Sedita decides not to prosecute Niagara Legislature clerk in petition flap - The Buffalo News
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Sedita decides not to prosecute Niagara Legislature clerk in petition flap

LOCKPORT – Niagara County Legislature Clerk Mary Jo Tamburlin will not be prosecuted for turning in some nominating petitions that Democrats claimed were fraudulent.

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said Wednesday that he has decided not to file charges against Tamburlin, a Republican, because he can’t prove she intended to break the law. “There’s no evidence her intent was fraudulent or criminal,” said Sedita.

Sedita, a Democrat, was handed the case by Niagara County District Attorney Michael J. Violante, a Republican, because Tamburlin is believed to have worked on Violante’s past election campaigns.

The flap arose over some petitions that sought to obtain an “opportunity to ballot,” or a write-in primary, for Working Families Party members in the 5th Legislature District.

In her role as a notary public, Tamburlin is allowed to gather nominating petition signatures in any political party.

She joined Giulio G. Colangelo, an Independence Party member running for the 5th District seat as the GOP nominee, in seeking signatures for the Working Families opportunity to ballot. That’s something Colangelo himself could not have done legally.

The district’s incumbent Democrat, Jason A. Zona, who is the endorsed Working Families candidate, cried foul because the petitions that Tamburlin notarized carried the names of three newly registered Working Families members.

Tamburlin did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

Colangelo said, “I was glad to hear the issue’s resolved, and I just want to concentrate on issues that are important to the people of the 5th District.”

He previously told The Buffalo News he was present the night of July 17, one day before the filing deadline, as Tamburlin obtained the signatures of three Town of Niagara men and also registered them as voters in the Working Families Party.

However, the petition carried the date of July 18 for each signature, and since the voter registrations couldn’t be processed until the morning of July 18, Democrats charged that the dates on the petition were false and that the men were ineligible to sign it because they weren’t official Working Families members when they did so.

The Democrats obtained affidavits from the three attesting that they didn’t sign the petition on July 18 as the petition notarized by Tamburlin stated. “We can’t tell whether that was an honest mistake or done with nefarious intent,” Sedita said.

“I guess it’s normal, when you’re having people sign petitions, to not date them,” Zona said sarcastically. “It was clearly an intent to misdate them. Whether the district attorney wants to say that or not, any logical person can see that’s what it was.”

The Niagara County Board of Elections disallowed the petition, and at the Democrats’ request, the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office investigated.


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