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Jul 31, 2018 4:24 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Numerous Forgeries Charged In Lawsuit Over East Hampton Campaign Nominations

Jul 31, 2018 4:46 PM

A lawsuit filed last week in State Supreme Court charges members of the East Hampton Independence Party with committing fraud by forging signatures on petitions that supported the party’s nomination of David Gruber as its candidate for the Town Board seat on this November’s ballot.

Included with the lawsuit were affidavits by eight party members whose signatures appear on the petition sheets submitted by party leaders in support of Mr. Gruber—but who say they did not, in fact, sign the petitions.

All of the signatures by those who have sworn they did not sign were on sheets submitted to the Suffolk County Board of Elections by Pat Mansir, a former town councilwoman and now vice chairwoman of the Town Independence Party.

The suit also claims that one person whose name appears on the petition sheets collected by Ms. Mansir is deceased.

Ms. Mansir steadfastly maintained that she did not forge any signatures on the petitions, and Independence Party Chairwoman Elaine Jones reiterated her bewilderment at what she said were the lengths to which Republican Party Chairman Amos Goodman has gone to block the Independence Party’s choice for an endorsement.

The lawsuit was filed by an attorney on behalf of Manny Vilar, the Republican Party’s nominee for the Town Board seat, and Gerard Larsen, the former chief of the East Hampton Village Police and a registered member of the Independence Party, but has been marshaled almost entirely by Mr. Goodman.

Mr. Larsen and Mr. Vilar both ran unsuccessfully for seats on the Town Board last fall on the Republican Party line. Mr. Larsen has also filed a number of challenges to his party’s petitions with the Suffolk County Board of Elections, which will review all of the signatures on technical grounds.

The Board of Elections could take up to two weeks to complete its review of the challenged signatures, though the lawsuit asks Justice Robert F. Quinlan to invalidate them more immediately. The case is due to be heard in court on Thursday, August 2.

“We have sworn affidavits from nearly a dozen people whose names were forged, and we have spoken to a number of other victims of this scam,” Mr. Goodman said in a written statement from the party on Friday, which focused mostly on criticizing Mr. Gruber for not rejecting the Independence Party support based on the Republican accusations.

“David Gruber was presented with irrefutable evidence of fraud and forgery committed on his behalf,” the statement continued. “Instead of disavowing the scheme, Gruber has chosen instead to finance its defense and cover-up by sending his personal lawyer to run interference and delay.”

Mr. Gruber said on Tuesday that he was served with the Republicans’ lawsuit and referred it to his lawyer but made no effort to delay its hearing.

He also accused Mr. Goodman of himself trying to sweep any Independence Party improprieties under the rug in exchange for brokering an authorization from the Independence Party to let Mr. Vilar run a primary for the party line.

“I can’t even legally resign from the Independence line at this point—the deadline for that has passed,” said Mr. Gruber, a registered Democrat. “And I don’t own those petitions. I have nothing to do with the Independence Party—I’m just a guest in their house. If the judge finds there are significant signatures, then I will be on their line.

“And it’s ironic of Amos Goodman to accuse me of covering up something, since I am the one who declined his offer of a corrupt bargain to drop his objections if Manny Vilar was given [authorization] for a primary.”

The party submitted petitions with the signatures of 73 people registered with the party who supported Mr. Gruber, who is a registered Democrat, being the Independence nominee. The Vilar-Larsen lawsuit challenges 32 of those signatures. Mr. Gruber would need 54 of those signatures to be found valid to remain on the Independence Party line on the November ballot.

Mr. Gruber also is running in a primary for the Democratic Party line against Councilman David Lys, who was appointed to the Town Board in January.

Mr. Goodman, who has called his own approach to the election fight “aggressive,” said that he hired a private investigator to scrutinize the Independence Party petitions and collect the affidavits from those who said they didn’t sign.

The eight people who signed affidavits swearing to have not signed the petitions were Robert A. White, Ryan White, Thomas W. Milne, Terry Harris, Jennifer Leifheit, Lorna McMullan Cook, Tara Powers and Michelle Moliski.

“It’s plain and simple—it was not my signature on any petition,” said Mr. Milne, a retired attorney who owns and lives at the Surfside Inn in Montauk. “Nobody came to ask me for my signature, and I gave nobody permission to sign my name.”

Mr. Goodman said that the person whose name appears on the sheets but is actually deceased is Alfred E. Simon Jr, listed at 83 South Elroy Drive in Montauk on one of Ms. Mansir’s petition sheets.

Reached by phone this week, Ms. Mansir said that all of the signatures on her petition sheets were collected appropriately and signed by the person purporting to be the signatory.

Ms. Mansir did allow that it’s possible that someone could have misrepresented who they were and signed someone else’s name on a petition sheet, or that a husband or wife or a relative could sign a spouse’s name, either instead of or in addition to their own, without the petition carrier noticing.

“My collection of signatures was no different than it’s ever been,” Ms. Mansir said. “I am not running for office, but I sort of feel like it by the way they are attacking me. It’s really crazy.”

Ms. Mansir said that petition carriers typically explain the petitions and whose nomination they support, and then give the sheets to the person to sign. Spaces for the address and the township in which the race will take place—all must be filled out “East Hampton” for town races—are typically filled out by the person carrying the petitions, because accuracy in the way they are filled out is critical to surviving challenges at the Board of Elections.

“Sometimes they will take your clipboard and go over to a table to sign it,” Ms. Mansir said.

She said she did not recognize any of the names of the people who have claimed they did not sign her petition sheets.

Independence Party Chairwoman Elaine Jones said that it is fairly common for those being asked for their signature to offer to sign for the spouse or another relative, but that petition carriers must refuse.

She said she reviewed all of the sheets submitted by Ms. Mansir before filing them with the Board of Elections and saw no signs of impropriety.

“I went through all those petitions, and I saw nothing wrong with them,” she said. “I think the objection process is being abused.

“And maybe we should all take a look at the signatures Amos Goodman acquired for Manny Vilar? They are bad. But I can’t challenge them with the Board of Elections at this point. The only thing we can do is bring a lawsuit, like he did.”

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what? no comments? long live EH politics!!!
By xtiego (661), bridgehampton on Jul 31, 18 6:37 PM
Elaine Jones and Pat Mansir should do the right thing and immediately resign as chair and co/chair of the Independence Party.
By Girlfrommtk (3), East Hampton on Jul 31, 18 7:15 PM
1 member liked this comment
Jones went rogue a long time ago. If she resigns, she will put her daughter up to run the Party and still Elaine will call all the shots. Frank McKay should step him. You may not like his wheeling and dealing but he knows how to orchestrate successful alliances and campaigns.
By pluff (44), East Hampton on Jul 31, 18 7:55 PM
Should def. appoint a special counsel to investigate.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (569), southampton on Jul 31, 18 8:31 PM
Another Elaine Jones power broker political abuse move, by a person with no integrity, morals or ethical qualities what so ever. A sad state when one person of this stature runs a whole party line? Look up her history! Disturbing at best
By turnbacktyme (2), southampton on Jul 31, 18 9:14 PM
Just when you think East Hampton can't get any dumber, the town is a complete joke.
By Preliator Lives (304), Obamavillie on Jul 31, 18 9:32 PM
This is exactly the kind of thing David Gruber would orchestrate. Not surprised at all that he is defending and supporting this political manipulation.
By localEH (324), East Hampton on Jul 31, 18 10:02 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Preliator Lives (304), Obamavillie on Aug 1, 18 6:55 AM
Far from "orchestrating" anything, I had nothing whatsoever to do with the Independence party nominating petitions other than to file the legally required acceptance when informed that I had been nominated. I am named by Goodman in his lawsuit as Respondent. As yet, I have made no response at all, merely referred it to an election lawyer who agreed with Goodman's lawyer on a court date. Goodman is furious because he was unable to succeed in his attempt to get me to broker Republican Manny Vilar ...more
By dgruber@grubergray.com (1), East Hampton on Jul 31, 18 11:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
So who collected the signatures Mr. Gruber? Obviously not Pat Mansir .....
By Board Watcher (529), East Hampton on Aug 4, 18 3:58 PM
Typical David Gruber: happy to take the the benefits, never the responsibility.
Aug 6, 18 3:15 PM appended by SpringsBub
Typical David Gruber: happy to take the benefits, never the responsibility.
By SpringsBub (11), Springs on Aug 6, 18 3:15 PM
Anyone really care about the Independence Party? Seems like it exists solely for some arm-twisting.
By harbor (366), East Hampton on Aug 1, 18 3:40 PM
Pat Mansir is the Hillary Clinton of East Hampton. Go away, PLEASE !!!!
By Hobie58148 (13), East Hampton on Aug 1, 18 6:13 PM
2 members liked this comment
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! Don't worry Dorothy (er, David), the women behind this curtain may try to give you a heart, and a brain, and courage, but the citizens of this Oz (EH) I think will be sending you back down the yellow brick road come election time...
By jperrier (53), Springs on Aug 1, 18 10:53 PM
Busted. Lol. Bunch of unscrupulous creeps
By Lets go mets (337), Southampton on Aug 1, 18 11:26 PM
Sounds more like the Democrat Party , don'tcha think?
By bigfresh (3746), north sea on Aug 2, 18 6:31 AM
Sounds more like it's just crooked people. People are the problem, and government is people.

Blaming things is so pathetically easy...
By Mr. Z (10551), North Sea on Aug 3, 18 6:29 AM
1 member liked this comment
Hey Big Fresh - look who Elaine and Pat have been in bed with for the last 5 years for their very own purposes. You know what they say about absolute power ....
By Board Watcher (529), East Hampton on Aug 2, 18 9:36 AM
The Independant party needs a new leader, and he or she should be from outside the inner circle. If they are not you will just get the same old corruption.
By turnbacktyme (2), southampton on Aug 2, 18 9:45 PM
Can't believe I would ever say this, but kudos to Amos. Patsy's been playing loose and fast for awhile now. Maybe it finally caught up with her!
By SpringsBub (11), Springs on Aug 6, 18 3:23 PM