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Oswego County legislators who failed to file paperwork may not have to run again this fall

Payne Horning

When five Oswego County legislators failed to file their oath of office cards on time earlier this year, they lost the seats they were elected to last November. The county legislature then appointed them to fill those vacancies, but state law still requires that they run again in a special election this fall. A bill in the New York state legislature would waive that requirement.

The legislation is authored by state Sen. Patty Ritchie and Assemblyman Will Barclay, Republicans who represent Oswego County in the state legislature. Legislator Robert Hayes (R-Phoenix), who said he never got his oath of office card in the mail, said it's simple.

"I was elected by the people of my district and I was sworn in by a supreme court judge," Hayes said. "I think that's sufficient."

The bill would exempt him and the four other Republican legislators who did not turn in their oath of office cards from having to run again to complete the remainder of their two-year term. When a resolution supporting the legislation was proposed in the Oswego County Legislature on May 12, it received pushback from Democratic legislators, like Legislator Marie Schadt (D-Oswego). 

"It's this type of manipulation that makes the general public hate politicians," Schadt said. "The law is the law. If you're going over 55 mph you get a ticket. There's no gray area. It just seems that it should be equal across the state now."

Schadt maintains that this is not a partisan issue. She noted that the majority of the Democrats in the Oswego County Legislature, which is dominated by Republicans 19-6, did vote in February to appoint their five Republican colleagues back to the seats they had lost.

Legislator Jacob Mulcahey (D-Oswego) and other Democrats tried to support an amendment to the resolution supporting Barclay and Ricthie's bill that would have applied the technicality exemption to all New York lawmakers, but it was voted down.

"If they're going to introduce any bills to change state laws it shouldn't be specific to individual legislators in an individual county regardless of party affiliation," Mulcahey said. "It should be an all-encompassing law that fixes potential administration problems, for example not filing your oath of office card."

Oswego County Legislative Chairman Kevin Gardner agrees that the current rule needs to be changed, but he voted against amending the resolution because he was concerned it could kill the legislation. He said it may be too late to fix it this year.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.