Elections commissioner wants county to pay legal bills over Watertown mayoral race

wwny Elections commissioner wants county to pay legal bills over Watertown mayoral race

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Jefferson County’s Republican elections commissioner wants the county to pay his legal bills from the court case that decided who would be on the November ballot for Watertown mayor.

Jude Seymour sent a bill of more than $8,900 to the county on August 19.

He had hired lawyer Joe Burns to represent him in state Supreme Court after a lawsuit was filed against the board of elections.

Seymour says he has not heard back from the county but will continue have conversations with county legislators.

"If this drags out, then I may consider other options, but I really don't want to do this. I think it's important that we get this bill paid and get this whole thing put behind us and move forward because I think this is something that exists in our past," said Seymour.

Seymour says if the county says no to the bill, he may consider filling an Article 78 proceeding, which would take the county to court and challenge the determination that he is not entitled to a lawyer.

The issue arose when Seymour and Democratic elections commissioner Babette Hall split on the issue of how many candidates for mayor should be on the November ballot, after Jeff Smith won the primary, but Cody Horbacz and Allison Crossman tied for second.

Hall wanted all three candidates to go on to November; Seymour “desired to advocate for the specific position that only two candidates may be certified as winners of the primary,” county attorney David Paulsen wrote.

That left Paulsen with a conflict of interest - he couldn’t represent both elections commissioners, since they took different positions on the number of candidates.

But Paulsen concluded Seymour was not entitled to have the county pay for his lawyer; Paulsen wrote that by advocating for a specific outcome (wanting only two candidates) Seymour was acting “beyond the scope of your powers and duties.”

Seymour cites a lawsuit from 1984, in which the elections commissioners in Rensselaer County couldn’t agree on whether to count two paper ballots in an election. In that case, a state appeals court ruled that one of the elections commissioners was entitled to have his outside lawyer paid for by the county.

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