NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - The North Salem Town Board had expected to welcome Democrat Katherine Daniels on the dais come January, but now Republican member-elect Thomas Moreo says he plans to fufill his duties on the governing body.
Breaking a weeks-long silence about his recent squeaker of a Town Board win, member-elect Thomas Moreo said Monday, Nov. 25, that he intends to serve until a “suitable replacement” can be found.
Two councilperson seats were up for grabs on Nov. 5. Local Republicans, which had endorsed Moreo, tried—unsuccessfully—to get him off the ballot after finding out that he planned to move out of state.
County elections folks told them it wasn’t possible because Moreo still owned a home in North Salem. According to the real estate website Zillow, his house went on the market in August. As of last week, it still was, this newspaper confirmed.
It was unclear Friday, Nov. 29, whether Moreo—at present—is physically living elsewhere.
The official election results were certified on Wednesday, Nov. 27, although the county’s website hadn’t been updated to reflect that due to the shortened holiday week.
They were: Golisano, 1,005; Moreo, 894; and Daniels, 882. Once the absentee ballots were counted, he had won by 12 votes.
After months of pushing the Republican candidate to speak, Moreo responded Nov. 25 via email to a reporter’s query about his political plans.
It appears here, verbatim: “I am honored to have been elected to the North Salem Town Council. I am a 13 year resident of North Salem and still consider our Town to be my home. Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances forced me to put my home on the market, and will precipitate my eventual full time relocation out of state. 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]. I remain committed to my town and neighbors who voted for me and I know that my skills and dedication that have served the community well in the past, will continue to serve North Salem well as we move forward.”
Attempts to follow up on this statement were unsuccessful.
Before election night, all signs pointed “to the fact that Tom Moreo had no intention of serving on the Town Board,” Daniels wrote in an email response to Moreo’s statement.
Lucas had stated publicly that Republicans had tried to get Moreo’s name off the ballot “because he had moved out of state with no plans to return,” Daniels said.
Moreo reportedly did not participate in any campaign events and his name and picture weren’t included in campaign ads or other materials. He did not return calls and emails to be included in the North Salem News election roundup, either.
“Prior to November 5th—and consistent with the Town Board’s past practice—Warren Lucas and [Deputy Supervisor] Peter Kamenstein both warmly welcomed me to the Board. However, now that Moreo appears to have beat me by 12 votes, in absentia, the story appears to be changing,” Daniels wrote.
“Moreo now plans to return to North Salem from his new home in Florida and take his seat until ‘a suitable replacement’ can be found. If his 12 vote lead holds, the 880-plus people who voted for me will be watching very closely to see who that ‘suitable replacement’ will be. Past practice dictates that it should be the next highest vote getter (me).
“We still trust Warren, Peter and the rest of the board to put good governance over opportunistic party politics. After all, more than 880 voters are watching,” Daniels concluded.
Saying he’s “not the electorate,” Lucas confirmed Friday, Nov. 29, that he had—as an individual—welcomed Daniels to the board in September.
“I did so at the time because I couldn’t fathom how someone could lose an election when one of the three people running took themselves out of the two seat race due to personal issues they had to deal with. On November 5th, the electorate selected Mr. Moreo over Ms. Daniels.”
In the past, the board has operated with four people, and has appointed a fifth, when openings were created by a death or resignation.
“If the Town Board is in a position to make a similar decision again, we will do so with the best interest of the Town of North Salem in mind,” the supervisor wrote, adding that he has not personally spoken to Moreo since the elections, although he did send him the vote totals on Nov. 5.
Lucas added he expected the Westchester County Board of Elections to send “out the formal notice of the winners to each of us shortly.”
On Thursday, Nov. 28, this was GOP chair William Monti’s response to Daniels’ contention that she, as the “next highest vote getter,” should be that appointee: “On Election Day November 5th the voters spoke.”
Emily Siegel, co-chair of the North Salem Democratic Committee, was still preparing a response as of press time.
In September, local GOP Chair William Monti, calling the situation “disappointing” because the party believed it “had strong candidates,” acknowledged that Moreo “wouldn’t have a right to hold office if he’s moving out of state.”
Moreo, as an elected official, has to be sworn in one way or the other on Jan. 1. He has the option of either serving or resigning.
Should he choose the latter, the Town Board could appoint someone to fill his spot, and the seat would be up for grabs again next fall. Board members serve four-year terms.
Based on his statement Monday, it appears he intends to serve long enough for the board to pick a replacement.
The town could also appoint the winner immediately after the 2020 elections instead of waiting for his or her swearing in on Jan. 1, 2021.
However, if Moreo is interested in sitting on the board and “meets all the criteria to serve, he has every right to be sworn in,” said Lucas on Friday, Nov. 29.
“Tom Moreo is the Councilman-elect. As President Obama said, ‘elections have consequences’ and, simply put, Tom won the election,” Lucas wrote.
Calling Moreo a “great representative of his homeowners association,” the supervisor said he didn’t doubt he would also “be a great councilman.”