Lackawanna lawmakers have yet to decide who will fill the First Ward City Council seat vacated by Abdulsalam Noman.
Mohamed Albanna won the seat in the general election in November, but was barred from taking it by a State Supreme Court Justice Tracey Bannister. Her ruling was handed down just 10 days before he was scheduled to be sworn Saturday in the Lackawanna Senior Center on Martin Road.
"It came out of left field," said Albanna about the decision. "I will persist until I hit the wall. The judge overturned an election."
Albanna was convicted of a felony in 2006 under the Patriot Act for sending more than $5 million to relatives in Yemen and he served a five-year prison sentence. He already had fended off two attempts by Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski to prevent him taking political office because of that conviction.
Peter A. Reese, one of Albanna's attorneys, called the mayor's efforts "xenophobic.” Reese and attorney James Ostrowski have appealed the judge's ruling. The New York State Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear the case Jan. 17.
"If we stop everyone who has a criminal record from running for public office, the field will be thin," said Albanna. "My felony was to help members of the community, and I did my time.
"I thought in America everyone is entitled to a second chance," said Albanna. "I had a felony, the voters knew that, and I still won."
Albanna spent $4,500 on legal fees to date and expected the total to reach $10,000.
Szymanski incurred $3,000 in legal costs so far to uphold the city charter provision that prevents anyone convicted of a crime of "moral turpitude" from holding office. More than 100 residents gathered outside Lackawanna City Hall two weeks ago to protest Szymanski's spending of taxpayer money in the Albanna case.
Szymanski created a vacancy in 2012 after he left the Second Ward City Council seat for the mayor's office. His council seat was vacant for four months.
The next meeting for the City Council is 7 p.m. Wednesday.