NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Thomas Moreo won’t be sworn in as North Salem’s newest councilman on New Year’s Day after all.
“It is with deep regret that I inform you, that due to personal circumstance I am unable to assume the Town Council seat to which I was elected to this past November; therefore, I will not be taking the Oath of Office,” he wrote to Supervisor Warren Lucas.
Moreo said he was “grateful for the outpouring of support” during the election and was “honored to have been the winner of a seat on the town council.”
He also informed Lucas that he was resigning both as chairman of the town’s Board of Assessment Review and president of his homeowners’ association, where he was its liaison to the Town Board and Water District.
Moreo offered to help “with any transition necessary for the new person to the position.”
“It has always been with the best intentions that I add value to my neighbors and community, and I am thankful for all the opportunities that were presented to me because of this,” Moreo wrote.
Lucas said that while he and other elected officials will be sworn in on Wednesday, Jan. 1, the board will now have to decide its next move. Its next meeting is set for Tuesday, Jan. 7, at 66 June Road.
The only options are, the supervisor has said, to either leave the seat open until next fall’s elections or to appoint someone to fill it.
“This is very unusual. Nothing like this has ever happened,” Lucas said Friday.
Asked to comment on the situation, Republican Chairman William Monti wrote: “Mr. Moreo’s letter to the Supervisor speaks for itself, I have nothing to add. We will miss his contribution to our town, his neighborhood and community.”
Asked Friday about the latest developments in the Town Board saga, Resident Andrew Sternlieb, who had raised objections to Moreo taking office, said, “I’m glad Moreo did the right thing.”
Daniels responded similarly. "I have no comment other than to say that he (Moreo) is doing the right thing."
HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED
Moreo was one of three contenders for two spots on the Town Board this November.
But there was a catch. The Republican was definitely a resident when he officially threw his hat in the ring, but he later put his Nash Road home up for sale. And his family now reportedly lives out of state.
Moreo—and the GOP folks who backed him—weren’t able to get his name off the ballot in time. His name and image didn’t appear on any campaign materials and he didn’t show up at any events.
Nevertheless, once the absentee ballots were counted, Moreo had snagged a seat, beating the next highest vote-getter, Democrat Katherine Daniels, 894-882. Incumbent Councilman Brent Golisano and Lucas, both Republicans, were both handily reelected.
The board has five elected officials: the supervisor (two-year term) and four councilpersons (four-year terms). The terms of the councilpersons are staggered so every two years there is a local election for town supervisor and two seats on the board. Councilwoman Lisa Douglas declined to run again. Peter Kamenstein’s and Martin Aronchick’s terms were not up.
In the weeks that followed the Nov. 5 election, questions swirled about whether Moreo could meet residency requirements and legitimately serve on the board. The town’s stand was that it was a matter for legal experts to decide.
According to Lucas, if Moreo couldn’t or wouldn’t take his seat, the board’s only two options were to either appoint someone to fill it or leave it open until next fall’s elections.
On Nov. 25, Moreo finally broke his silence. He wrote to this newspaper to say: “While I am able to fulfill my duties and serve on the Town Council, I intend to so to the best of my ability, and give the Town Board some additional time to find a suitable replacement. (sic)”
Daniels responded that “past practice” dictates that that should be the next highest vote-getter; namely, her.
“We still trust Warren, Peter (Kamenstein, deputy supervisor) and the rest of the Board to put good governance over opportunistic party politics. After all, more than 880 voters are watching,” she concluded.
The county Board of Elections stayed out of the fray, claiming it’s only responsible for conducting and administering elections and certifying results.
Sternlieb also reached out to Risa S. Sugarman, chief enforcement counsel for the state Board of Elections.
“The issue of concern to me is whether Moreo is qualified to hold the office,” he told Sugarman.
But she quickly informed Sternlieb that it wasn’t within “the jurisdiction of the Division to investigate the issues you present.”
Sugarman also declined this newspaper’s request for comment.