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Lisa Inzerillo

Smithtown Animal Shelter. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

The former director of the Smithtown animal shelter is suing the town, her former co-workers and Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo (R) who she claims were personally hostile in their actions toward her.

Rocky Point resident Susan Hansen, who served as the supervisor of the Town of Smithtown’s Animal Shelter and Adoption Center for under two years, filed a lawsuit April 25 in United States District Eastern Court. Hansen is claiming her First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated when she was arrested for alleged criminal trespassing at the shelter after she was suspended as director in February 2017.

Former Town of Smithtown Animal Shelter Director Susan Hansen. Photo from Sue Hansen

“They caused criminal proceedings, including arrest and prosecution, to be instituted against Hansen, not for any legitimate concerns to seek justice, but rather for collateral and malicious purposes,” reads the lawsuit.

Hansen, who supervised the town’s animal shelter from August 2015 until February 2017, was arrested for allegedly criminally trespassing at the facility during a volunteer orientation session Feb. 18, 2017.

Upon arriving at the volunteer orientation, Hansen said she was informed by her former co-workers that she was not allowed to be in the building and willingly left. She was later arrested by Suffolk County police March 10, 2017.

The criminal trespassing charges against Hansen were later dismissed upon the Suffolk County district attorney’s request.

Hansen claims she began being harassed by Inzerillo shortly after she was elected to the town board in 2016. Hansen said the councilwoman, who serves as co-liaison to the shelter, inappropriately criticized her management style in front of visitors during a Feb. 11, 2016, tour of the facility. This continued through several emails and confrontations, according to the court records, before Hansen had an attorney reach out to former Supervisor Pat Vecchio to address the situation in January 2017 — weeks before she was suspended.

Inzerillo said she had no comment on the lawsuit, stating that she had not yet been served the papers or a chance to read it. Smithtown Town Attorney’s office had no comment on the pending litigation.

The lawsuit also alleges that the town purposefully “hamstrung” Hansen’s work by not giving her the necessary funds and staffing to improve the heavily criticized conditions at the animal shelter.

“They caused criminal proceedings, including arrest and prosecution, to be instituted against Hansen, not for any legitimate concerns to seek justice, but rather for collateral and malicious purposes.”
– Court Records

“Long after Hansen’s departure from the animal shelter, independent animal rights advocates were expressing their opinions that the animal shelter was not being run properly, thus, it is more likely than not that Hansen was correct that conditions at the shelter (which were abysmal long before Hansen arrived) were caused by upper management’s failure to assist the animal shelter …,” reads the lawsuit.

Hansen had taken over the shelter from former director George Beatty, who stepped down in June 2015, after more than 30 years. His resignation came after heavy criticism from Smithtown residents who alleged he was doing an inadequate job and the conditions animals lived in and how they were cared for at the shelter were unacceptable.

It cites the town increased the shelter’s budget by 14.6 percent in 2017 once Hansen was gone.

As of April 30, town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo confirmed the town has spent $76,086.10 on upgrades to the shelter since February 2017. These upgrades include renovating the former director’s offices into a meet-and-greet area, a complete renovation of the veterinary office, new dog beds and replacement of the cat condominiums. The town has also promoted two part-time animal control officers to full-time positions, according to Garguilo, accounting for some of the budgetary increase.

The town does have plans to replace the water main leading to the town property — also the site of the firematic training grounds and senior citizen center — to improve service. This would allow for future installation of a fire sprinkler system in the animal shelter, Garguilo said. There are also plans to construct a TNR building to house its trap, neuter and return program in 2019.

Smithtown Animal Shelter. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

By Sara-Megan Walsh

The Town of Smithtown’s decision to shut down the Smithtown Animal Shelter’s Facebook page is the latest controversy to bombard the already problem-plagued center.

Smithtown resident John Urbancik openly criticized town councilmembers’ decision to take down the shelter’s Facebook page earlier this month at the Nov. 7 town board meeting.

“Before you took down the page, you weren’t promoting the animals,” Urbancik said at the board meeting. “Put it back up and promote the animals. If you want the animals out of there, you need to promote them.”

Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo (R) said the site has been temporarily taken offline alleging that public commenters harassed and cyberbullied town employes by claiming they had failed to provide adequate care for the shelter’s animals.

Shelter dog Dinah was recently adopted. Photo from George Speakman

“It was destroying the self-esteem of the staff who work there every day,” she said. “It’s been shattered with this negativity. It’s hurting our adoption success. It’s hurting the animals. It’s a few people who start these rumors that go all over about the shelter, but they aren’t thinking about the animals.”

Over the last two years, the Smithtown Animal Shelter has been plagued by a series of problems. Former director James Beatty resigned in May 2015, after more than 30 years running the shelter, following months of accusations by Smithtown residents of his animal neglect and cruelty. He was replaced by Rocky Point resident Sue Hansen, who was fired by the town in July 2017 on charges of incompetence and mismanagement which led to a deterioration of the animals’ living conditions.

Urbancik said in a telephone interview with TBR News Media Nov. 10 that the shutdown of the shelter’s Facebook page wasn’t over harassment or bullying, but rather a calculated effort to silence public outcry. He claimed the shelter’s dogs are being neglected, citing they are being left locked inside unclean kennels.

Urbancik has started several Facebook pages of his own to draw attention to his problems with operation of the shelter including “Smithtown Animal Shelter needs a director” with more than 700 followers and “Remove Public Safety from Smithtown Animal Shelter” with more than 70 followers as of time of this publication.

The Smithtown Animal Shelter Facebook page comments, Urbancik’s social media posts, along with others made by animal activists concerned over conditions at the Smithtown shelter, caught the attention of New Jersey resident George Speakman.

The self-professed dog lover traveled more than two and a half hours Nov. 12 after hearing rumors the shelters’ vet was operating without anesthesia and all dogs in the shelter would be euthanized by December.

“I saw the Facebook page before it went down; it was one of the main reasons I decided to travel up to New York to take a look — I wanted to see for myself,” Speakman said. “If it was the way it was described on Facebook, I would have sat outside that shelter and protested.”

“I walked out of there with the impression that these people do nothing but love and care for these animals.”

— George Speakman 

Upon arriving, he said he met with the shelter’s veterinarian, Dr. Susan Zollo, and a kennel attendant.

“I told them about the stories I had heard, and for my own peace of mind, asked if I can look around and see the shelter,” he said. “She was more than happy to accommodate me.”

Speakman said he toured the facility and took a video recording of the kennels and dog park before deciding to adopt Dinah, a female bull terrier and corgi mix who has been a long-term resident of the shelter.

“I walked out of there with the impression that these people do nothing but love and care for these animals,” he said, saying he would highly recommend local residents visit themselves. “They bend over backwards for them.”

Smithtown resident Vicki Feuerstein, a volunteer of the shelter since it was under Beatty’s leadership, said there have been positive changes in recent months at the shelter with proactive leadership and the remaining staff responsible and dedicated to their jobs.

“You have the backbone to make it a really good shelter,” she said.

Feuerstein admitted there is still room for improvement as dogs are spending too much time in their kennels, largely due to a shortage of kennel staff.

“I would love to see more kennel staff, that really affects the life of the dogs,” she said. “ Also, an animal behaviorist.”

Councilwoman Inzerillo admitted the town only has two full-time employees at the shelter, after recent efforts to clean house of troublesome employees. She said there have been conversations with supervisor-elect Ed Wehrheim (R) about hiring two additional kennel staff members once he takes office. In addition, Inzerillo said the town has started extensive renovations to improve the dated shelter.

“We are focusing on moving forward,” she said. “We can’t focus on the negativity. I encourage residents to go and visit the place.”

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 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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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.

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.

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