STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-South Shore) is calling for an investigation into the arrest of John Tabacco, a candidate for city comptroller, for trespassing at the Staten Island Board of Elections (BOE) office in Clifton following a dispute over mask-wearing.
Tabacco was arrested while he was monitoring a ballot count on Thursday in the hotly contested Republican primary for the Mid-Island City Council seat.
Valerie Diaz, a Board of Elections spokeswoman, said Tabacco was busted on Thursday when he began recording the proceedings without proper press credentials and refused to wear a face mask as required by BOE protocols.
Lanza called the BOE actions “unacceptable.”
“The actions of the Staten Island BOE towards candidate John Tabacco, who was lawfully present as a certified Poll Watcher is completely unacceptable and outrageous as were the actions of the NYPD supervisors,” said Lanza in a written statement on Saturday.
“BOE supervisors … proved in their actions that they lack the basic ability, expertise, and demeanor to continue to serve in their current positions. Let me be clear when a poll watcher that is lawfully present is removed and arrested having broken no laws, our democracy is under attack. I am calling for a full investigation. It is sad that in our city, where looting and rioting was ignored by our city officials, that a law-abiding citizen was arrested for purely political motivations,” Lanza added.
VIDEO OF CONFRONTATION
Tabacco provided the above video about the incident to the Advance/SIlive.com on Sunday. In the video, Tabacco contends there is no law saying he has to wear a mask indoors if he is vaccinated. A second video clip provided by Tabacco shows someone at the polling site telling Tabacco to put on a mask. Tabacco, in turn, tells this individual that there is no New York law requiring masks in public buildings for vaccinated people.
“Anybody and everybody who participated in weaponizing the NYPD to arrest a lawful citizen and NYC candidate for doing nothing wrong should be exposed,” said Tabacco to the Advance on Sunday. “Given the actions of these individuals, they should spend the rest of their weekend considering their actions and the legal consequences that must follow. Our legal team will spend the weekend considering all legal options. But, rest assured, in a free democracy those who abuse their power will be held accountable.”
Tabacco’s lawyers, St. George attorneys Louis Gelormino and Mark Fonte, contend the BOE was at fault.
Gelormino contends Mr. Tabacco was asked to sign a document “that stated if he was healthy, had no fever, and was fully vaccinated, no mask was required to enter the premises.”
“Mr. Tabacco signed and fully expected to be allowed to enter the premises which is a pubic city office. At this time, Mr. Tabacco was told even though he signed the required document that allows entry without a mask he was required to wear a mask,” said Gelormino.
The lawyer claimed that when Tabacco refused to put on a mask he was “aggressively confronted” by two employees of the Board of Election and told to leave
“At this time, fearing for his well being, Mr. Tabacco began to film the incident. When the two employees saw that Mr. Tabacco had his camera out, they became even more aggressive, demanded he leave and even though he was in a public city office, called the police. And when they arrived, [the employees] rudely demanded he be arrested,” said Gelormino.
Tabacco was subsequently arrested by police.
“Obviously, Mark Fonte and I will be fighting this absurd abuse of justice in criminal court until the case is dismissed. We are also conducting our own investigation into the gross abuse of authority shown by the supervising employees of the BOE in anticipation of bringing a civil suit,” said Gelormino.
Tabacco, who hosts “Liquid Lunch,” a show on BizTV, is the Independent Party candidate for city comptroller in the upcoming November election.
He was an authorized poll watcher for Marko Kepi’s campaign, his lawyers said.