessary, and my first
priority remains the business of my district,” Gerson said.

The Gleason camp is calling into question the Gerson statement that he did not go to the Board of Elections Office personally. Gleason's lawyer, Ray Dowd, says if it can be proven that Gerson was handling the issue himself, then he's guilty of fraud. Even if Gerson wasn't present, Dowd contends Gerson was still responsible for the actions of his staffers and the printer. Dowd says the Gleason campaign is not dwelling on a trivial matter. Instead, he argues the counter-lawsuit is about upholding an important principle: the integrity of the petition process — and a framework that is meant to ensure the candidates on the ballot have a "mandate from the people."

But the Gerson team made a different argument in the Downtown Express article:

Lawrence A. Mandelker, an election lawyer Gerson hired,
said the Board of Elections was wrong to ask Gerson to submit an
amended cover sheet in the first place, since there was no problem with
the original cover sheet. The board could have just discounted the
petitions with the incorrect address, which would have left more than
enough signatures to qualify Gerson for the ballot, Mandelker said. The
goal of election law is to prevent fraud, “And here, there was no
fraud,” Mandelker said. “It’s an outrageous thing, and I don’t think
the court would stand for it for one second.”

We have a call into the Gerson campaign, seeking comment.

The Gleason campaign is also challenging candidate Arthur Gregory's petitions through the Election Board's normal complaint procedure.This is what Gregory had to say about that on his Facebook page:

My petitions have been challenged by John Ross hwo live on W. Broadway in Tiberca NYC, He says he did it because friends told him and his wife Catherine, that I supported loud noise bars, (which I do not). He then stated it was really Pete Gleason one of my oppentants, who for day's has said he had not, until his lawer R. Dowd told him to. I have 2 get a lawyer now.

Regarding the Chin/Kim suit, we have heard back from Margaret Chin's campaign manager Jake Itzkowitz about the lawsuit she has filed against Kim. Here's a portion of the statement he emailed to us:

Margaret Chin… has filed a legal challenge to Jin ‘PJ’
Kim’s designating petitions contending that on top of an alarmingly high rate
of invalid signatures, a large number of the witness statements in Kim’s
petitions were either forged or tampered with. Margaret Chin, who has always
fought for equality and justice, saw the gross forgeries as an assault on the
rights of the voters in District 1 to have authentic candidates on the ballot… As to why we chose to raise these issues in court, rather than at the Board of Elections,
fraud and tampering are serious
allegations and severe breaches of the voters trust. It is only appropriate
that these concerns are debated in a court of law.

It should be an interesting day at the courthouse on Monday.