Written by D.F. Karppi Friday, 19 August 2011 00:00
Terry Kelly of East Norwich is aiming to nab a seat on the Oyster Bay Town Board in the upcoming November elections. With a little luck he may just do that. It hasn’t been easy and on the journey he has learned a lot of lessons on how politics works. A member of the Independent Party, he sought their endorsement, received it, and then had to go out and get signatures on his petition. But there is more to the story.
Mr. Kelly said, “I needed 350 signatures for the Independent Party, and 2,000 for the Democrats [who initially asked him to run as their candidate].”
He said, “I am one of the rare non-incumbents to get the backing of the Independent party. They usually only endorse incumbents. Since I am a registered Independent, they are running me as one of their own candidates.”
It turned out that the Independent Party endorsed candidates for the three town board seats up for election. They chose incumbent Republicans Joseph Muscarella and Rebecca Alesia and Mr. Kelly. The other Republican running for re-election, Anthony Macagnone was not endorsed by the Independent Party.
“It’s an eye-opener,” said Terry Kelly. “Macganone didn’t get the support of the Independent Party, but Muscarella and Rebecca Alesia did. Venditto went wild so I guess that is why Muscarella had the job to challenge the petitions.
“If I’m defeated, there will just be a blank on the party line. Macagnone will not be put on the [Independent Party] ballot.”
When asked about the issue, Councilman Muscarella said, “A normal procedure in any general election is to go and check the petitions to validate them.
“Once endorsed by the party, we have to get enough petitions to validate our appearing on the ballot to ensure for an orderly election. He didn’t get signatures that were valid. We challenged him and the judge looked at the signatures. He must have believed there was enough to justify not accepting the names.”
Mr. Kelly said, “As an Independent, when I set out to run for a seat on the Town Board, I gained fast support and encouragement from my neighbors and concerned citizens across the town - taxpayers like me, who have become fed up with endless taxing and borrowing, and the wasteful spending. I went door to door to members of the Independent party and gained more than the 350 signatures required for me to secure a spot on the ballot. Until that week, the democratic process was in full motion. On July 27, I was informed that I was being sued by Councilman Joseph Muscarella. Mr. Muscarella is claiming that some of the signatures I acquired were fraudulent, and therefore, he wanted my name removed from the ballot. Mr. Muscarella isn’t even a member of the Independent Party.”
Mr. Kelly added that, “After clerical adjustments, the Board of Elections ruled that I still had enough signatures to be on the ballot. The machine was not happy. Mr. Muscarella pursued this issue and a referee was brought in to compare signatures on my petitions with those in the books belonging to the Board of Elections. I know I don’t have the best handwriting when signing a clipboard at my front door. The referee ruled that the signatures didn’t match exactly, could be forgeries and therefore were ineligible. I was now 26 signatures short to get a place on the ballot.
“I knew that this was not right and the signatures (most of which I collected personally) were not forgeries. So I set out the weekend of Aug. 6 and 7, with a notary [his wife Maryann is a notary] and my children in tow, going house to house and had the people in question sign an affidavit confirming the signature was in fact theirs. I gathered 27 affidavits from people who were more than happy to do so, even though I was infringing on their personal time with what we all agreed was a ‘nonsense’ issue.
“On Monday morning, Aug. 8, the affidavits were brought to court in an effort to have the signatures reinstated and my name put back on the ballot. The affidavits were not accepted. The judge ruled that I should have brought these 27 people to court to swear they signed the petition. What is happening here? So now not only have 27 people signed an affidavit (a sworn statement, signed in front of a notary public) taking the time to do so during their weekend, they should now have to go to court on my behalf also? This is outrageous. This is an absolute abuse of the democratic process,” he said.
“It’s crazy,” said Mr. Kelly. “They spend all their time doing things like this. No wonder nothing gets done.”
But he put the process in perspective saying, “The Democrats are doing the same thing in the legislature in Albany.”
Mr. Kelly is still on the ballot. “The Democrats are still backing me,” he said. On Tuesday, Aug. 16, Mr. Kelly and his attorney will be back in court to see what the final determination is. The Democratic Party provided Mr. Kelly with a lawyer, Hale Yazicioglu with the Garden City firm of the Jaspan Schlesinger. The appeal will be heard in the appelate court. “I am hoping the decision is given that day,” said Mr. Kelly.
In July he had thought presenting the signatures to the Board of Elections was just a formality. It would just mean the beginning of his campaign and getting his literature ready, but he had already set up his website, electterrykelly.com.
Mr. Kelly grew up in Queens and has lived in East Norwich for 10 years as of October. He attended St. John’s University and originally majored in biology but changed his focus and left to go into the New York City Police Department for five years. “I had the entrepreneurial bug and I left to start my own process server business and have been doing that since then,” He said.
He added, “From 2006 to January of 2009 I owned and ran a tavern in East Northport, along with my other job.’’
Mr. Kelly said he was active with the East Norwich Civic Association for a while, “and then the kids came along. What got me back was the 3.5 percent tax increase in the town at a time when other municipalities were freezing taxes.”
He spoke out at a November 2010 town board meeting. “The quotes about the Town of Oyster Bay Public Safety Department made the Independent Party ask me to run. They said they were looking for some non-politicians to get involved in the election. The Democrats also asked me to run as a result of my comments,” he said.
Mr. Kelly and his wife Maryann have two boys, Will, 3 and Ben, 18 months old. Maryann is currently a secretary with Troutman Sanders LLC in New York City.
You may even recognize Mr. Kelly from TV. He had a recurring role on a children’s program, Zebby’s Zoo, a kids show that ran locally on Telecare TV. “That was actually before I lived in Long Island but people tell me they have seen it since then. I was the zookeeper and sometimes the mailman. It was a start-up show,” he said.
Mr. Kelly it appears is starring in a new kind of show, “The Saga of Getting on the Town of Oyster Bay ballot for the November election.”