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Town of Fulton Elects Judge Who Can't Serve

Written By Editor on 11/13/13 | 11/13/13

Residents of the Town of Fulton went to the polls on November 5th with two choices for Town Justice: Republican Ronald Jeffer or Democrat Charles Shoemaker, both of whom are respected figures within the municipality and neither of which had qualifications unbecoming of service. Or so they thought.

The Schoharie News has learned that the Schoharie County Board of Elections received a letter on November 4th, the day before the election, by Mr. Jeffer asking that his name be removed from the official ballot, but due to the lateness of his request he remained a candidate for Town Justice and would go on to win by just 29 votes over Mr. Shoemaker.

Why would Mr. Jeffer request that his name be removed by the Board of Elections?

Well, it turns out that Mr. Jeffer, who is employed by the federal government as a postmaster in the Town of Fulton, is ineligible from holding public office because of his federal employment under the Hatch Act. As such, he cannot legally serve in the position he was just elected to, which has left Town of Fulton voters in a peculiar situation. 

According to the Board of Elections there is legally no winner in the Town of Fulton until Tuesday morning, but the question has to be asked: since Mr. Jeffer is clearly victorious with his margin exceeding that of potential absentee and affidavit ballots, and by his own letter acknowledged his inability to serve, who exactly will become Town Justice in Fulton?

That decision could very well be made by the Fulton Town Board, which according to New York State law, has the ultimate power to appoint individuals in the case of a vacancy of any town office, including that of Town Justice. Now who they would appoint is another story altogether - Mr. Shoemaker would be the logical front-runner considering his candidacy and close finish last Tuesday, but the Town Board can legally appoint whoever they wanted.

Combining the illegal election of Mr. Jeffer and the too close to call Town Supervisor's race between incumbent Phil Skowfoe and challenger Francis Tatten, the Town of Fulton has become a hotbed for post-election controversy and discussion, a notoriety one doubts they were aiming for when entering the ballot box.

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