A late September county convention and its aftermath have left Brooklyn Republicans with not one leader, but two, with the decision as to who will ultimately head up the Brooklyn GOP left to the courts.
Immediately following the September 30 meeting at Remsen Hall, Arnaldo Ferraro, a former assemblymember and the leader of Dyker Heights’ Fiorello LaGuardia Republican Club, declared victory, after outgoing Chairperson Craig Eaton – who had been collecting proxies on his own behalf — joined Assembly candidate Lucretia Regina-Potter in throwing support to Ferraro.
“How this came about I don’t know,” said Ferraro, who recalled “mingling” with other attendees when, “All of a sudden, Craig Eaton came out and announced he was giving me his proxies as chair of the Kings County Republican Party. It was a big surprise. Nobody expected it. There’s been a long feud between [State Senator] Marty Golden and Craig Eaton. Now, here I am who expected to be voted vice chair and I am chair instead. I am calling for unity, to forget about the bickering and feuding, so we can have a united Republican Party for the sake of the party.”
However, before Ferraro was declared chair by Eaton, almost every proxy that would have been cast for Eaton’s opponent, attorney Ted Ghorra, who was backed by Golden, had been thrown out behind closed doors by the Credentials Committee appointed by Eaton.
That had Ghorra supporters not only crying foul but also holding their own convention in front of Remsen Hall, and, after a roll call that determined that a quorum was present (counting people present as well as proxies in hand), electing Ghorra as chair with Ferraro as vice chair (as on the original ballot that had been submitted), once the Eaton-led meeting had disbanded.
Subsequently, both sides submitted the results of their election to the city’s Board of Elections, which has deferred to the courts, with the case scheduled to come up before Judge Edgar Walker on October 23.
A Ghorra supporter explained that the side had 438 proxies favoring Ghorra before the Credentials Committee threw out all but 17 while Eaton and Regina-Potter between them had in their control somewhere around 330 proxy votes. Had all the proxies been counted, they say, Ghorra would have been an easy winner.
Election lawyer John Ciampoli, who is representing the Ghorra side (technically, the lead plaintiff is Diane Haslett-Rudiano, who led the convention that elected Ghorra), said, “This is not a great legal exercise. It all boils down to numbers. I believe it was a math exercise. How many proxies had to be thrown out for them to have a majority?”
Both precedent and procedure are on Ghorra’s side, Ciampoli contended, noting that the courts have previously decided, “To have one certification of the election of officers invalidated and another validated.”
He contended as well that Eaton’s faction had neglected to take even one roll call vote, even to determine if a quorum was present to conduct business, when one, he said, would have been necessary for every proxy that was thrown out.
Nor, he said, did the Eaton faction respond to requests for information as to whose proxies had been thrown out, and why, though legal papers filed on Ferraro’s behalf, he said, complain that “opponents did robocalls soliciting proxies,” even though such calls amount to “highly protected free speech.”
“It smacked of a third world country,” Ciampoli asserted.
On the other side of the issue, the papers filed on behalf of Ferraro allege election fraud, citing robocalls which told county committee members not to sign and return the proxy that had been sent with the meeting notice but rather to wait for a call from “your district leader or representative [who] will contact you personally to have you sign the 8-1/2×11 official proxy.”
“That’s fraud because they’re not saying who’s making the phone call, they are making it sound as if the card that had been sent is not the official proxy, elderly county committee members were confused and deceived into believing the proxy they got in the mail was not official, and then they went out and knocked on doors and said we have the official proxy for you to sign, but don’t date it. We’ll take care of that for you,” a source close to Eaton said. “That’s illegal and there’s no such thing as an official proxy. So, the Credentials Committee threw out the ones that were tainted – that had different color ink or had erasures.”
The source also contended that Ghorra supporters had no authority to convene and hold the convention that they held in front of Remsen Hall, and predicted that Ghorra’s case would be thrown out by the judge on that basis.
“I stand behind the decision made by my Credentials Committee,” Eaton told this paper. “Since the matter is currently in litigation, I can’t get into any of the facts but I believe the chair I selected to succeed me is the best man for the job at this point. He’s always been a man of honor and integrity. His selection should have unified the Republican Party, and Chairman Ferraro has asked everyone to come together as one party since we have elections on November 3 in the 46th AD and the 19th Senate District.”