WATERTOWN — City Attorney Robert J. Slye said city voters should choose from three candidates on the ballot in November’s mayoral election.
Mr. Slye said it should be up to City Council members to decide whether former Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith, Allison I. Crossman and Councilman Cody J. Horbacz will all be on the ballot for mayor. His advice comes at a time when the Jefferson County Board of Elections’ two commissioners cannot agree on whose names should be on the mayoral ballot.
Councilman Horbacz and Mrs. Crossman ended up in a tie for second place in the June 25 mayoral primary, with Mr. Smith finishing with the most votes.
Mr. Slye said voters should decide who becomes the next mayor.
“Not only is it fair for the candidates, but it’s also fair to the voters of the city of Watertown,” Mr. Slye said.
Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero confirmed that a resolution is being drafted for Monday night that will direct the county election board that the three candidates should be on the ballot for November.
“In essence, it will say to put the three candidates on the ballot,” she said.
The nonpartisan council is expected to vote on the resolution that night, she said.
The issue stems from the mayoral race being nonpartisan, and the city’s law doesn’t have a provision in place for ties.
The election board certified the election on Friday, with Mrs. Crossman and Councilman Horbacz each receiving 597 votes. Mr. Smith got 837.
But Mrs. Crossman’s lawyer, John Ciampoli, with Sinnreich, Kosakoff & Messina, LLP in Long Island, hopes to avoid legal action. Instead, he plans to either talk to the two election commissioners or send them a letter expressing that the city’s law makes it clear that all three candidates should be on the ballot.
Mr. Ciampoli insisted that the matter should not cost taxpayers — or his client — any money for it to be resolved.
The issue revolves around a reading of the city nonpartisan election law, which says “the board of elections shall certify under the hand of its secretary or commissioners the names of the persons who received the largest and next largest number of votes for mayor.”
Mr. Ciampoli pointed out that the law does not list how many “persons” must be put on the ballot. He called the situation “unique” and “one of a kind.”
Meanwhile, Councilman Horbacz hasn’t hired an attorney and doesn’t plan to retain one. Instead, he’ll “wait and see” what happens.
Until then, he said he and Mrs. Crossman are “in limbo.” They cannot campaign or do any fundraising until they find out if one or both are on the ballot in November.