Judge rules Ramapo ward system petitions valid, orders referendum

By Michael Riconda

NEW CITY – Ramapo voters might soon have the opportunity to decide on a much-discussed ward system, thanks to a ruling by state Supreme Court Judge Margaret Garvey last Friday.

The ward system, which has been rejected at the petitioning stage by the Town of Ramapo four times since 2003, would allow voters to select between candidates in their respective wards. In effect, elections would occur locally rather than town wide.

Additionally, representation of all wards in the Town would require upping the number of town board members from four to six.

Now, the most recent petition, filed by Michael Parietti and Robert Romanowski, 2013 Preserve Ramapo town supervisor candidate and 2014 Republican state assemblyman candidate respectively, can go forward. Garvey ruled that of the 2,025 petitions collected to place the ward question on the ballot, 327 were invalid due to signature and dating irregularities and other technical errors.

This left 1,698 signatures, well above the 1,367 required to set a referendum in motion. Barring an appeal, the Town is now compelled to place the question on the ballot.

Like three past petitions submitted in the early 2000s, this one was rejected by the town and entered a legal limbo until it was finally allowed to move forward. In 2012, the petitions were rejected by Town Clerk Christian Sampson and the activists filed an Article 78 challenging the rejection.

After two years of legal wrangling, the Article 78 was deemed valid in the New York State Appellate Divison Court and allowed to move forward.