Columbia Council hopeful seeks to bar incumbent from seat

Tolson also asks recount of vote taken April 17

May 07, 1999|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

The losing candidate in last month's race for the Long Reach seat on the Columbia Council has filed a petition in Howard County Circuit Court seeking to prevent the incumbent from holding that seat.

Deborah Tolson, who lost the April 17 election by 13 votes, filed a request for an injunction Wednesday, naming as co-defendants the Columbia Association and the Long Reach Community Association.

Officials from the Columbia Association and the village board confirmed receipt of the petition yesterday.

Details of Tolson's request were unclear last night. If granted, the injunction would bar Cecilia Januszkiewicz, a former Long Reach village board chairwoman, from holding that village's seat on the 10-member council -- at least temporarily.

Tolson, who could not be reached for comment, has called the election tally "questionable" and "tainted." She requested a recount on the grounds that some voters had been wrongfully turned away from the polls.

Januszkiewicz, who was elected to the council in 1997 and began serving her second term Saturday, said she expects the village election committee will uphold her narrow victory.

"If by some miracle her election challenge succeeds, then she could take over [the seat], but her solution is to deprive the largest village in Columbia of any voice on the council" in the meantime, she said.

The Long Reach contest heated up after Januszkiewicz brought up the issue of tenants' voting rights a few weeks before Election Day. Noting village election laws and other legal documents, she insisted that tenants bring a copy of their lease to the polls to verify residency.

Tolson, who had significant support among the rental community, claimed that verification procedures were not consistently enforced and accused Januszkiewicz of trying to make it difficult for tenants to vote.

John Snyder, chairman of the Long Reach election committee, said the village manager, Sarah B. Uphouse, was served yesterdaywith Tolson's injunction petition.

"We're reviewing it now," he said. "Our feeling is the election was done fair and square, and that's what we stand by."

The election committee has asked Tolson to provide the names of residents she believes were turned away at the polls before that body sanctions a recount. The committee has until June 3 to issue a decision.

Pam Mack, the Columbia Association's vice president for community relations, said the association had been served with the petition. She had no further comment.

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