Court Decision May Give Charter Revision Advocates Access To Images Of November Ballots

Bob Turner, former chair of the now-defunct Charter Review Commission, has filed another FOIL request for access to the digital images of the ballots cast in last November’s election in light of a recent court decision involving a FOIL request in Essex county. In the case of Kosmider v Whitney NY Supreme Court Justice Stanley Pritzker ruled that electronic ballots are public records which can be obtained through a FOIL request.

Turner told the Gazette that he and Gordon Boyd would count the ballots. Given the fact that there were over 9,000 votes cast, they will have their work cut out for them. Their hope is to find discrepancies which could be the grounds for going back to court to ask for an official recount. Their charter change proposal was defeated by 10 votes. Judge Nolan denied their last request for a recount citing a “lack of factual support” for their claims of election irregularities.

The Times Union article by Wendy Liberatore covering these developments contains some disturbing factual errors. Towards the end of her piece she writes:

“Most of the officials on the commission vehemently opposed any charter change and publicly campaigned against it, defying state law that requires elected officials remain neutral in a charter referendum”

Aside from the fact that the Mayor and Commissioner Mathiesen also did not remain neutral  but actively campaigned for the charter change , there is no such law that prohibits any of these elected officials from getting involved in these referendums.

Liberatore goes on to incorrectly state that the elected officials sitting on the new Charter Commission “will have the opportunity to raise their own salaries and extend their terms in office.”  Also not true. All proposed changes will be voted on by the public in November. No change can go into effect without voter approval.

At the April 23rd meeting of the Charter Review Commission Chair and City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis addressed Ms. Liberatore’s  inaccurate reporting. His thoughtful observations are worth watching.

There have been a number of articles written looking at how newspapers are reacting  to having a growing presence on the web.  Apparently editors monitor the number of hits their reporters’ stories generate.  I have been struck by both the sensationalistic character of Times Union reporter Wendy Liberatore’s pieces and the frequency of errors of fact in these stories.   Perhaps this is the kind of reporting that attracts more hits but the paper’s indifference to sound journalistic practices is discouraging and as Vince points out not helpful in fostering an intelligent discussion of the issues by the public.

I was struck by the differences in how this story was reported by the other main newspapers that cover Saratoga Springs. Here are links to all three. Liberatore’s factual errors come at the end of her lengthy story.

Times Union Article

Saratogian Article

Gazette Article


5 thoughts on “Court Decision May Give Charter Revision Advocates Access To Images Of November Ballots”

  1. No surprise here the Times Useless supports charter change,I got a real kid out of newcomer Martin’s statement that combining the Mayor and Supervisor would be cost efficient, how’s that possible? The previous Mayor said she spends at least 80 hrs a week being Mayor and now newcomer Martin wants to combine the Mayor and Supervisor and says it’s cost-efficient. WTF?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Comment # 1:
    (Actually a re-post of a comment I made a few days ago – before this post- in response to a Facebook post lauding the T-U editorial about the Essex County ruling: “A Victory for Open Records,” as well as supporting Turner and Boyd’s efforts to keep this issue percolating locally:

    “Even though I was not for this charter change proposal, I am glad to see this ruling. A positive, productive outcome to all of this would be the establishment of a threshold in NY – be it 1/2 or 1/10 of 1% margin – in future elections where a recount is automatically triggered. An automatic recount would help to assure that a result is regarded by voters as legit, whether my side won or lost by 10 votes. “Certification” by the County BOE is apparently not doing this, at least for the losing side.

    I wish some auto-recount provision was in place for this past election, but it was not.

    But playing this out: If the FOIL request is granted (as I believe it should be), and the people receiving these ballot images find, in their opinion, that say 15-20 could be reversed, for whatever reason – THEN WHAT? Do they sue to get a recount? Maybe, but I remind you that we are going into the 5th month of a new city council, all of who won by decent majorities – how long will it take for a legal resolution. including the question of standing perhaps, and other legal maneuvering, and then a recount? Note that the Essex County case concerned an election in 2015!

    Meanwhile, Mayor Kelly has appointed a Charter Commission of her own, In a letter to the Gazette on March 23, Mr. Boyd wrote: “For now, advocates of charter change need to lower their voices so that the discussion can be heard how the commissioners want to change things. We also need to give Mayor Kelly the consideration due to anyone who enters a competitive election and ends up on top. The voters made their choice, and the outcome deserves its time on the stage.”

    Agreed. This Appellate Court ruling should be used as a way to make future elections better, not to relitigate the past. Hopefully that will be supported by everyone.”


  3. Comment #2:
    Ar this point, I have to seriously question the judgement of anyone who sees Ms. Liberatore’s byline on a story, and continues to read it. If, in fact she is writing for eyeballs, perhaps it’s time we look away from the train wreck.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can’t agree with you more on Ms. Liberatore. Remember her ‘expose’ on the finance office renovations in city hall? I lost a good friend over her ‘accurate reporting’ in fact. She is everything a reporter should never be.

      Liked by 1 person

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