NEW YORK, Sept. 10–In a last minute decision, lawyers for the City of New York conceded that the New York City Coalition for Accountability Now (NYC CAN), a group comprising 9/11 family members, first responders and survivors, indeed did submit over 30,000 valid signatures to put the referendum for a new 9/11 investigation before the voters of New York City this November.
In an earlier letter from the City Clerk dated July 24, 2009, the City had claimed too few valid signatures had been on the petition.
Asked whether he thought NYC CAN could overcome the Cityâ€™s challenge to the legality of the petition, legal counsel to the petitioners, Dennis McMahon, said, â€œAbsolutely. Although the City has an incredibly successful record of shooting down ballot initiatives, we will be arguing from a fresh perspective that reflects the unprecedented events of 9/11. We believe the courts will see how critical an issue this is, and be persuaded with our legal reasoning and point of view.â€ A final determination on the legality of the petition will be reached in time for the referendum to be included on the November ballot should the petitioners prevail.
Representatives for NYC CAN, 9/11 family member Manny Badillo and Executive Director Ted Walter, arrived at the Board of Elections on the morning of Wednesday, September 9, to assist the court-appointed referee in commencing a line-by-line review of the disputed signatures, only to learn the refereeâ€™s review had been called off due to a last minute concession by the City. Mr. Badillo immediately got on the phone to inform others of the news.
â€œThe City conceded we have 30,000 valid signatures. Big victory.â€
The Cityâ€™s concession comes as a result of the immense effort put forth by 50+ volunteers who gave more than 1,000 hours over a two week period from August 10 to August 25 to identify a total of 7,166 signatures that were wrongly invalidated by the NYC City Clerk and Board of Elections. On August 27, NYC CAN filed the 631-page Bill of Particulars cataloguing each of the 7,166 signatures it contended were in fact valid. NYC CAN submitted another 28,000 signatures on September 4 to guarantee the referendum will go on the ballot if they win the court case, bringing the total signatures submitted to 80,000.
NYC CAN must deliver its memorandum of law in response to the Cityâ€™s motion for summary judgment by Monday, September 21. The City will be given an opportunity to reply before the refereeâ€™s decision is made on Monday, September 28. Fast-track appeals will likely follow no matter who wins. A final decision will have to be made by September 30.
If the referendum passes in November, it would lead to the creation of a local, independent commission with subpoena power that would be tasked with comprehensively reinvestigating the attacks.