By Sue Ellen Woodcock
The Board of Election Commissioners decided, by not taking any action, to not accept Mayor Dan Rizzo’s petition calling for a recount of the November 3 Mayoral election race between him and Councillor and Mayor-elect Brian Arrigo.
At this point Rizzo has the option to file suit against the commission in Superior Court or concede to Arrigo.
“I don’t see any reason to drag the city or my supporters through anything,” Rizzo said, about possibly going to court. “But I owe it to myself, my supporters and voters that we know every vote is counted.”
“There is more than substantial compliance.” Said Rizzo’s attorney James Cipoletta. “The board couldn’t come up with a responsible decision.”
According to the election results Arrigo won with 5,209 votes and 50.03 percent of the votes. Rizzo came away with 5,091 votes and 48.90 percent of the vote. There were 11 write-in votes and 101 blanks.
Rizzo and his campaign filed for a recount on Nov. 13. Filing for a recount entails obtaining 15 certified signatures from each Precinct. Each petition is to be signed by the candidate. The petitions were signed by Paul Rizzo.
At 11:42 a.m. typed letter was received by the Election Department from Rizzo stating that he was “outside the Continental United States” and requesting a recount. He stated that he “authorized and appointed Paul Rizzo (his brother) to execute, on his behalf, the Candidate’s Certification on all petitions for recount in all wards as if personally signed and executed by me.” The letter was electronically sign “/s/ Daniel Rizzo.” At 3:53 p.m. on Nov. 13 a handwritten letter was received via a fax from Kingston, Jamaica to Colella from Rizzo requesting a hand-counted recount of all wards. The letter is signed by him but it is not an original document.
The commission met Monday afternoon with over 50 people watching in the city council chambers. Attorney Lauren Goldberg, representing the Board of Election Commissioners, went over the facts of the case and presented arguments for and against the petitions.
“This is not a case where the Election Commission did anything wrong,” Goldberg said. “This is a grey area in my view. You just have to look at the particular facts before you and what should be done with these petitions.
It is her argument that the documents do not meet the requirements to hold a recount unless there is a signed original.
Goldberg said there were two issues, was the fax sufficient and was the signature by Paul Rizzo, through power of attorney also sufficient. She then cited various case law and statute law. She found no case law that addresses the fax.
Goldberg prepared alternate motions for the commission to consider. There were several moments of awkward silence and Goldberg offered her guidance.
Elizabeth Dixon, chair of the Board of Election Commissioners, made a motion to reject the petitions as they did not comply with the law. She received no second and the motion died with no more comment. She then removed the motion and got no second.
Colella then said she called the Secretary of State’s Office when she received the petitions and was advised by the legal counsel there that the recount petitions did not meet Massachusetts laws.
“It’s a very uncomfortable position to be in we spent many hours trying to come to a solution, if you just read the law,” Colella said.
“I feel everything is correct, all the paperwork,” said Commissioner Robert Scrima, who then made a motion to accept the petitions but he received no second.
Watching from the wings were Rizzo, Arrigo, Police Chief Joseph Cafarelli, Council President John Powers, Councillor Robert Haas, newly elected Councillor Patrick Keefe, School Committee members Donna Wood Pruitt, Michael Ferrante, and Stacey Rizzo.
Newly elected councillor George Rotondo said he plans to file a complaint with the Attorney Generals office about the procedure. Goldberg had said that is was not a public hearing but an opportunity for the commissioners to discuss the situation, not for the public to comment on.
“The entire thing was a farce,” Rotondo sai
d. “What rules were they following?”
After the meeting Arrigo said he was excited and can now work on putting his mayoral team together so they will be ready on Jan. 4, 2016 when Arrigo will be sworn in.
“This has been a lesson in civics for a lot of folks,” he said. “I’m excited to get started with a new administration.”