Runnie Myles, who dropped out of last month’s Democratic primary for City Council after the filing of a lawsuit claiming that hundreds of petition signatures he and his running mates gathered to get on the ballot were fraudulent, announced last week that he would run as a write-in candidate.
“I was falsely accused and I’m going to stand up for my constitutional right to run,” Myles said.
Incumbent council members Scott Mandel and Chumi Diamond, along with Darlene Tangney, chairwoman of the Independent Democratic Club of Long Beach, challenged the signatures that Myles and his running mates, Barbara Bernardino and Joe Miccio gathered to get on the primary ballot. The lawsuit filed in Nassau County State Supreme Court in July claimed that the petitions were not signed by those whose names appeared on them; that many of those who signed were not registered to vote at the residences given; and that many signers provided the wrong party affiliation, among other allegations.
Though they disputed the fraud and forgery allegations, Miccio said in August that the three candidates were dropping out of the race, days before a judge was expected to issue a ruling on whether the signatures, many of which had been thrown out in court hearings, met state election law requirements.
Miccio said they waived their right to an appeal, and that there was not enough time, money or resources to continue the fight. He had also expressed concerns about whether the Nassau County district attorney would seek criminal charges if the judge determined that the signatures constituted forgery or fraud.
But at a news conference last week, Myles said he still considers himself a candidate, adding that he conceded only because his attorney advised him to. He said that people who had signed his petitions were “harassed” during the case.
“We are going to fight this, and hopefully no one would have to go through everything I have gone through, from the slander of my name and mischaracterization of my person,” Myles said. “Trying to disenfranchise people of color, handicapped people and the elderly from voting and participating in this process and making it very difficult for people to participate … we hope to streamline that process here in Nassau County.”
Myles called for an investigation into the county Board of Elections, the county Democratic Committee and Harris Beach PLLC, the law firm representing Mandel and Diamond, accusing them of “possible collusion” to force his slate out of the primary and claiming that they violated state election law by not obtaining copies of his petitions through a Freedom of Information Law request.
“I was brought to court on falsely alleged fraud and forgery of my signatures by these replacement candidates,” Myles said at the news conference, where he provided a letter from the Board of Elections informing him that there was no record of any FOIL request. “How did [Diamond and Mandel] determine my signatures were invalid before [they] brought me to court? There’s no public record of anyone who viewed my petition of or made any copies of it.”
But county Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs dismissed Myles’s claims and said that a FOIL request was made. “Everything was done appropriately,” Jacobs said. “[Myles] makes these claims not knowing the law or the facts.”
David Gugerty, the Democratic commissioner of the Board of Elections, did not return a call requesting comment. An attorney for Harris Beach declined to comment.
Myles, Miccio and Bernardino received the Long Beach Democratic Committee’s nomination at the party’s convention in May, though Jacobs subsequently said that the party was backing Mandel and Diamond, as well as newcomer John Bendo, saying that they were the better candidates.
“[Myles, Miccio and Bernardino] have every right to try to get on the ballot,” Jacobs said. “But the judge made it clear … that if they proceeded in any fashion he would be turning over any evidence [of fraud] to the D.A. There were clear and very obvious fraudulent signatures and processes that were committed by the candidates themselves. These guys committed fraud and that’s why they got thrown off the ballot.” Attorneys for Bernardino, Miccio and Myles had argued in court that while some of the signatures may have been invalid because voters were not registered Democrats, had incorrect addresses or because of other technicalities, it did not constitute fraud.
Myles again disputed the allegations, and said he believed he still had a chance at being elected: Though his name will not appear on the ballot, voters may write it in.
Myles said he believed that he was misled by John Ciampoli, the attorney who represented his slate and advised them to concede, because the judge had yet to issue a ruling. “I feel like he definitely misled me to step down, making it seem like even though it was a false allegation, that I can be indicted or imprisoned based on false charges,” Myles said.
Miccio said he did not believe Ciampoli misled them. “Because of the allegations and high number of signatures the judge was saying were invalid, it left us open to the judge ruling that this whole thing was fraud or forgery,” Miccio said. “I know I would have been exonerated, but it would have cost tens of thousands of dollars, and who wants to have their name dragged through the mud for another year?”