A petition effort, led by Ellicott Judge Marilyn Gerace, garnered 325 signatures to force a permissive referendum after the Ellicott Town Board voted unanimously on March 13 to eliminate a Town Justice position.
According to New York State Law Article 7, sections 90-94, the petition signature total needed to be at least 5% of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, which took place in November 2022.
Gerace said she estimated that around 3,500 voted in Ellicott in that election which meant she needed between 100 and 175 signatures. According to the Chautauqua County Board of Elections posted results for 2022, 3,385 residents in Ellicott had voted in November. Either way, the 325 signatures exceeded the threshold required.
Gerace submitted the petitions to the Ellicott Town Clerk on April 5, which started the clock on when the special election would be held. If the town board takes no action, the special election must, by law, be held 60 to 75 days after the petitions were submitted. This places that election between June 5 and June 20.
Gerace did request at Monday’s town board meeting that the board not wait until their May 8 monthly meeting and instead hold a special meeting this month to decide whether to rescind the resolution.
The Ellicott Town Board sent a letter to the media Wednesday responding to comments made at the meeting and stories in recent days.
In it, the board apologized to Judge Marilyn Gerace and Judge Sally Jaroszynski for not giving notice about the resolution prior to it being voted on. The letter said, “The Board holds no animus towards either Judge Gerace or Judge Jaroszynski. The Board recognizes their dedication to the Court and the residents of the Town of Ellicott.”
The letter goes onto say the Town Board has been reviewing all town operations in an “effort to determine and ensure the services provided are being delivered in an efficient and cost-effective manner.” It also said communication between the town board and court has not always been open or effective.
The salary for the Town Justice position that was eliminated is $14,200. The 2023 budget for the town of Ellicott is $2.76 million.
The board did take issue with the accusation that they were in violation of open meetings law, citing that they voted on the resolution to eliminate the Justice position under new business and that it was done in open session.
The Town Board indicated they agree that another meeting needs to be held to discuss the issue of the elimination of a Town Justice position. The letter said while a meeting would be posted in the newspaper and on the town’s website, they also encouraged people who are unable to attend or not comfortable speaking out at a public meeting to forward correspondence to the Town Clerk.
The town’s website can be found at townofellicott.com