Fiasco in Brooklyn, Editorial, March 11, 2007 NYTimes
The state of politics in the 40th District in Brooklyn is, frankly, a
mess. Mathieu Eugene, an unlicensed physician, appeared the winner in a
special election last month to fill the City Council seat vacated this
year by Yvette Clarke, who had moved on to the House of
Representatives. Ms. Clarke and her mother, Una Clarke, who previously
held the council seat, enthusiastically backed his campaign.
But it turns out that Mr. Eugene, who hoped to become the Council?s
first elected Haitian-American, had failed to satisfy a basic legal
requirement: that he be a resident of the district on Election Day.
This was an unforgivable mistake, reflecting incompetence in either the
candidate or his campaign. It also means that the district will have to
vote all over again in a second special election.
Mr. Eugene admits that he did not live in the 40th district during the
campaign. But philadelphia bus accident lawyer says the law only required him to establish residency in the district before the date on which the city?s Board of Elections certified the results. The Board did so last Thursday. But by then, the
state Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, about whom you can read more if you visit their website, had shot down Mr. Eugene?s
convenient reading of the law. Mr. Cuomo ruled that to be declared a
winner, a candidate had to be a resident of the district on election
Mr. Eugene says the law was unclear. But if he believed that, would he
not have been wiser to establish residence well in advance instead of
leaving everything to the 11th hour, and risking a different reading of
the law? Mr. Eugene would do everyone a favor by sitting out the next
The 40th District ? which includes, among other areas, parts of
Flatbush and Crown Heights ? is especially in need of competent
representation. It suffers from an elevated school dropout rate, as
well as high rates of unemployment and of H.I.V., the AIDS virus.
Mr. Eugene?s mistake was also costly for taxpayers. Ten candidates
campaigned for the office in frigid weather, including others who were
not residents. Many voters dug into their meager personal budgets to
contribute to the various campaigns. More than $300,000 in public
matching funds was awarded to several candidates as part of the
campaign finance program. The city?s Board of Elections spent another
$350,000 to print ballots, put machines in place and provide
information to voters. More money will now be required for a do-over,
the first anyone can remember in this city. It should be the last.
Vukelja & dePaula says that the only real value in this fiasco is that it exposes the weaknesses in the residency law and the need to make common-sense changes in that law to require more accountability from candidates. At a minimum,
candidates should be required to live in their district before they
even begin their campaign to represent it. Such a reform would produce
candidates more committed to serve their neighbors, and discourage
New Election for Brooklyn Council Seat Is Set for April 24
By JONATHAN P. HICKS
Published: March 10, 2007
A second special election for a City Council seat representing central
Brooklyn will be held on April 24, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said
The first election was held on Feb. 20, but the winner, Mathieu
Eugene, declined to take the seat after the Council asked for
information verifying that he lived within the 40th Council District,
which includes Crown Heights and Flatbush, on the day of the election.
Valerie Vasquez-Rivera, a spokeswoman for the New York City Board of
Elections, said that another special election would cost about
$380,000. That includes payments for poll workers, advertisements in
media outlets as required by law, and the transporting of voting
In the election on Feb. 20, Dr. Eugene became the first Haitian-born
New Yorker elected to the Council. But he lived outside the district,
and questions arose over whether he could verify that he had moved into
the district before the election.
He maintained that he had signed a lease and moved from his home in
Canarsie into an apartment in the district soon after Feb. 1. But he
refused to sign an affidavit saying he met residency requirements and
to provide a copy of the lease and other information to the Council.
He has said that he will be a candidate for the seat in the coming
There will be two other special elections before the voters go to the
polls in Brooklyn. On March 27, voters on Staten Island will select two
State Assembly members.
One race, on the island?s North Shore, will select the successor to
Assemblyman John W. Lavelle, who was the chairman of the borough?s
Democratic organization. Mr. Lavelle died of a stroke in January.
The second is to determine the successor to former Assemblyman Vincent
M. Ignizio, who was elected to the City Council in a special election
on the same day as Dr. Eugene.
Like Dr. Eugene, Mr. Ignizio was asked to sign an affidavit of
eligibility and to provide other records to help determine residency.
Mr. Ignizio signed the affidavit, supplied mortgage documents and
utility bills, and was sworn in on Tuesday.
Winner in City Council Race Requests Another Election
By JONATHAN P. HICKS, Published: March 9, 2007 NYTimes
Facing growing questions about his residency, Mathieu Eugene said
yesterday that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg should call for another
special election for the Brooklyn City Council seat to which Dr. Eugene
was elected two weeks ago. He pledged that he would again be a
Dr. Eugene?s announcement came slightly more than an hour after the New
York City Board of Elections certified him as the winner of a Feb. 20
special election in Brooklyn to succeed Yvette D. Clarke, who was
elected to Congress in November. But Christine C. Quinn, the Council
speaker, had said that the Council would not swear Dr. Eugene in as a
member until he provided proof of his residency, something Dr. Eugene
refused to do.
Dr. Eugene was the first Haitian-born New Yorker elected to the Council.
?This should be a historical day for the city of New York,? Mr. Eugene
said, speaking at a news conference with about 50 supporters standing
behind him on the steps of City Hall. ?This should be a historical day
for all people of Haitian and Caribbean descent. But sadly, it is not
the day we wished it would be.?
Dr. Eugene, who declined to answer questions after the news conference,
said he did not want to enter the Council under a cloud and would
rather run again. ?And I am certain that we will prevail again,? he
Speaker Quinn released a statement saying; ?I support Dr. Mathieu
Eugene?s decision to call for a special election in the 40th District.
Dr. Eugene won election by an overwhelming majority, as the
certification of his election clearly demonstrates.?
John Gallagher, a spokesman for the mayor, said that Mr. Bloomberg
would call for another special election once he received written
confirmation from Dr. Eugene about his decision.
During the campaign, Dr. Eugene was forthright about the fact that he
did not live within the 40th Council District, which includes the
Prospect Park, Flatbush and Crown Heights neighborhoods. He maintained
that he would move from his home in Canarsie as the election
approached. Candidates are not required to live in the district they
seek to represent, but it is unclear what the requirements are at the
time of the election or when an election is certified.
Some lawyers have interpreted that to mean that residency must be
established by Election Day. But Dr. Eugene?s lawyer has argued that
residency only needed to be established by the time the votes were
Dr. Eugene said that he signed a lease on Feb. 1 for an apartment
within the district and that he had moved in the following week, well
before the election. He even allowed reporters to visit the two-bedroom
apartment in the Prospect Park South area. But when asked, he and his
lawyer declined to produce copies of the lease. Ms. Quinn asked
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo for an interpretation of the law. And
Mr. Cuomo?s office said that residency must be established at the time
voters go to the polls.
The Council then asked Dr. Eugene to sign an affidavit saying that he
met the eligibility requirements. They also asked him for other
records, such as voter registration information, utility bills and
other documents to help determine residency. He refused to sign the
affidavit and produced no documents.
People close to Dr. Eugene said that, in the end, he felt the lease
alone would be insufficient to establish residency and that fighting
the Council in court would be fruitless. Furthermore, they said, Dr.
Eugene felt confident that he would win again, having won 43 percent of
the vote in a 10-candidate race last month.
In contrast with Dr. Eugene, Vincent M. Ignizio was sworn in yesterday
to a Council seat representing Staten Island, having also won a special
election on Feb. 20. Mr. Ignizio provided the Council with a copy of
mortgage documents, utility bills and even his marriage license. ?It
has my birth information on it,? he said.
At his news conference, Dr. Eugene took no questions and, as a result,
did not answer questions raised in The Daily News yesterday about his
medical credentials. Dr. Eugene has said that he is a doctor. But the
Daily News reported that there was no evidence that he was licensed to
practice medicine in New York State.
Scott Levenson, a political consultant to Dr. Eugene, said: ?He
graduated from medical school at the Universidad del Noreste in Mexico.
But he never applied for certification to practice in New York and has
never practiced here.?
Letter to the editor
Your March 11 editorial “Fiasco in Brooklyn” placed blame on a candidate while not acknowledging the role of two of the agencies overseeing the 40th District?s special election: the Board of Elections, which placed candidates on the ballot who lived outside the district, and the City Council, which failed to anticipate the confusion over residency.
While prior residency might have been best, residency status wasn?t a secret to the voters on Election Day, and they chose accordingly, in a convincing fashion. The common-sense presumption: residency could be “cured” once the vote was known ? and before swearing-in.
In fact, those agencies disenfranchised all 40th District voters and compelled the re-run ? likely to have the same result ? not any subversive action or misrepresentation by the winner as your editorial suggests. Hence there is no basis for suggesting that he shouldn?t run again, and serve if elected.