District Attorney petitions to be ruled upon in State Court of Appeals

Gwen Chamberlain

There will be one more court appearance for the Yates County District Attorney hopefuls before the Sept. 12 primary day. The New York State Court of Appeals will hear statements from both Penelope Marchionda, a supporter of incumbent District Attorney Valerie Gardner, and Todd Casella, the Steuben County Assistant District Attorney who is challenging Gardner.

The Aug. 23 unanimous decisions from the Fourth Appellate Division have set off a new round of appeals after the judges ordered the Yates County Board of Elections to place Casella's name on the ballot as a candidate for the Reform and Independence Party petitions. They also ordered the local commissioners to remove Casella's name from the Republican Primary ballot, leaving Gardner as the sole Republican candidate and eliminating the need for a Sept. 12 Republican Primary for District Attorney.

Initially, Casella said he was disagreed with the court's decision, but decided to abide by it. But within hours, after learning Marchionda plans to appeal the Reform and Independence Party petition ruling to the state's highest court, Casella has re-considered. Thursday evening he said he plans to appeal the ruling on the Republican petitions.

"I'm going to fight to stay on the Independence and Reform lines. And, while I stated earlier today that I accepted the Appellate Division's separate ruling against me in regard to the Republican line, I am now planning to fight this at the Court of Appeals," he said in a statement. "The voters deserve a choice, whether Valerie Gardner thinks so or not," the statement continued.

Seeking the Republican party line on the general election ballot in November, both Casella and Gardner submitted petitions in June to the Yates County Board of Elections. But questions about information on Casella's petition led Marchionda to challenge those petitions, as well as the Independence Party and Reform Party petitions he filed.

Yates County Board of Elections Commissioners invalidated the Independence Party and Reform Party petitions based on Marchionda's objections, but did not rule on the Republican petitions.

Gardner says her designating petitions for re- election contain over 900 valid signatures from registered Yates County voters. The Casella campaign had filed general objections to Gardner’s petitions, but they failed to substantiate any deficiencies.

“I am honored that the good people of Yates County value my years of service and am proud to represent them as the only Yates County resident seeking the office,” she said in a statement released by her campaign.

On Aug. 16, Supreme Court Judge John Ark ruled in favor of Casella, saying the issues on the Independence and Reform Party petitions were clerical errors, and that he did not intend to mislead voters by writing three different residential addresses on petition pages.

Marchionda appealed those decisions to the Fourth Appellate Division, who ruled Aug. 23 in her favor on the Republican petition, but in Casella's favor on the Reform and Indepence Party petitions.

The Court of Appeals has scheduled special calendar dates on Aug. 30 and 31 for cases related to the Sept. 12 primary elections.

Neither Gardner nor Casella have filed Independent petitions. Gardner's name will also be listed on the Conservative, Reform, Independence, and Women's Equality Party lines.