When School Committee candidate David Lindsey Jr. went into the City Clerk’s Office on July 23, there was time to spare before the 5 p.m. deadline.
Lindsey, who is also the husband of Council candidate Gerly Adrien, thought the signatures on incumbent School Committeeman Bernie D’Onofrio’s nomination papers to be irregular.
Lindsey wanted to challenge the signatures, indicating he didn’t think D’Onofrio qualified for the ballot.
However, that request was denied by the City as they said Lindsey turned in the paperwork late, paperwork that was stamped at 5:04 p.m. – just four minutes after the deadline.
Lindsey and Adrien said he had the paperwork filled out by 4:58 p.m. and was trying to get someone to take the paperwork, but no one would accept the challenge. No one was in the office, and they said they were told only City Clerk Sergio Cornelio could accept the paperwork – and he wasn’t there.
Finally, Lindsey said, the papers were taken after 5 p.m. and stamped.
“David plans to appeal this to the courts and to the Secretary of State,” said Adrien on Tuesday. “It’s about the principle and what they are doing and why. David feels like what they’re trying to pull isn’t fair at all. He said he didn’t think it was fair because he was in there and gave the papers to Linda. He has a stamp that says he was there at 4:58 p.m.”
Adrien said she has texts from him at that time asking her what to do because no one was there to accept the paperwork for the challenge, and Cornelio was said to be out of town.
The City has an entirely different take on the situation.
Communications Director Tom Philbin said they got advice on the matter from the Secretary of State, outside legal counsel and the City Solicitor. All of them said the law is pretty firm on the time/date stamp.
“They all came back and pretty much said 5 p.m. is 5 p.m.,” he said. “It has to be before that time, even though it’s four minutes.”
In a letter from City Solicitor Colleen Mejia on July 24, she informs Lindsey that the challenge could not be accepted as it came after the 5 p.m. deadline on July 19.
“As you are likely aware, you submitted you letter of objection in the City Clerk’s Office at 5:04 p.m. on July 23, 2019, four minutes past the statutory deadline,” read the letter. “A copy of the time-stamped nomination paper is enclosed. Moreover, I am informed that you were notified by Ms. Linda Angiolillo, Director of Elections, that the office, as is true of City Hall generally, closed for business at 5 p.m. Ms. Angiolillo allowed you to submit the objection with the office. However, in accordance with law, it cannot be accepted for the purposes submitted. Should you wish to appeal this decision, I advise you to seek private legal assistance as soon as possible to explore any available options.”
Lindsey said he plans to seek an appeal, and believes he was well-within the time limit to file. He said it was a matter of no one being there to take the paper from him – which brings up an interesting question, if true, statewide about just what constitutes making a statutory deadline. If one stands and waits for 10 minutes for help, have they made the deadline?
Lindsey and Adrien believe that is a question to answer in court, but City officials said that is not what they believe happened.
Lindsey challenged the signatures of D’Onofrio because he and Adrien were looking at the Nomination Papers and found them strange. They first saw that entire families appeared to be signed in the same handwriting, and after consulting the Secretary of State, learned that one person cannot sign for a whole family.
Then, Adrien said, they found other inconsistencies.
“When we saw the same handwriting, we were suspicious and it wasn’t a page or two, but pages and pages,” she said. “We felt like we knew what was going on – they seemed to be copying the voter lists.”
She said they noticed one family name, the Rossi family, that had an inconsistency in the printed name versus the real name. Instead of the real name being signed, the inconsistency was signed, she alleged.
D’Onofrio told the Independent he is confident in his signatures and he isn’t sure why they singled him out. A banker at Bank of American for 36 years in Everett, and a life-long resident who has been on the Committee eight years, he said he thinks they should check their own signatures.
“I don’t know why these folks picked me out of all the folks that are running to challenge my signatures,” he said. “I don’t have any concerns though. People who know me, know I keep rather quiet. I’m one of the good guys here. If there’s anyone more loving and caring for the kids and the school system, it’s me…I can only think people are upset because of everything that has gone on…I know I turned in well over 300 signatures.
“I challenge their signatures if anything,” he continued, “because I’ve gone door-to-door and property gotten all my signatures. I’ve always gotten my own signatures and when I had to campaign, I campaigned on my own…I’ve gotten my signatures. I’m not a person that seeks vengeance on people. I just want to know why me.”
Lindsey had just found out about the rejection on Monday afternoon, and said he would pursue the appeal, but was in the process of taking that next step at press time.
The at-large race for School Committee will feature a Preliminary Election on Sept. 17, and both D’Onofrio and Lindsey have qualified for that ballot at this point – along with five other candidates for the seats.