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ATTORNEY CHALLENGES CANDIDATE'S ELIGIBILITY

It had been unusually quiet this spring in the usually down-and-dirty world of Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board campaigning.

And then Kenmore attorney Charles Gallagher requested last week that Louis Reuter, the candidate supported by the teachers union, be removed from the ballot by the school district.

Gallagher contends Reuter was technically still an employee of the district when candidate petitions were due, and therefore was not eligible to run for the School Board.

"By law, an eligible candidate cannot be an employee of the school district," Gallagher wrote in an e-mail to The Buffalo News. "By law, the resignation is only effective when the School Board votes to accept it."

Reuter, a retired Ken-Ton teacher, said he had been a substitute teacher in the district since January 2001. When he decided to run for the School Board, he knew he'd have to resign that post, he said.

He submitted his resignation to the School Board in a letter dated April 4. The board voted to accept his resignation on May 12, one week after the deadline for candidates to file their petitions with the school district.

The board backdated the resignation to the date of the letter, which was more than a month prior.

Gallagher says that means Reuter was still actually a district employee at the time he filed his petition to run for the board.

Reuter says that's not true.

"That's absolutely false," he said. "I've not been an employee of the district for two months now."

It's irrelevant when the board accepted his resignation, Reuter said.

"I called them up and told them I resigned," he said. "When I tell them I resigned, I resigned. Whether they accepted it or not doesn't make any difference to me."

District officials said they consulted with attorney Bernard Freedman, who advised them Reuter was an eligible candidate.

"It's my reasoning the gentleman resigned well enough ahead of time to be eligible to run," Freedman said. "If Gallagher wants to go to court and challenge it, that's his prerogative."

Barbara Bradley, a spokeswoman for the New York State School Boards Association, agrees that Reuter is entitled to a spot on the ballot.

School district employees are not eligible to run for a School Board position in the district they work for, she said. But "the way we understand it, the eligibility to run would be measured at the time of the election. If the guy is not an employee at the time of the election, he is eligible."

Gallagher said he expected the district to deny his request to take Reuter off the ballot. He plans to appeal to State Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills, and take the matter to court, if he needs to.

Reuter is running against Gary Annis, who has been affiliated with taxpayer groups, and current Board President Donette A. Darrow for a three-year term.

Annis said he had heard about Gallagher's bid to remove Reuter from the ballot, but was not involved with it. Darrow, who voted to accept Reuter's resignation on May 12, said she thinks Reuter is an eligible candidate and ought to be on the ballot on June 3.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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