Party Leaders Charged With Petition Fraud
Two former East Hampton political party leaders were charged this week with fraud related to signatures gathered on nominating petitions ahead of last month’s election, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office said.
Amos Goodman, who resigned last week as the East Hampton Town Republican Committee chairman, and Pat Mansir, the vice chairwoman of the East Hampton Independence Party and a former East Hampton Town councilwoman and town trustee, are facing felony charges.
Mr. Goodman, a 35-year-old Springs resident who ran for Suffolk County legislator in 2015, is alleged to have submitted nominating petitions, including for Green Party judicial candidates, that contained at least 43 forgeries, the D.A.’s office said late Tuesday night. One signature was of a person who was dead, the D.A. alleged. Mr. Goodman is facing 10 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree and 10 counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree.
He was scheduled for arraignment yesterday morning in Suffolk County District Court in Islip.
The D.A.’s office said Ms. Mansir submitted nominating petitions for her party’s candidate that contained eight forged signatures, including of one person who was deceased. She was arraigned Tuesday on eight charges — four counts of possession of a forged instrument and four counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree. Justice Jennifer A. Henry released her on her own recognizance.
Ms. Mansir proclaimed her innocence in a telephone call yesterday. “I didn’t do these things,” she said of the charges against her. “I never did anything like that.” She did acknowledge that her nominating petitions were “sloppy.”
“My client denies the allegations and looks forward to being proven innocent, though she never should have been put in a position to have to defend her good name,” Carl Irace, an East Hampton attorney who is representing Ms. Mansir, said late Tuesday night.
At his arraignment yesterday, Mr. Goodman was represented by Craig Fleischer of Keahon, Fleischer & Ferrante. He pleaded not guilty and was released on his own recognizance.
Mr. Goodman did not return a call yesterday. On Monday he confirmed that he had resigned from the Republican Committee, a move that followed a request from the committee’s executives. He denied earlier accusations of fraud that had been leveled by Elaine Jones, chairwoman of the East Hampton Independence Party. His resignation was “not because of any investigation,” nor, he said, had the district attorney’s office contacted him. Rather, he said, “I’m not confident that there’s a strategy to electoral success, or at least one I can deliver. The idea of fighting to retain some position that I was not enjoying and was a thankless task didn’t appeal to me.”
In a statement yesterday, the Republican Committee said, “It would be inappropriate to comment on what is an active investigation. It is the official policy of the EHTRC to adhere to all laws, rules and regulations.” The committee “does not condone any conduct that would not be expressly permitted. We would also caution that speculation during this investigation is in [and] of itself counter to all parties involved” given due process protection.
The D.A.’s office also announced the arrest of two other East End men, William Mann, 60, of Cutchogue, and Gregory Dickerson, 55, of Mattituck, who were charged with unrelated petition fraud, as well. Both are Suffolk County Board of Elections employees.
“Through their alleged actions, the defendants corrupted the democratic process and violated the public’s trust,” Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini said in the statement issued on Tuesday night of all four who were charged. “This brazen scheme to get preferred candidates on the November 2018 ballot by any means necessary included the alleged filing of petitions with forged signatures, some of which included forged signatures of deceased individuals. In addition, one of the defendants is alleged to have used his position as a member of the Suffolk County Board of Elections to deceive voters into signing petitions they might otherwise have declined to sign. This kind of conduct is unacceptable; if you abuse your position of public trust and attempt to disrupt the integrity of the election process, you will be brought to justice.”
The Republican Committee had asked for Mr. Goodman’s resignation two weeks ago after it became aware of an investigation by the Public Integrity Bureau of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. The D.A.’s office said it received complaints from representatives of the Suffolk County Green Party, the East Hampton Town Republican Party, and the East Hampton Town Independence Party.
The investigation was said to be focused on the validity of nominating petitions submitted by Mr. Goodman for Lisa Larsen, a 2015 candidate for town board who had been mentioned as a possible candidate in this year’s special election. Republicans ultimately named Manny Vilar its candidate in the special election for a seat on the town board.
Ms. Jones, the Independence Party chairwoman, had made allegations of fraudulent signatures after Mr. Goodman previously leveled the same accusation at the Independence Party, specifically targeting nominating petitions carried by Ms. Mansir.
David Lys, who had been appointed to the vacant seat in January, won the Nov. 6 election in a landslide, with unofficial results giving him 69 percent of the vote; official results are expected to push that percentage even higher.
The Independence Party had chosen David Gruber, a Democrat, over Mr. Lys and Mr. Vilar for its nomination. Ms. Mansir gathered signatures for Mr. Gruber’s nominating petitions. The East Hampton Town Republican Committee challenged the petitions, and New York State Supreme Court Justice Carol MacKenzie ostensibly agreed with the committee, writing in August that the petitions were “replete with fraudulent dates and forged signatures and/or initials of signatories and/or subscribing witnesses.”
The Independence Party petitions were voided and the Independence line for town councilman was blank on the November ballots.
The investigation did not reveal evidence that any of the candidates were aware of or involved in the alleged schemes, the D.A.’s statement said.
This week’s actions represent a climax to acrimony between Mr. Goodman and the Independence Party officials that had simmered for more than a year. Jerry Larsen, the former chief of the East Hampton Village Police Department and a candidate for town board last year, had sought the Independence Party’s endorsement during the 2017 campaign. Independence Party officials interviewed Mr. Larsen, a registered Independent, along with his running mates on the Republican ticket, Mr. Vilar, who ran for supervisor, and Paul Giardina, but ultimately endorsed the Democratic candidates.
Mr. Larsen, who is Lisa Larsen’s husband, then attempted to force a primary, but a state appellate court overturned an earlier decision and his effort failed over a minor flaw in the wording of his petitions.
Mr. Goodman referred to those events earlier this year when Ms. Jones accused the Republican Party of “trying to hijack the Independence Party” this year by “getting Independence people to run primaries,” charges she made to The Star.
At that time, Ms. Jones first implied that Mr. Goodman tried to blackmail her, threatening to challenge the Independence Party’s petitions for Mr. Gruber if the party would not allow a primary challenge by Mr. Vilar. “Frankly, I believe that we have to do things differently as a Republican Party if we’re going to have different results,” Mr. Goodman said at the time, referring to Mr. Larsen’s effort to force an Independence Party primary last year. “Part of that is applying strict scrutiny the way it applies to us. So when you see Jerry Larsen bounced off” an Independence Party primary bid in 2017, “you’re damn right I’m going to look at the petitions.” Ms. Jones “can call that blackmail,” he said. “It’s not.”
Mr. Vilar and Mr. Larsen were petitioners in the suit filed on July 25 seeking to invalidate the petitions and thus the Independence Party’s nomination of Mr. Gruber, who lost a Democratic Party primary to Mr. Lys in September. “We have a stack of affidavits saying, ‘I didn’t sign this,’ ” Mr. Goodman told The Star at the time. “We’re going to go to court to get him bounced” from the Independence Party line. The Republicans’ challenge was successful.
Ms. Jones retaliated. Though she did not meet a July 16 deadline to register a complaint with the board of elections, she was adamant about alerting the district attorney, telling The Star in August that, “All I know is that Amos Goodman has forged signatures, and I’m going to the D.A. I’m going to get affidavits from the people who said they didn’t sign Manny’s petitions, and go to the D.A.”
Ms. Mansir, 72, who lives in East Hampton, has long been involved in politics. She was a town councilwoman for 12 years and served for 10 years on the East Hampton Town Planning Board. She last held public office in 2017, when she resigned in her first term as an East Hampton Town trustee, expressing growing frustration with colleagues who “diminish and restrict” other trustees and with what she described as the body’s dysfunction. When she ran for town trustee she did so as a Democrat and was elected with Independence endorsement. She said yesterday that she has not resigned her position with the Independence Party.
Mr. Goodman runs a corporate advisory firm focused on the aerospace and defense industries. He assumed chairmanship of the Republican committee in 2017.
If convicted of the top count of criminal possession of a forged instrument, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of two and one-third to seven years in prison.
Yesterday, Ms. Jones reiterated her version of events, telling The Star that Mr. Goodman had threatened to seek charges against Ms. Mansir if Ms. Jones would not sign a Wilson Pakula authorization, which a party gives to a candidate allowing him or her to run as the party’s candidate if he or she is not registered with that party. “Amos threatened us,” she said. “He told me that if I would sign a Wilson Pakula for Manny he would not pursue Pat. I told him no. I didn’t expect all of this, but it is what it is. . . . We were being blackmailed by him and I wouldn’t stand for it. It was almost extortion.”
"I will support Pat, we’ll support her,” Ms. Jones said of Ms. Mansir. “We will do whatever we can.”
“He doesn’t even know me,” Ms. Mansir said yesterday of Mr. Goodman, “so I don’t take it personally. But I also don’t want to meet him now.”