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Bob Creighton

The Town of Smithtown Town Hall. File photo by Phil Corso

No clear winner has emerged in the Smithtown Republican primary for town supervisor as a narrow 39-vote margin at the close of polls Sept. 12 left the outcome undecided, pending a count of absentee ballots.

Smithtown Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) holds a razor-thin lead on incumbent town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R), 2,822 votes to 2,783, in the unofficial election results posted Sept. 13 by the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

“By definition, it’s too close to call,” said Nick LaLota, the Republican commissioner for the county board of elections. “The number of paper ballots outstanding exceeds the margin of victory by machine. It is literally too close to call.”

LaLota said the board of elections has received 322 absentee ballots as of Sept. 13. He said he expects the county may still receive a few dozen additional ballots over the next week. Absentee ballots must have been postmarked by Sept. 11 and received by the county by Sept. 19 to be valid.

“I am confident that we will remain victorious once they are opened,” Wehrheim said Wednesday morning.

The councilman said his campaign, along with Smithtown Republican Committee Chairman Bill Ellis, ran an extensive absentee voter outreach campaign leading up to the primary race.

“A lot is going to depend on how the absentee ballots go,” Ellis said in a phone interview. “We worked aggressively and I believe a lot of the absentees we had contact with voted for the entire team.”

LaLota said he anticipates by Sept. 25 the Suffolk County Board of Elections will have all the voting machines and paper ballots to be checked, and will have given sufficient notice to both campaigns in order to begin counting absentee votes.

The process of counting paper ballots involves opening each absentee envelope, allowing the ballot to be reviewed by a board of elections inspector and campaign observers, potentially including attorneys representing the campaigns. If there are any objections to the validity of a ballot it will be recorded.

The final outcome of the primary race may remain unknown until late September.

“With 300-plus ballots, I’d assume it’s going to take a few days,” LaLota said. “Attorneys have been known to gum up the process.”

Vecchio wrote the primary’s outcome was “still questionable” in an email statement, and that he was uncertain about the odds of being declared the Republican candidate after the absentee ballots were counted.

This is not the first time Vecchio has been challenged by his own party in a primary for town supervisor. In 2013, he faced off against former town councilman Robert Creighton (R) and prior to that, Jane Conway in 2005. In both of these primaries, Vecchio had a decisive victory at the polls.

“Against both Jane Conway and Bob Creighton, the results were substantially in Mr. Vecchio’s favor,” Ellis said. “Never has he lost on the [voting] machines to anyone.”

If Wehrheim remains victorious, he will be running for Smithtown town supervisor on the Republican, Conservative and Independent party lines in November.

Wehrheim currently has approximately $59,000 available in his war chest to spend on the general election, according to the 11-day pre-primary financial disclosure report filed with New York State Board of Elections.

“We won’t start campaigning until [the absentee ballots] are opened,” Wehrheim said. “Once they are open and the decision is finalized, then we will begin to carry on for the general election if we are the successful candidate.”

The winner of the Republican town supervisor primary will face off Nov. 7 against Democratic Party candidate William Holst and Kristen Slevin, running under her own None of the Above campaign.

But county Legislator Sarah Anker has just one-vote lead; longtime Smithtown board member ousted; and all local boards maintain huge majorities

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker are all smiles on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The incumbents won big on Suffolk County’s North Shore this Election Day, with only a couple real upsets at the county and town levels.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) handily won a second term at the helm against his Republican challenger, lawyer Jim O’Connor, with 57 percent of the vote.

Bellone thanked many people for his victory and also thanked his opponent for a “good race.”

Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Tonight the people of Suffolk County delivered a mandate: to advance the issues we talked about in this campaign,” he said, at the Democratic Election Night headquarters in Hauppauge. “To continue the reform government so that we can protect taxpayers, make government more efficient and effective. To reverse the decades of decline that we have seen in water quality so that we can protect this precious natural resource for ourselves and future generations.”

He vowed that he would work hard for the voters.

“To the people of Suffolk County: I want to thank you for the confidence you placed in me and this incredible team of legislators. I can guarantee you we will repay that confidence by working hard every single day to make progress on the issues that matter to you and to you families. We may celebrate a little bit tonight but that work begins tomorrow.”

Though Bellone was the clear winner early on, O’Connor said he was proud of his campaign.

“I think we talked about the issues that need to be talked about here on Long Island,” he said.

Despite the results, the challenger enjoyed himself: “I love this. … In America we run for office, we put our ideas forward and we let the people decide.”

Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker's Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker’s Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In the Suffolk County Legislature, incumbents from Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington towns won re-election, one of them by a razor-thin margin: Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who represents the 6th District, was leading her challenger by just one vote after the polls closed. It was not immediately clear if absentee ballots would tilt the scales in the favor of Republican candidate Steve Tricarico, a Brookhaven Town deputy highway superintendent. But Anker said Tuesday night that she felt “cautiously optimistic.”

Tricarico felt the same way.

“I’m feeling very confident,” he said before results were in. “This shows … that people are looking for a change. That’s what I’ve been offering.”

According to Tricarico, Republican absentee ballots outnumbered those of the Democrats, which he said boosts his confidence.

But Suffolk County Democratic Party Chairman Rich Schaffer was calling it in the other direction: “Sarah Anker — mark my words — in about two weeks will be a newly re-elected legislator.”

Anker said her election demonstrates that each vote counts. Asked what could have led to such a close race, the legislator said she’s got the political cards stacked against her as a Democrat representing a largely Republican district.

Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Most political strategists have never understood how I won it the past three times, much less this fourth time,” she said. “But I feel it’s because the people appreciate what I do. They’re looking for leadership.”

From there, it was smooth sailing. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), the 5th District legislator, beat Republican challenger Donna Cumella, of Port Jefferson Station, with 63 percent of the vote. In the 13th, Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) beat Kings Park Democrat Rich Macellaro with more than 70 percent of the total.

In Huntington, Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) won his final term in the 16th District against Republican attorney Tom McNally with 60 percent of the vote.

“We understand what’s on the minds of our constituents, we listen to our constituents, and we deliver for our constituents,” Stern said.

Also, Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) took the 18th District against his challenger from the right, Grant Lally, after garnering 56 percent of the votes.

“It’s exhilarating,” a joyous Spencer said. “It’s really is. After two years of hard work and six-month campaign, to really have the people recognize I’m giving my heart and soul to try to support us means a lot to me.”

Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Despite her loss, Cumella stayed positive and said she wouldn’t let this year’s election deter her from running for the same position in the future. She said she is now “a little bit more educated with the political arena.”

About her victory over that Republican, Hahn said, “I’m really gratified by the confidence the community has shown in me and I very much appreciate it and I plan to work just as hard as I’ve worked in the last four years.”

Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), the 4th District legislator, and the 12th District’s Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) were effectively unopposed for re-election and secured their next terms.

“I’m ecstatic,” Muratore said. “Maybe we can bring some of our ideas to the table … We’re about doing the right things to people.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Kennedy said she did not spend time campaigning and was pleased with the outcome.

“I want to go home and go to bed so I can wake up tomorrow ready to vote on the Operating Budget Committee board,” she said.

Brookhaven Town saw its supervisor, Ed Romaine (R), and its highway superintendent, Dan Losquadro (R), re-elected easily — Romaine won 72 percent of the votes against Democratic challenger Douglas Dittko and Losquadro beat out his own Democratic opponent, Jason Kontzamanys, with 69 percent of the voters’ support.

Romaine called his landslide victory “encouraging” and Losquadro said, “I really feel that this is a validation of the work that we’ve been doing in the town.”

“It’s such a big department, and really, for the fundamental services that people expect from their tax dollars are that their roads are safe, cleared of snow and debris, and I’m very excited to be given the opportunity to continue to do that work.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The three incumbents running for re-election to the Brookhaven Town Board on the North Shore were returned to their seats. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) beat Republican challenger Ed Garboski, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. She had 56 percent of the vote to his 44 percent.

“I worked really hard,” she said Tuesday night. “The community came together.”

She has no small task ahead of her. If all of the election results stand, she will be the only Democrat on the Town Board next year, after her effectively unopposed North Shore colleagues Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) won re-election, as did South Shore Republican Councilmen Dan Panico and Neil Foley. But Cartright’s lone Democratic colleague, Councilwoman Connie Kepert, was ousted by Republican challenger Michael Loguercio Jr.

“I’m kind of speechless, which isn’t normally the case for me,” Bonner said about winning by a large margin. “I’m super, super excited to get started, move forward. I can’t wait to get to work tomorrow.”

LaValle called his own win an “honor.”

Over in Huntington, town board incumbents Gene Cook (I) and Susan Berland (D) were returned to the board after a four-way race with 27 percent and 24 percent of the vote, respectively. Democratic challenger Keith Barrett and Republican challenger Jennifer Thompson fell short, each garnering about 22 percent of the vote.

“I can’t wait until tomorrow,” Cook said Tuesday night. “I felt good throughout today because I’m always honest and I think I’ve shown that in the last four years.”

Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso
Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso

Berland said she was “proud and humbled” to be re-elected.

“I just want to keep doing good things for the people of the town and making the town the best place it can possibly be,” she said.

Smithtown Town Board experienced a bit of an upset. Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) was re-elected to one of two board seats, after receiving 31 percent of the vote, but his colleague Bob Creighton (R) was unable to battle back after losing a Republican primary to newcomer Lisa Inzerillo.

Inzerillo was elected Tuesday night with 28 percent of the vote, as compared to Creighton’s 20 percent. The latter total was even lower than that of the lone Democratic candidate for Town Board, who lost after garnering just 22 percent of the vote.

Inzerillo held a private gathering at her home Tuesday night and did not respond to requests seeking comment, but took to her Facebook page to thank her team.

Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding
Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I am grateful beyond words for all of the support I received from residents,” she said. “It is very humbling to know my grassroots campaign was successful. I look forward to working with the new town board and working for the residents that elected me.”

Wehrheim, who frequently works with Creighton on town projects, called Inzerillo’s win “a loss for Smithtown” and called his own victory “bittersweet” as he prepared to work with the newcomer. Creighton apologized to his room of supporters Tuesday night, adding that he was “sorry things didn’t work out.”

About his defeat, Vetter said, “The message is clear: The town didn’t want me. … Apparently the town is satisfied with what they have.”

Earlier in the night he had said, “If I lose and it’s tight, I might try again. If I get clobbered, I’m not gonna do it again.”

Rohma Abbas, Giselle Barkley, Phil Corso, Victoria Espinoza, Desirée Keegan, Kevin Redding and Eric Santiago contributed reporting.

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Bob Creighton and Ed Wehrheim. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Experience and track record are the name of the game in this year’s Smithtown Town Board race, and on that note, we endorse Republican incumbents Bob Creighton and Ed Wehrheim.

The two work well as a team, and say they have downtown revitalization high up on both their lists of priorities for another term.

They’ve backed a proposal to restructure Smithtown government to lead to more accountability and cooperation. The plan would involve creating four commissioner positions that would oversee about five to six department heads, compared to the 26 department heads currently answering to the supervisor. That plan stalled due to opposition from Republican Supervisor Pat Vecchio.

When it comes to economic development, both men encourage it. Wehrheim said he helped facilitate the redevelopment of the Smith Haven Mall and assisted in bringing Bob’s Discount Furniture to the Smithtown area. With Wehrheim’s support, Creighton also pitched raising the minimum wage, which eventually made its way into the town’s 2016 preliminary budget.

It will be an uphill battle at the polls next Tuesday for Creighton, as he won’t be running on the Republican line. That spot belongs to Lisa Inzerillo, a Republican who narrowly beat him out in a primary election on a rainy day — the perfect storm for low voter turnout.

Inzerillo did not show up for a debate at the Times of Smithtown’s headquarters.

Democratic challenger Larry Vetter is a knowledgeable, nice man, who strikes us as creative, energetic, bright and pragmatic. It would be great to see him take on some government position. But we feel right now is not his time as councilman.

Vote Creighton and Wehrheim on Election Day.

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Bob Creighton is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

By Phil Corso

Larry Vetter is running for the Smithtown Town Board. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Larry Vetter is running for the Smithtown Town Board. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Over the past several years, if a Smithtown Town Board vote resulted in a 3-2 tally, chances were incumbent Republicans Bob Creighton and Ed Wehrheim were the lone naysayers. Both electeds have been seeking re-election this fall, as political newcomers from both sides of the aisle have stepped up for their seats.

Creighton, 77, came out on the bottom of a three-way Republican primary back in September, losing the GOP line on Tuesday’s ballot to both Wehrheim and Lisa Inzerillo, 50, of Kings Park, while still retaining a spot on the Conservative, Independent and Reform party lines. Meanwhile, Democrat Larry Vetter, 62, threw his hat into the race over the summer and has been vying to break the town’s all-Republican board.

All the candidates, except for Inzerillo, sat down with the Times of Smithtown last week to discuss top issues facing Smithtown and what their plans were to address them if elected.

Creighton said he hoped his record would speak for itself in his bid for another term, citing his background in law enforcement and private sector success before joining the Town Board in 2008. In the interview, both Creighton and Wehrheim discussed that familiar 3-2 split on the board and argued that dissension too often got in the way of progress.

Ed Wehrheim is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Ed Wehrheim is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Earlier this year, Creighton, who is in his second four-year term on the board, took to a work session to propose that the town consider installing commissioner positions similar to those held in neighboring townships like Brookhaven and Islip, which he argued would streamline workflow and make department heads more accountable. Town Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) was outright against the proposal and opposed it each time it was discussed before the board, which Creighton said stonewalled it from progressing.

“I’ve worked to try and change government a little bit and to make it more accountable, but it really hasn’t been acted on,” Creighton said of the plan, which Wehrheim also supported. “It will not be acted on until two of the other council people take a stand, which they will not do as long as Mr. Vecchio is there.”

Wehrheim, who is running for his fourth term on the board, said he would use another term in office to stimulate economic growth in the town, specifically with downtown business revitalization and infrastructure repairs in mind.

When asked how he planned on bettering his standing in the classic 3-2 Town Board split, Wehrheim said he would only keep doing what he has been doing — bringing business to every work session with hopes of spurring action.

Bob Creighton is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Bob Creighton is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“It’s a political issue that doesn’t need to exist. It might be great press, but I don’t pay much attention to the dissension,” Wehrheim said. “I bring business to every board meeting, because I have constituents that need me to discuss issues important to them.”

Wehrheim cited a recent legislative effort he championed alongside Creighton, adding that the two “went back and forth” over a minimum wage proposal for the town’s seasonal workers. That minimum wage hike was subsequently included in the 2016 preliminary budget in September.

Vetter, the lone Democrat in the four-way race, said one of the key points that set him apart from the rest, in his first run for public office, was his “outside looking in” perspective coupled with his extensive background in environmental science and business. He centered his campaign on attacking the “Long Island brain drain” and fighting to keep young adults in Smithtown by making it a more vibrant place to live and raise a family.

“I have four adult children — they’re all gone and off Long Island,” Vetter said. “I have three grandchildren I’m watching grow up on Skype. Everything springs from that, and that includes industrial development, downtown revitalization, housing initiatives, and other aspects, like sewers, infrastructure.”

Vetter said that if elected, he would only seek out one or two terms before removing himself from the board because of his strong support for term limits.

Earlier this month, Vecchio joined other marquee Republican names in Smithtown on the steps of Town Hall to endorse Inzerillo, flanked by councilmembers Tom McCarthy (R) and Lynne Nowick (R) as well as Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) and state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James).

Inzerillo, however, did not respond to several attempts to organize a four-way candidate debate at the Times of Smithtown’s headquarters. She was also absent at other debates throughout the town, with the latest one a week before Election Day at the Smithtown Fire House.

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Smithtown Republicans endorse Lisa Inzerillo, right, in her bid for the board. From left to right, Councilman Tom McCarthy, Councilwoman Lynne Nowick, Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick, Supervisor Pat Vecchio and Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. Photo by Phil Corso

Three of the five members of the Republican-dominated Smithtown Town Board endorsed a political newcomer this week, as she heads into the November election with hopes of unseating an incumbent.

Town Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) stood beside councilmembers Tom McCarthy (R) and Lynne Nowick (R) on the steps of Town Hall on Monday to publicly endorse Lisa Inzerillo in her bid for the board, flanked also by other Smithtown-based elected officials. Inzerillo was one of two to land the GOP line in next month’s town board election, with 1,388 votes in a primary, alongside incumbent Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R), who received 1,830 votes. But fellow incumbent Councilman Bob Creighton (R) was left on the outskirts with 1,306 votes, forcing him to run on the Conservative, Independent and Reform party lines.

Vecchio emceed the press conference as a means of bringing Republicans together to support members of their own party, but two fellow party members were noticeably absent from the dais.

“On Sept. 10, there was a Republican primary, and Lisa Inzerillo was the winner. She is a Republican and she deserves the support of all Republican elected officials,” Vecchio said. “We as Republicans believe that the party has to support the winner of the Republican primary. To do otherwise is contrary to every tenet of any party, and the bylaws of any party.”

Both McCarthy and Nowick recalled times when they came out of Republican primaries victorious before earning their spots on the board and threw support behind Inzerillo with hopes of seeing her follow a similar path.

“In 1997, I was in a primary also,” McCarthy said. “I was on the outside, basically as a businessman, and it’d be nice to have another person from the outside — a civic-minded person on the board.”

Also throwing their support behind Inzerillo were state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) and Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga).

Wehrheim, who also won the three-way primary with the most votes of the three, was not included in the endorsement and said in a phone interview he was standing behind his fellow councilman in Creighton, despite the candidate not garnering enough votes to get his name on the Republican line next month.

“[Councilman Creighton] is a colleague and consummate professional. We have an excellent working relationship and I believe he deserves to be elected a third time, based on his record alone,” Wehrheim said. “If they were good Republicans, they would have supported Councilman Creighton [in the primary] as the incumbent Republican official running for re-election. He was chosen by the Republican party.”

Wehrheim and Creighton voted together on some of the town board’s more divisive decisions over the past several years, often being outnumbered 3-2. For that reason, Creighton said he did not expect the supervisor’s support as he sought another term.

“I’m not in any way surprised,” Creighton said. “The supervisor wants and desperately needs one more vote on the town board to make it absolutely Mr. Vecchio’s board.”

Both Creighton’s and Wehrheim’s seats on the board will be up for a vote come November, with the incumbents facing off against Inzerillo and Democrat Larry Vetter, who announced his candidacy earlier this year.

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Vecchio memo puts end to weeks-long discussion over councilman’s plan to pay workers $9 an hour

Smithtown Town Hall. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Some Smithtown seasonal employees will have a little extra weight added to their wallets next year, but only by about 25 cents.

In a memo sent to the Town Board, Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) had made official the town’s commitment to including a minimum wage increase in the tentative 2016 budget for part-time summer positions. The discussion over whether or not to raise the minimum wage from $8.75 had been ongoing for several weeks since Councilman Bob Creighton (R) had introduced the proposal via a resolution at a recent Town Board meeting, but a disagreement over protocol had blocked the plan.

Creighton first brought the proposal to the board in August, but Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) floated a motion to table the proposal, which was unanimously approved.

The measure reappeared on the agenda at an early September Smithtown Town Board meeting and Nowick once again voted to table the discussion, drawing 3-2 split from councilmembers, with support from Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) and Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R).

“This doesn’t mean I am not in support of this,” Nowick said at the meeting after motioning to table the plan. “I want to look at the budget, which is not due for another 30 days or so.”

McCarthy, who voted in favor of tabling the discussion alongside Nowick and Vecchio, said in a phone interview earlier this month that he was in favor of raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour for the town’s seasonal workers, but believed it should be put into the budget. He also said he and his fellow councilmembers had full intentions of seeing the raise put into effect through the budget.

Creighton said the 25-cent raise for the town’s roughly 150 seasonal workers making $8.75 an hour would ultimately cost roughly $23,000, which he said could be factored into the budget now so the budget process could react accordingly.

Wehrheim said at the time that he was concerned with the way the procedure went through, given the fact that the councilmembers who voted against the resolution had weeks since it was last tabled to voice their concerns regarding its financial impact on the town.

Over the last several months, Smithtown resolutions for municipal hires showed workers being hired at rates anywhere from as low as $8 to as high as $16 per hour. The town, however, is not legally bound to abide by a minimum wage.

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Smithtown Councilman Bob Creighton. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Thursday’s Republican primary in Smithtown saw an incumbent fall to the bottom of the pack in the town board race, but only by a slim margin.

Councilman Bob Creighton (R) came in third out of three candidates seeking the Republican line in November’s general election. The other two, incumbent Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) and challenger Lisa M. Inzerillo came in first and second, respectively, all but assuring them Republican spots, according to unofficial Suffolk County Board of Elections results.

By Friday morning, Wehrheim had collected 40.49 percent of the vote — 1,673 total votes — and Inzerillo earned 31.27 percent, or 1,292 total votes. Creighton came in close behind Inzerillo with 27.81 percent — 1,149 votes.

Creighton had focused much of his primary bid on development in Smithtown that he said could attract new business to the community. He has served on the Smithtown Town Board since 2008 and has been a longtime ally of Wehrheim, often aligning with him in critical votes put before the board over recent years.

“There are still some 200-odd absentee ballots to count, but I have no illusions about that,” Creighton said. “I lost — period.”

Creighton said he attributed part of the loss to low voter turnout, with just about seven percent of Smithtown Republicans hitting the polls. The councilman also said he had full intentions of still running on the Independent, Conservative and Reform party lines come November, whether or not absentee ballots salvage his primary bid later next week.

Wehrheim has been on the board since 2003 and said in a previous interview that he would like to use another term to work on funding more projects to revitalize Smithtown’s downtown area. In a phone interview, the councilman said torrential downpours throughout the voting hours on Thursday may have had an impact on voter turnout, which was slightly lower than the average primary.

“I am very pleased with my position as number-one in the race, but I do believe the weather certainly had an affect on the voter turnout,” he said. “The board, as of late, is fairly divided, but I have a long tenure with the town and I will continue to do what I’ve always done. I will go in there, and work on behalf of the Smithtown resident.”

Inzerillo, a business owner from Kings Park, focused her campaign on making Smithtown’s downtown business district more vibrant. She declared victory following Thursday’s vote in a statement, looking forward to discussing the town’s most pressing issues.

“This grassroots campaign, fueled by family and friends, has inspired and humbled me and I am ready to represent the Republican Party in November,” she said.

Both Creighton’s and Wehrheim’s seats on the board will be up for a vote come November, with the incumbents facing off against Inzerillo and Democrat Larry Vetter, who announced his candidacy earlier this year. The winners will join incumbents not up for re-election, Supervisor Pat Vecchio, Councilman Tom McCarthy and Councilwoman Lynne Nowick — all Republicans.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include comments from Councilman Bob Creighton and Councilman Ed Wehrheim.

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McCarthy, Nowick, Vecchio vote again to table Creighton’s proposal to pay seasonal workers $9 an hour

Smithtown Town Hall. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

A previously tabled motion to increase the minimum wage for Smithtown employees was sidelined once again, and the town board is at odds over the reasoning behind it.

Councilman Bob Creighton (R) had initially proposed, at a work session in August, to raise the town’s minimum wage from $8.75 to $9 per hour as of April 2016, but Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) later floated a motion to table the proposal, which was unanimously approved. The measure reappeared on Tuesday’s Smithtown Town Board meeting agenda and Nowick once again voted to table the discussion, drawing 3-2 split from councilmembers, with support from Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) and Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R).

“This doesn’t mean I am not in support of this,” Nowick said, in justifying her decision to table the proposal a second time, after Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) had publicly asked her to explain her decision. “I want to look at the budget, which is not due for another 30 days or so.”

In a phone interview, Creighton said he was caught off guard by the decision to table the proposal a second time, and the councilwoman’s explanation to wait for the budget process early next month bewildered him.

“It does not seem to be a justification, in my mind, for postponing the vote,” said Creighton, who, along with Wehrheim, voted against Nowick’s motion to table the proposal for a second time. “You’re either for it or against it.”

Creighton said the 25-cent raise for the town’s roughly 150 seasonal workers making $8.75 an hour — would ultimately cost roughly $23,000, which he said could be factored into the budget now so the budget process could react accordingly.

“The actions of those three are asinine,” Creighton said. “It’s an insult to the kids who are working hard in this town.”

Wehrheim said he was concerned with the way the procedure went through, given the fact that the councilmembers who voted against the resolution had weeks since it was last tabled to voice their concerns regarding its financial impact on the town. He said the $9 minimum wage proposal was not only in line with state law, but was also run by Vecchio, Comptroller Donald Musgnug and the town’s personnel department, which he said validated the proposal.

“Not one word was uttered about any intention to table that resolution,” Wehrheim said. “The time to have that discussion was certainly at our work session. I know Councilwoman Nowick said she’d rather look at the budget first, but there is no reason to. I don’t think it’s fair to the public.”

Musgnug had no comment on the matter. But Vecchio later said Creighton’s resolution was a politically motivated decision, as most town workers were already making more than $9.

Over the last several months, Smithtown resolutions for municipal hires showed workers being hired at rates anywhere from as low as $8 to as high as $16 per hour. The town, however, is not legally bound to abide by a minimum wage.

McCarthy, who voted in favor of tabling the discussion alongside Nowick and Vecchio, said in a phone interview that he was in favor of raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour for the town’s seasonal workers, but believed it should be put into the budget. He also said he and his fellow councilmembers had full intentions of seeing the raise put into effect through the budget.

McCarthy said everyone on the board was ultimately in favor of raising the minimum wage, but they disagreed over how to implement the change.

“Going up to $9 is not a problem,” McCarthy said. “But the process is not putting it into a resolution. We’ve never done that before, ever. I tabled it because I will be putting it into the budget myself, definitely.”

In a similar instance last year, McCarthy had put forward a successful 3-2 resolution to increase the salary of the deputy supervisor — his own position — by $30,000, but ultimately rescinded the decision and said he would rather see that call come via the budgeting process. The raise was later included in the 2015 budget and passed.

File photo

Smithtown residents will have some choices to make come November, as two candidates have stepped up to challenge incumbent councilmen Bob Creighton (R) and Ed Wehrheim (R).

Democrat Larry Vetter and Republican Lisa Inzerillo are both running for Smithtown Town Board, but they have differing views on what to do when they get there.

Vetter, 62, said he believes he will bring a new view to Smithtown if elected.

“I look at things from a different perspective,” Vetter said. “I come from a different background.”

Vetter, of Smithtown, comes from the private sector and has owned an environmental consulting firm, Vetter Environmental Science, for the past seven years.

Challenger Lisa Inzerillo (R) is throwing her hat into the race to unseat a Republican incumbent on Smithtown’s Town Board. Photo from the candidate
Challenger Lisa Inzerillo (R) is throwing her hat into the race to unseat a Republican incumbent on Smithtown’s Town Board. Photo from the candidate

Among the biggest issues he said he thinks Smithtown is facing right now is a reinvigoration of the downtown area. Vetter said he wants to find new and innovative ways to find revenue and cut costs, to help fight the brain drain he believes Smithtown is currently experiencing, driving youth out of town.

“I know what it’s like to raise a family and see them leave, it’s disappointing,” he said. “Both of my children have left Long Island and are probably not coming back. Young people are constantly getting educated here and then leaving.”

Vetter said he would work with an industrial development association as other townships have done to retain youth.

Vetter also spoke of tax breaks and different incentives that could be given to businesses that develop in Smithtown.

Lisa Inzerillo, 50, a business owner from Kings Park, is also focusing on the issues of developing a more vital downtown business district.

If elected, Inzerillo said in an email that she plans to “use my influences to require our town planning and development staff to aggressively pursue state and federal grants designed toward revitalizing our downtown areas.”

Inzerillo said her stance on the environment is what sets her apart from her challengers.

“I am the only candidate that wants to protect the environment, green spaces, and quality of life,” she said. “Misguided development, contamination of our environment and abuse of sensible town zoning regulations will be at the top of my agenda.”

Both incumbents Wehrheim and Creighton said they felt that economic growth in the downtown area is key to ensuring that Smithtown continues to prosper.

“We need to ensure that the commercial tax base remains stable or is increasing,” Wehrheim said in a phone interview. “The healthier that is, the better able we are to keep residential taxes stable.”

Larry Vetter (D) is throwing his hat into the race to unseat a Republican incumbent on Smithtown’s Town Board. Photo from the candidate
Larry Vetter (D) is throwing his hat into the race to unseat a Republican incumbent on Smithtown’s Town Board. Photo from the candidate

The redevelopment of the Smith Haven Mall, as well as adding larger stores like Bob’s Discount Furniture to the Smithtown area are all projects that Wehrheim worked on during his last three terms, some with Creighton’s involvement as well.

Wehrheim also said that he intends to use bonding to help fund more projects in the downtown area. If elected, this will be Wehrheim’s fourth term in office.

When speaking on Creighton and himself, Wehrheim said, “I feel that we have a vast amount of government experience in Smithtown government. I believe firmly that our experience and dedication shows we’re the right people to put in office.”

Increased development is something that Creighton said is a perfect example of smart growth, and would encourage new businesses to come into Smithtown.

“We must do something to generate commercial enterprises,” Creighton said. “There are too many empty stores.”

Recently, a proposal to restructure Smithtown’s government has come to the attention of the board. Creighton brought the idea to the board and stressed that while it is still only in the proposal stage, it could lead to more accountability and cooperation in Smithtown’s government.

The restructuring would create four commissioner positions that would each look over approximately five to six department heads. Creighton believes this would be more successful than having all 26 department heads answer to Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R).

Wehrheim supported the proposal of this idea. If elected, this would be Creighton’s third term as councilman. He was elected to office in 2008, and Wehrheim was elected in 2003.

The town board discusses a resolution added to a meeting agenda. Photo by Phil Corso

A Smithtown councilman is proposing to raise the minimum wage for town employees, but the discussion has been tabled for future consideration.

Town Councilman Bob Creighton (R) initially proposed to have a minimum wage resolution be added to the agenda to last Tuesday afternoon’s town board meeting, which would effectively set the minimum wage at $9 per hour as of April 1, 2016.

The motion was met with skepticism, and Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) moved to table the proposal for a future date, which the board unanimously approved.

Over the last several months Smithtown resolutions for municipal hires showed workers being hired at rates anywhere from as low as $8 and as high as $16 per hour. The town, however, is not legally bound to abide by a minimum wage.

Creighton could not be reached for comment. The discussion will be revisited at a later town board session.

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