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Judge tosses challenge to boro GOP control

By Rich Bockmann

In the latest chapter of the battle between feuding factions of the Queens Republican Party, the state Supreme Court earlier this month threw out a challenge to Chairman Phil Ragusa’s victory at the party’s leadership vote last year.

After falling short in his bid to supplant Ragusa at the party’s officers election in September, former U.S. Rep. Bob Turner filed a petition requesting the results be invalidated, arguing the election had been “stolen” by the chairman and “his minions.”

The legal challenge alleged that county GOP members were given inadequate notice of the Sept. 27 organizational meeting at which Ragusa was re-elected with 52 percent of the votes.

“Petitioners’ allegations that some members were given notice 48 hours or less prior to the meeting, and that some members received different notices, are not supported by an affidavit from any of the petitioners,” Supreme Court Justice Phyllis Orlikoff Flug wrote in a decision dated March 3. “None of the petitioners claim that they did not receive notice of said meeting or that they did not attend said meeting due to a lack of notice.”

Turner mounted a bid to unseat Ragusa last year as a corruption scandal rocked the Republican Party following years of internal strife.

Earlier in the year, former Queens GOP Vice Chairman Vince Tabone was indicted on federal charges alleging he schemed to sell off the party’s mayoral nomination to state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis).

The party’s leadership and an insurgent faction of Republicans lead by Turner and City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) have for years been wrestling for control of the county GOP, and following the scandal a large number of state and county committee members — those who vote for the party’s leaders — faced primary challenges.

In the end, Ragusa was able to retain control of the party.

Queens GOP Executive Director Robert Hornak said he was encouraged by the court’s decision.

“We are very pleased that the court ruled in our favor and agreed the lawsuit challenging Chairman Ragusa was without merit,” said Hornak, who added the party was looking to mend the broken fences and advance a Republican agenda.

“We look forward to focusing on the future, to uniting and building the Queens GOP while standing up against the radical agenda of [Mayor] Bill De Blasio, [Council Speaker] Melissa Mark-Viverito and their allies in the Democratic Party who are undertaking a war on children and quality education and are trying to turn the clock back to the pre-Giuliani days on safety and security,” he said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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