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Glenn Jorgensen

Robert Murphy, left, looks to continue serving as Smithtown’s highway superintendent, while challenger Justin Smiloff, right, looks to replace him. Photos by Victoria Espinoza

Two candidates are vying to serve the unexpired term of former Smithtown Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen (R), who resigned in October 2015 shortly before pleading guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges.

When the two candidates were interviewed together at the TBR News Media’s main office earlier this month, it seemed the battle lines were drawn according to age. Deputy Highway Supervisor Robert Murphy (R) has been the acting supervisor for almost a year, since the town board named him to replace Jorgensen. He is 53.

His Democratic challenger is lifelong Smithtown resident and attorney Justin Smiloff, who said he “doesn’t need the job, but wants it because he thinks he can make a difference.” In addition to a law degree, he has an undergraduate degree in accounting, which he said he would use to “see what I can do to get more for less.” He is 35.

Among the topics of contention was the restoration of free leaf bag distribution to residents. “The leaf bag program is beneficial to taxpayers,” Smiloff said, “and if cost is a problem, cuts should be made from other areas.”

Murphy said the last time leaf bags were distributed was 10 years ago, at a cost of $187,000.

“With the 2 percent cap Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) established, some services have had to be eliminated,” he said, adding he thinks the brown paper bags could be mulched with leaves and don’t serve their intended purpose if they’ve been sitting out in the rain.

Technology use in the Highway Department was also discussed. Smiloff said his youth is an advantage in that area. He wants to see a modern, user-friendly website and feels residents should be able to text message the department. In addition, he will look at technology used in other places. Murphy said he is already networking with other highway superintendents. The Town of Brookhaven’s Dan Losquadro (R) has shared information about geographic information system currently being used to identify potholes.

Another item of debate was the use of energy-efficient vehicles.

“If we reduce the cost for fuel, money could be used for more beneficial things to help residents,” Smiloff said. On this, Murphy was in agreement. However, with $800,000 a year you can buy only four trucks, he said, indicating it will take some time to achieve true energy efficiency.

Smiloff promises voters “a new day and a new start.”

“I would deliver for taxpayers in a manner they haven’t seen before,” he said. He believes a clean sweep is necessary for taxpayers’ peace of mind.

In contrast, Murphy said his experience is worth its weight in gold.

“I have over 30 years in the field — 20 years in the private sector and [about] 10 in public civil engineering — and I have been at the department for the last five years,” he said.

In the year he’s run the department, he said he’s seen where improvements need to be made. He noted that his morals and ethics have never been questioned, and he will make sure that everything is done legally.

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Smithtown Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy sits at Smithtown Town Hall. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Smithtown Highway Department turned the page on a tumultuous 2015 on Tuesday, when Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) swore in newly appointed Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy.

Murphy, 52, served as the interim superintendent after Glenn Jorgensen resigned in October and pleaded guilty to charges that he falsified public documents. Jorgensen, who had been in the position for about six years, was also accused of sexually harassing one of his employees. Murphy was deputy superintendent from 2012 until the beginning of his interim term this past year.

“I’m confident that Mr. Murphy will continue to perform as he has over the past few months,” Vecchio said in a phone interview. “He’s open to suggestions for efficiency.”

Vecchio also said he’d received more complimentary calls from the community regarding the highway department’s handling of two snowstorms in 2016 than any other storms he can remember.

The supervisor was responsible for nominating Murphy to take over as the permanent superintendent, and the board unanimously approved him.

“It is an absolute pleasure to appoint Mr. Robert Murphy as Smithtown highway superintendent,” Town Board member Lisa Inzerillo (R) said in an email. “Many phone calls from Smithtown residents have come in letting us know what a wonderful job Mr. Murphy has been doing. Robert demonstrates dedication to this position, highway employees and the residents of Smithtown; therefore, appointing Robert is the best decision for our town.”

Murphy said in an interview that he has about 25 years of experience in the engineering field, and a business management degree from the University of Phoenix.

He and his wife Kim both graduated from Smithtown High School East in 1981, and he has lived in Smithtown his whole life, minus a 12-year stay in Arizona.

Murphy returned to Smithtown about six years ago, and before becoming deputy highway superintendent, he spent about two years as a capital projects manager for Suffolk County. He and his wife, who manages an East End Disabilities Associates group home in Riverhead, have a 25-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son.

“I’m a people person,” Murphy said, when asked which of his qualities would help him in his new position. “I’m a facilitator. I love to get things going in the right direction, and that’s what’s happening at the highway department right now. Communicate with the people, show them respect and they’ll give respect back.”

Murphy said he believes a key to his position is bringing jobs and projects to workers that will leave them with a sense of pride. And Vecchio said he’s noticed an uptick in worker morale since Murphy took over.

“For the four years that I was there and then the interim period, you always think, ‘Let’s change this,’” Murphy said. “Now it’s on your shoulders and you’ve got to make sure you try to implement different things and see if they work and just be a good leader. If you’re a good leader, then guys will follow, and I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Murphy said that he’s looking forward to the challenges and work that he has ahead of him.

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Glenn Jorgensen poses with a tree stump at the Montclair Avenue highway yard. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Smithtown’s former Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen was sentenced to 560 hours of community service and three years’ probation in state Supreme Court on Friday after pleading guilty to charges accusing him of falsifying public documents, records showed.

Back in October, Jorgensen, 64, pleaded guilty to the felony charge of offering a false instrument for filing and the misdemeanor charge of official misconduct relating back to a construction project he headed in November 2014, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office said. He appeared in front of Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen in Riverhead on Friday, where he avoided four months of jail time and received a plea deal that included his community service sentencing as well as a surcharge of $375 to be paid over the next 90 days.

Anthony La Pinta, Jorgensen’s Hauppauge-based criminal defense attorney, could not be reached from comment.

According to the criminal complaint against Jorgensen, the former highway superintendent instructed an employee of Smithtown to alter road construction reports to hide his approval of Medford contractor Suffolk Asphalt Corp. paving as many as eight Smithtown streets in below-freezing temperatures throughout November 2014.

“This disposition compels the defendant to resign from his elected position and his admission of guilt before the court confirms the facts uncovered during the investigation,” Robert Clifford, spokesman for the DA’s office, said in a statement earlier this year. “As the superintendent of highways, Mr. Jorgensen knowingly had false information about the paving of town roads filed as an official town record, and he knowingly directed that inaccurate information be filed to make it appear as though the roadwork met state mandatory specifications.”

Jorgensen resigned from his position Oct. 16.

“It is a sad occurrence and I will have no comment other than I have sympathy for Mr. Jorgensen and his family,” Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) said in an October statement.

In April, Jorgensen was charged with tampering with public records, falsifying business records, filing false records, official misconduct and grand larceny, Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said. Initially, Jorgensen pleaded not guilty to the charges.

At the time, Jorgensen, of St. James, was accused of altering road construction reports and stealing a public work order for an improper repaving. He tried to conceal his approval of paving at least eight Smithtown streets in freezing temperatures last November and then directed a highway foreman to alter the record of the weather conditions done during the repaving work.

Jorgensen had also been accused of sexual harassment involving his former secretary. The town was issued a notice of claim alleging he sexually harassed her in December. The claim also alleged he had taken her out to job sites, out to eat and eventually fired her after finding out she was dating an employee of the highway department.

District attorney detectives found work orders for the improper repaving jobs hidden under Jorgensen’s bed at his Hope Place residence in St. James.

Jorgensen worked for the Smithtown Highway Department for 37 years, and won election for highway superintendent in 2009 and 2013.

Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen patches a pothole in the Town of Smithtown as another highway department staffer looks on. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Smithtown Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen (R) has resigned and pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges in a scheme to alter road-repaving records from last year.

Jorgensen, 63, pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court in Riverhead on Thursday, Oct. 15, to a felony charge of offering a false instrument for filing and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct as part of a plea deal with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

He will be sentenced on Dec. 11 to four months of jail but will serve an alternative sentence in lieu of jail of 570 hours of community service, and will receive three years probation, according to Robert Clifford, spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

“This disposition compels the defendant to resign from his elected position and his admission of guilt before the court confirms the facts uncovered during the investigation,” Clifford said in a statement. “As the Superintendent of Highways Mr. Jorgensen knowingly had false information about the paving of town roads filed as an official town record, and he knowingly directed that inaccurate information be filed to make it appear as though the roadwork met state mandatory specifications.”

Vecchio’s office confirmed that Jorgensen resigned from his position as of Friday, Oct. 16.

In April, Jorgensen was charged with tampering with public records, falsifying business records, filing false records, official misconduct and grand larceny, Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said. Initially, Jorgensen pleaded not guilty to the charges.

At the time, Jorgensen, of St. James, was accused of altering road construction reports and stealing a public work order for an improper repaving. He tried to conceal his approval of paving at least eight Smithtown streets in freezing temperatures last November and then directed a highway foreman to alter the record of the weather conditions done during the repaving work.

District attorney detectives found work orders for the improper repaving jobs hidden under Jorgensen’s bed at his Hope Place residence.

“State Department of Transportation construction standards dictate asphalt must not be applied to a road surface in freezing temperatures, and in fact, the town’s own engineer has said repaving in freezing weather would result in the asphalt falling apart,” Spota said in an April statement. “The repaving of a residential street doesn’t happen that often and when it does, residents are paying for a job done correctly, not a faulty repaving that will soon need pothole repair work.”

Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) has said he felt Jorgensen should resign from his post amid the slew of accusations.

“It is a sad occurrence and I will have no comment other than I have sympathy for Mr. Jorgensen and his family,” Vecchio said in an email on Tuesday morning.

Jorgensen had also been accused of sexual harassment involving his former secretary. The town was issued a notice of claim alleging he sexually harassed her in December. The claim also alleged he had taken her out to job sites, out to eat and eventually fired her after finding out she was dating an employee of the highway department. Earlier this year, Vecchio publicly called Jorgensen out for taking his new secretary out to job sites, going against the Suffolk County Civil Service’s job description for the position.

“It seems to me that you are either not comprehending why the position exists, you have a disregard for civil service law or you are mocking the town board and the public,” Vecchio said of Jorgensen bringing his new secretary to the job site in April.

Smithtown Democratic Committee Chairman Ed Maher also called for Jorgensen’s resignation in April, and said it was an outrage that the taxpayers were funding his salary.

Jorgensen worked for the Smithtown Highway Department for 37 years, and won election for highway superintendent in 2009 and 2013.

Jorgensen’s attorney could not be reached for comment this week.

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Glenn Jorgensen poses with a tree stump at the Montclair Avenue highway yard. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

In a short and not very sweet memo, Smithtown’s supervisor called out the superintendent of highways.

Pat Vecchio (R) said he felt Glenn Jorgensen should resign from his post amid a slew of accusations surrounding his performance on the job, including an alleged sexual harassment scandal and various felony charges against Jorgensen regarding road paving projects late last year. The letter came after the supervisor learned Jorgensen, 63, had allegedly taken his personal secretary out to a job site.

Vecchio’s memo included an attachment from the Suffolk County Civil Service Department, which explicitly outlined the job description of the secretary to the highway superintendent and did not include on-site work.

“It is my understanding that today, May 13, 2015, you had [a] secretary accompany you to a job site,” the memo said. “It seems to me that you are either not comprehending why the position exists, you have a disregard for civil service law or you are mocking the town board and the public.”

Town records showed that Jorgensen, who could not be reached for comment, hired Kaitlin Swinson as his new secretary in late January. Her position had initially been terminated back in February when the town board voted unanimously to rescind the $38,000 allocated for her job, but later reinstated her position in a 3-1 vote in March. She could not be reached for comment.

The highway superintendent has been at the center of controversy for several months now since a notice of claim was filed against the town in December alleging he had sexually harassed his former secretary, Aimee-Lynn Smith, 27. The claim also alleged Jorgensen had taken her out to job sites, out to eat and eventually fired her after finding out she was dating an employee of the highway department.

Jorgensen, of St. James, was also slapped with separate charges accusing him of tampering with public records for a town paving project, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said.

Jorgensen pleaded not guilty to the four felony charges and the misdemeanor in April.

The district attorney alleged that Jorgensen directed a highway foreman to alter road construction reports to conceal that he had approved a contractor, Suffolk Asphalt Corp. of Selden, to pave at least eight Smithtown streets in freezing temperatures in November. The altered records misrepresented the weather conditions during the repaving work, Spota said.

Jorgensen’s misdemeanor grand larceny charge also accused him of stealing a public work order for the improper repaving and taking the official document home. District attorney detectives found the records in Jorgensen’s Hope Place residence, under his bed, Spota said.

“State department of transportation construction standards dictate asphalt must not be applied to a road surface in freezing temperatures and, in fact, the town’s own engineer has said repaving in freezing weather would result in the asphalt falling apart,” Spota said. “The repaving of a residential street doesn’t happen that often and when it does, residents are paying for a job done correctly, not a faulty repaving that will soon need pothole repair work.”

Smithtown Democratic Committee Chairman Ed Maher also called for Jorgensen’s resignation back in April after the charges surfaced, calling the taxpayers funding of his salary an outrage.