The Curious Case Against Mohamed Albanna Concludes

Mohamed Albanna

By Darryl McPherson

Mohamed Albanna, Democratic candidate for Lackawanna’s First Ward Council seat, successfully fended off Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski’s attempt to knock him off the November ballot by winning a procedural motion in New York State Supreme Court.

Last week, it was reported that Albanna’s effort to get on the ballot was being challenged in by Mayor Szymanski. Based on his reading of the Lackawanna City Charter, the Mayor believes Albanna may not be eligible to run for the office since he was convicted in federal court to a five-year prison term for operating an unlicensed money-transfer business. Section 14.9 of the Charter deems anyone ineligible to serve if they have been “convicted of a crime or offense involving moral turpitude.”

The Erie County Board of Elections previously determined that Albanna’s offense was not one involving moral turpitude, validating his nominating petitions and allowing him to subsequently win the Democratic primary. Mayor Szymanski’s challenge focused on the conviction aspect, seeking an interpretation from the court.

Papers filed by Albanna’s attorneys, Peter Reese and James Ostrowski, and at oral argument, they contended that the Court lacked jurisdiction because Szymanski’s counsel allegedly failed to file the proper documents to commence the court action.

In a decision filed on October 2, 2017, Supreme Court Justice James H. Dillon determined that the Court did not have any information showing that the case had been properly filed with the Erie County Clerk’s Office, and therefore, granted Albanna’s request to dismiss the case.

Without jurisdiction, the Court cannot hear any arguments on the merits of the case. As such, there is no further interpretation of the Charter provision, and Albanna will compete in the November election on the Democratic Party line against John Ingram, who won the Conservative Party line in September.

Attempts to reach Mayor Szymanski for comment prior to press time were not successful.