Utica's tense term-limit tug-of-war came to an end in NYS Supreme Court in Utica Wednesday. Months of legal maneuvering, door knocking and signature collecting ended in a 30-minute proceeding.
"...I'm very sad. After all this work and I know the people want what I was offering. I'm very sad that the judge decided against us," said 92-year-old former city councilman Lou Critelli, who collected hundreds of signatures in support of putting term limits of eight years on the ballot for voters to decide this November.
NYS Supreme Court Justice Erin P. Gall had to interpret wording in the city's municipal home rule law, which dictated the time frame in which the city clerk could certify signatures on petitions Critelli collected. Gall ruled for the city.
"The court finds that a plain reading of the statue requires the court to interpret section 37 subdivision 7 literally to mean that any additional petition may not be filed prior to two months after the filing of the initial petition," said Gall, from the bench. "The petitioner's request for a mandamus is denied."
City attorney Charles Brown expected the ruling.
"The statue's clear. It's very clear. I mean, they tried to make the best arguments they could, but we expected this outcome, because it's what the statute says," said Brown, following the decision. He got little argument from his legal adversary.
"I will not encourage an appeal of this. I wouldn't take the appeal, because I don't think we have a good legal basis to overturn the judge's decision," said Attorney Mark Wolber, who argued on behalf of Critelli. "It's unlikely it's going to be on for this November."
Maybe not next November, either. At least not at Critelli's hand.
"I don't think I'd go through this again. I don't think so," said the former city councilman, following the judge's decision. "But I did unleash the people. I unleashed the people that want term limits. And one way or another, we're gonna get them."