Objections filed against 4 Watertown City Council candidates’ petitions

Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 4:05 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Objections have been filed against the election petitions for four candidates for Watertown City Council. Two of them involve the police.

The city council race is a packed field with 12 candidates submitting petitions to be on the ballot.

Four of those petitions have raised red flags from residents, as general objections were filed against Matthew Melvin, Leonard Spaziani, Jason Traynor, and Brian Watson.

“We had some general objections filed. There are still some clocks running on people to file specific objections, but in terms of specific objections that are filed, we’ve had them against two individuals: Jason Traynor, and Brian Watson,” said Jefferson County Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Jude Seymour.

The specific objections accuse the candidates of not obtaining the correct number of valid signatures. In both cases, it’s alleged that Traynor and Watson obtained signatures that were from not registered voters, incomplete, or appeared to be written in the same handwriting.

The signature that appears to be different on two different petitions is on Watson’s petition and was challenged by resident Jeanne Barker, who is the mother of Cliff Lashway, another city council candidate. Barker is also a part-time employee at WWNY-TV (she does not work in the news department).

“In a petition process, it’s different because when you’re saying a signature doesn’t match what you’re doing is alleging fraud - that somebody has done something untoward, or possibly illegal,” said Seymour.

Watson told 7 News he did not intend to do anything against the rules, or against the law. He simply made a mistake by leaving petitions to be signed at places like the Franklin Street Deli & Market.

“We just interpret the law, we don’t enforce it. That being said, we have taken everything that we have and passed it on to the people above us,” said Jefferson County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Michelle LaFave.

The “people above us” are the Watertown Police Department and Jefferson County District Attorney.

Police would not comment because they are open investigations.

DA Kristyna Mills says her office will get involved if police determine any crimes were committed.

We reached out to Jason Traynor, but we did not hear back.

The Board of Elections will hold a public hearing Friday when both Traynor and Watson will be able to address the objections.

The deadline for the two remaining general objections to Matthew Melvin and Leonard Spaziani’s petitions to become specific objections is April 13.