MINEOLA - The state Supreme Court is deciding whether former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick will be on the Nassau County executive ballot.

Hardwick wants to be put on the ballot as a third party, but the 1,500 valid signatures needed to run are in question.

So far, the Board of Elections has only found 49 valid signatures on Hardwick's petition, and more than 3,000 are still in question.

Hardwick would become the first African-American to run for Nassau executive.

Democratic Party Attorney Steven Schlesinger claims Gary Melius, the owner of Oheka Castle, has fully funded Hardwick's campaign while at the same time running fundraisers for Mangano at the Castle. He says Democrats believe Hardwick is only in the race to siphon minority voters from Suozzi to help Mangano win.

In a statement, Melius said, "My reason for supporting Andrew Hardwick is that he asked me as his friend to help him run. He wanted to have his voice heard on his ideals and what he feels was a racial assault on him by Tom Suozzi and Jay Jacobs, when they came to Freeport during his recent mayoral campaign and openly supported a white Republican against the first Democratic African-American mayor of Freeport."