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Lackawanna mayor sues to bump candidate with felony record from council race

Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski on Friday filed a lawsuit in Erie County Supreme Court to try to stop Mohamed Albanna, a candidate with a felony record, from running for City Council.

Szymanski sued Albanna and county Board of Election Commissioners Ralph M. Mohr and Jeremy Zellner.

In the Article 78 proceeding, Szymanski challenged the election commissioners decision to allow Albanna to remain on the ballot as a council candidate in Lackawanna's First Ward after rejecting petition challenges from Albanna's opponent, John Ingram, and from Daniel Koziol, a resident of the First Ward.

"In my view I don't know whether Mr. Albanna should or should not be allowed to run for public office," Szymanski said. "But there is a provision in our charter that states a person shall be ineligible to assume or continue in a public office if they were convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude."

In 2006, Albanna was sentenced to five years in federal prison after he was convicted of illegally sending $5.5 million dollars to Yemen, his native country. The Justice Department prosecuted Albanna as part of a wave of post-9/11 cases, although prosecutors acknowledged they had no evidence that the Albanna funds were used to finance terrorist activities.

He did 5 years in federal prison, now wants 4 years on Lackawanna council

"It is not their job to interpret the city charter," Szymanski said of the commissioners.

Szymanski's lawsuit cited a case in which former county Legislator Frederick Pordum was removed from the ballot in the 1983 Lackawanna mayoral primary. Pordum and former county legislator Frank Ludera were convicted in 1971 of conspiracy to solicit bribes in connection with the Lancaster domed stadium project. Pordum was sentenced to three years in prison.

That case went to the Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department, which affirmed a lower court's decision to remove Pordum from the ballot.

In the Sept. 12 primary election, Albanna and Ingram will be running against each other for the Conservative Party nomination. Albanna will be on the Nov. 7 general election ballot on the Democratic Party line. No candidates will be on the Republican line. Ingram has filed a petition to also be on an independent party ballot line in Nov. 7 election.


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