Herricks trustee candidates accuse incumbents of violating state law

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Herricks board of education incumbents Henry Zanetti and James Gounaris have been accused by their challengers of interfering with the integrity of the election. (Photo courtesy of Bhajan Ratra)

Herricks Board of Education Trustees Henry Zanetti and James Gounaris have been accused of unfair practices by their challengers.

The district budget and trustee vote is set for next Tuesday. Voters will cast absentee ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bhajan S. Ratra is challenging Zanetti, and Tarantej S. Arora is running against Gounaris.

Ratra and Arora allege that Zanetti and Gounaris violated state law and interfered with the integrity of the district election.

Gounaris posted a photo of a ballot paper on Facebook, tagging Zanetti, with the bubbles next to Gounaris’ and Zanetti’s names clearly filled in. The image is captioned, “This is the correct way to fill out your Herricks ballot.”

On Friday, Ratra and Arora wrote a letter to the Herricks district clerk, New York State Board of Elections and Nassau County Board of Elections requesting that they investigate the “unfair and unethical practices” of Gounaris and Zanetti regarding the election.

“This suggestive picture on Facebook is inappropriate as it is steering the vote for them and yes for the budget,” Ratra and Arora wrote. “This is against the spirit of free and fair elections.”

They added that the alleged violation presents a significant hurdle for them as challengers in the election.

“[T]his inappropriate action creates unnecessary challenges for my team as we are the challengers and running against incumbents who have been trustees for many years,” the letter reads.

Ratra and Arora conclude the letter by calling on its recipients to take “appropriate and prompt action to avoid complications,” considering that many community members have already received their ballots.

Zanetti said that it is within Gounaris’ rights as a private citizen to promote his own candidacy and the budget.

“Personally, I have the right to support my own candidacy and support the budget,” Gounaris echoed. “That’s my personal choice. I’m able to do that.”

“I’m not able to do that in an official capacity, in school board meeting and that sort of thing,” he clarified.

He added that his actions adhere to school board election law.

“[Ratra and Arora] had the right to send that letter. They may not know that school board election law is different from regular state election law. I was within my rights to do so, myself as an individual,” said Gounaris.

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