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The suit was filed on Feb. 10 by brothers John and Bart Haggerty, Joseph Kasper and Sheila Peralta on the grounds that the county committee did not follow its own bylaws when Ragusa was unanimously voted in as a successor to Maltese by GOP leaders at a recent county meeting. The Queens Supreme Court adjourned the case Tuesday for two weeks, Maltese said. "This is about Serf Maltese trying to install his handpicked puppet as successor," said Bart Haggerty, who lives in Forest Hills. "It's an illegal power grab. (The committee) didn't have the right to hold that election and Phil Ragusa has no claim to the chairmanship."But Ragusa said his election was properly conducted."I was elected without opposition by the executive committee," he said. "Now we need more than ever to have unity to hold onto our Senate seats. I don't understand why John and Bart are doing this. It serves no purpose."Bart Haggerty said the party's bylaws stipulate that when a chairman steps down, the party's executive vice chairman is offered the reins. He said it was unclear whether Executive Vice Chairwoman Marguerite Adams refused to take the position. Adams could not be reached for comment.Haggerty said the party's bylaws require that the position would then be offered to the party's first vice chairman, Ed Coyne, who was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.If both chairmen refuse the position, the party's bylaws require that a successor must be elected by the Executive Committee at a meeting held for that purpose within 60 days of the chairman's stepping down. In the meantime, the rules indicate that the executive vice chairwoman, Adams, would lead the party."Clearly it seems the lawsuit has merit," Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village) said. "It appears the executive committee violated its bylaws. I have great respect for Phil Ragusa, but it appears (the party) did not act appropriately."But Maltese said he turned the chairmanship over to Adams when he stepped down and that she presided over the vote for Ragusa's appointment."I think (the Haggertys) are clutching at straws," he said. "It's a groundless case."Maltese said he ended his 10-year tenure as county chairman to focus on his re-election in 2008 following a close race against Ozone Park Democrat Albert Baldeo last November.The Haggertys filed another suit in October 2005 to invalidate a party organizational meeting earlier that fall at which Maltese was re-elected as party chairman. But the State Supreme Court decided in July 2006 that claims of flawed voting and vote-counting procedures were without merit.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2007 Community Newspaper Group
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