Residents in Farnham, Erie County’s smallest village, got a lesson in small-town politics this week.
With 380 residents, including 212 of them registered to vote, Farnham really is a place where everyone knows everyone else, and many are related.
It’s also where a write-in candidate for village trustee, Scott Cordia, beat the appointed incumbent, Peter Zaenglein, 48-22, Tuesday.
Zaenglein’s friends and family called foul, claiming that Cordia’s parents were electioneering.
Scott Cordia’s father, George, has served on the Village Board for many years, and his mother is an elections inspector. Marilyn Cordia excused herself from working at Tuesday’s election, which was run by Village Clerk Jackie Hoisington, not the Erie County Board of Elections.
But when Zaenglein’s wife, Susan, saw George Cordia on the second floor of the Farnham Fire Hall, where the election machines were, she complained to the Board of Elections.
“George Cordia has been a village trustee for many, many years. He’s well aware of election protocol,” she said.
Cordia denied doing anything wrong and told The Buffalo News that he took his sister to the polls, and that she wanted him to help her vote.
Both Scott Cordia and Peter Zaenglein missed getting the election results in person Tuesday night because they were working. Cordia was working the evening shift as a state corrections officer, and Zaenglein was out of state for his job installing maritime simulating equipment.
Mayor Julie-Ann Gibbons said George Cordia was the person who posted the signs marking 100 feet from the poll and brought sweaters to the election inspectors because the heat wasn’t working.
“He was in the building a total of four times ... once the polls were open,” she said, adding the Cordias also were working on the stage in the same room as the election machines. “It’s not something they should have been doing on Election Day.”
Susan Zaenglein was more direct, and she filed a complaint with the village clerk.
“To allow him to come in and out of there when he knows he has to be 100 feet from the building is wrong,” Susan Zaenglein said. “I don’t care if he was bringing Mother Theresa in there.”
But was it electioneering? Erie County Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr said the board was contacted Tuesday and Wednesday about Cordia. He said Cordia was within his rights to assist his sister in voting. He also said there is no evidence that he was campaigning, handing out buttons or literature, or wearing a shirt with his son’s name on it when he was at the poll.
He said when the Board of Elections was contacted, a representative spoke to Cordia and asked him to leave the building. The village clerk said she also told Cordia he should leave.
Susan Zaenglein and the mayor agree that while there are complaints about the way the election was handled, even if they were upheld, the results would not change.
“The vote was 48-22. It’s obvious that the residents that voted, the 48 voters, who wrote in that name, knew what they were doing,” Gibbons said.
Scott Cordia takes office April 1.