Former democratic city council hopeful P. Stephen Lamont and an anonymous “Committee for Election Equality” have been fighting for the disqualification of Rye mayoral candidate Peter Jovanovich for the last three weeks.
In their most drastic attempt to disqualify the current city councilman, Lamont and the Committee filed an "Emergency Petition for Extraordinary Relief in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Foley Square)" styled as Committee for Election Equality v. Peter Jovanovich and The Rye Record on Friday, Sept. 30. Lamont sent the same complaint to the Westchester County Board of Elections Commissioners two weeks before filing the petition.
Jovanovich, a current city councilman, is married to Rye Record publisher Robin Jovanovich. The petition claims that Jovanovich’s affiliation to the Rye Record is a conflict of interest that violates the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA).
The Jovanovich campaign views it as political extortion and said Jovanovich has no editorial or financial interest in the paper, Jovanovich campaign spokesman Matt Thomas said.
“This is something that Lamont has been raising for a bit of time now and we categorically deny each and every one of the arguments he makes,” Thomas said.
Lamont writes: The basis of Petitioners’ claim is that allowing Mr. Jovanovich to continue as a candidate for Mayor of the City of Rye, and The Rye Record’s complicity in such, while being an affiliate of the most widely read community newspaper in the City of Rye is a direct conflict of interest, morally unacceptable, is a statutory violation of Federal election laws that govern campaign advocacy, and violates the principles of democracy.
Jovanovich has never worked as a paid employee of the Rye Record and currently has nothing to do with the business, other than being married to the publisher, Thomas said.
Jovanovich used to write obituaries for the paper, but was not paid for that work, according to Thomas. However, a quick google search does find a 2009 MyRye.com article in which Jovanovich says one of his greatest contributions to Rye is the investigative reporting on illegal dumping, excessive overtime expenses and operating losses at Whitby Castle he did for the Rye Record. Jovanovich articles in The Rye Record are also still available online. Here is one he did on school taxes in 2004.
“For Peter to be put on ballot to become a candidate for mayor we had 900 people in City of Rye sign a petition. There is obviously a very strong voice to let peter run for mayor,” Thomas said.
In August, Lamont also registered a complaint with the Westchester County Board of Elections to oppose the city council candidacy of Julie Killian, in addition to Jovanovich’s. The complaint states that Killian’s candidacy is “morally unacceptable and a statutory violation of Federal election laws” because she is a board member of New Yorker’s for Growth, a political action committee, which he also claims is a lobbying group. Killian said that she has not violated any state election laws, which are not preempted by Federal Election laws.
“I am confident that my candidacy follows all state election laws,” Killian said in an email to Patch last week.
“None of the issues outlined in the complaint are valid or apply in this election. Federal election law does not preempt NYS election law; the federal preemption has to do with states not being permitted to enact rules that govern federal elections.
In addition, federal law governing federal PACs has nothing to do with state PAC regulation. New Yorkers for Growth supports lower taxes, common sense regulation, and reduced reliance on debt, and supports like-minded candidates of any party. I am proud to be part of this group, and adhere to its fiscally prudent principles. NYFG does not meet any NYS criteria for a lobbying organization including that it does not seek to lobby or communicate positions to state or local officials. It is a classic first amendment organization, set up to promote its viewpoint and to support candidates who share that view, whatever their party affiliation.”
Killian, who is running with the Rye Republican Committee’s “Rye United” Ticket is running for her first full term this season. She was appointed to fill Suzanna Keith’s position last summer after Keith moved out of town and was then elected to complete Keith’s term in 2012. Also on the ticket are political newcomers Terry McCartney, a Republican, and Kristen Bucci, a Democrat.
Westchester County Board of Elections commissioners Reginald LaFayette and Douglas Colety did not return phone calls before press time.
-Read Lamont's filings in the PDF's attached.
*Editor's Note: This article has been edited from its original version to reflect that Jovanovich has been quoted as saying he is proud of his investigative reporting for The Rye Record and that Jovanovich has written articles other than obituaries for The Rye Record. It has also been changed to clarify that Lamont and the Committee filed a petition with the court, not a lawsuit.