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Robert Berg Comments on Incident at Village Hall and the Delay of the Election

BergRobert Berg, Village Clerk Donna Conkling and a Police Office at Village Hall on Monday March 16.(This letter was submitted by Robert Berg, Voter's Choice Party Candidate for Village Trustee)

Please allow me to comment on your article "Village Election Postponed Until April 28."

You post a photo of me speaking with Village Clerk Donna Conkling and a Village Police Officer in front of Village Hall. The photo is captioned "Candidate Robert Berg was drumming up support among voters on line." Your photo and caption suggest that my presence at Village Hall was somehow "improper" or constituted "electioneering" at the polling place.

Well, here are the "facts" behind the photo. I happened to be at Village Hall to say hello to a college senior who lives in Scarsdale who I had not seen in several months and who I had urged to vote by absentee ballot today. As we were chatting in line at the bottom of the disabled ramp to the entrance to Village Hall, Eli Mattioli, started shouting from the top of the line at me. As you know, Mr. Mattioli is one of the leading supporters and perennial leaders of the Scarsdale Citizens Non-Partisan Party. Mr. Mattioli yelled: "Bob, get out of here. You know you don't belong here." I responded: "What are you talking about?" He shouted again: "You're a candidate. You can't be here." I said: "Huh?" A police officer approached me and said that a man was complaining about my presence and his complaints caused a few others to complain as well. I explained to the officer politely that Village Hall is not a polling place for this election. Today is not election day. Village Hall is simply the place to pick up absentee ballots and deliver absentee ballots to the Village Clerk. I further explained that the actual polling place is at the Congregational Church and the election was to be held two days later. The officer said he understood, and he was not asking me to leave.

A few minutes later, Village Clerk Donna Conkling, and another police officer came down to where I was standing, leading to the photo and caption that you published. I repeated my explanation to Donna, who acknowledged that my position is legally correct. That should have been obvious to Mr. Mattioli who has been a practicing attorney for 48 years, and who, like me, is a litigator. So either Mr. Mattioli is either losing his legal acumen -- which I doubt -- or he was trying to make a scene and make me look bad among the residents in the line. That's what I suspect to have been his true motivation. He really should be embarrassed for pulling a stunt like that. Moreover, even if Village Hall had been an actual polling place -- and even if today had been election day --- I was standing more than 100 feet from the polling place entrance, so that I could not have been electioneering in any event.

I also find the comments by the Co-Chairs of the SCNP in your article to be somewhat disingenuous. They "applaud the Village's efforts in requesting a postponement which resulted in putting the interests of our friends and neighbors first." The actual facts are quite a bit different. First, the Governor's Executive Order tonight postponing all Village elections applies Statewide and had absolutely nothing to do with any request by our Village to seek postponement of our Village election. Why? Because our Village never requested the State to postpone our Village election. What happened is that on their own initiative, Mayor Samwick and Amy Paulin last week did contact the Governor's Office and did ask about the possibility of postponing the Scarsdale Village election in light of the spreading threat of the corona virus. It turns out that only Scarsdale and Tuckahoe investigated that possibility. But before going further, on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, at 2:41 pm, the Mayor reached out by email to the SCNP candidates and their campaign manager and to the Voters Choice Party candidates and their campaign manager and asked whether we ALL wanted the Village to pursue the postponement option with the Governor's office. Mayor Samwick wanted an answer from each side by 5 pm. He specifically stated: "The Village will NOT make a formal request to seek any action by the Governor to postpone the scheduled Village election unless BOTH political parties agree to seek a postponement of the election."

I responded later that afternoon, saying that I had several questions that needed to be answered before we could say "yes" or "no," including what steps the Village could take to insure the safety of voters and poll workers, how long the postponement would be, and whether certain absentee ballot requirements could be loosened. Mayor Samwick responded to me at 6:07 pm that evening, agreeing that my questions did require more than a yes or no answer. But he continued, "In the meantime, the Citizen's Non-Partisan Party has not consented to seeking a postponement from the Governor, so the criteria for the Village seeking a postponement has not been met and the election will take place as scheduled on March 18th." I attach a full copy of the Mayor's email to me below. I just believe the public should know the true facts here -- and I ask you to publish my comments. Most importantly, I ask our residents to abide by all the best practices recommended by the CDC for minimizing the chances of exposure to the corona virus, and I hope and pray that our residents will remain healthy during these difficult times.

Thanks,
Bob Berg

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