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Patrick Vecchio

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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.

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Town Board changes decision-making process when granting contracts based on ‘best value’

Town Board members mull over the proposal to add a chapter to the town code changing the ways contracts are bidded out at a previous public hearing. Photo by Phil Corso

Smithtown’s Town Board unanimously green-lighted the adding of a chapter to the town code that awards bids based on best value rather than simply giving contracts to the lowest bidder.

The change came pursuant to a state general municipal law that allowed towns to authorize the awarding of certain purchase contracts, including contracts for services exceeding $20,000, based on best value, which Assistant Town Attorney Janice Hansen described as more cost efficient in the long term, as opposed to the cheapest option in the short term.

“The best value option may be used if, for example, it is more cost efficient over time to award the good or service to other than the lowest bidder or offerer, if factors such as lower cost of maintenance, durability, higher quality and longer product life can be documented,” she said at an April 7 public hearing on the matter.

Contracts for public works projects, however, were not included under the new chapter, Hansen said.
The state law described the standards for best value as projects that “optimize quality, cost and efficiency among responsive and responsible bidders or offerers.”

But Charlie Gardner, director of government affairs for the Long Island chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association, spoke on behalf of his group’s 47 different electrical contractors in Nassau and Suffolk counties in saying there were concerns over the wording of the measure. By awarding contracts based on best value and not just price, Gardner said he was worried about the level of subjectivity that might arise in the decision-making process and was simply looking for reassurance from the board.

“If you read the standards for best value, it does cite where possible determinants should be based on objective and quantifiable analysis of clearly described and documented criteria, which is fine,” he said. “But why does it say, ‘Where possible?’ Shouldn’t it always be the determination based on that? We’re not quibbling with the intent of the law and we certainly have faith in the current Town Board, but down the road, when subjectivity enters into it, that’s the concern of my members.”

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said the board would take Gardner’s concerns into consideration in making future decisions on contracts and also ensure any awards are justified as they are rolled out.

The state law requires that entities must document their reasoning for awarding a contract based on best value instead of to the lowest responsible bidder.

Smithtown’s Town Board voted 5-0 in support of the measure at its April 23 meeting, making the new chapter supersede any inconsistent provisions of the town’s procurement policy enacted before the unanimous vote.

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Smithtown Councilman Bob Creighton. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Smithtown Councilman Bob Creighton (R) is reaching out to Suffolk County as he continues to push a plan that would reform the town’s government setup.

It has been nearly two months since the town board last discussed the government restructure proposal, which Creighton and Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) advocated for at a work session in March. Officials renewed discussion Tuesday morning when Creighton said he would be asking Suffolk County Personnel Director Alan Schneider to attend an upcoming work session and offer insight on how other municipalities endured a similar reform.

Under the plan, Smithtown would restructure its government services by placing a commissioner at the head of various departments, similar to operations in neighboring municipalities. For example, there would be one commissioner per department heading up areas like public safety, public works, planning and development and of human services, overseeing all levels of the town’s government.

“This is a very desirable place to live and we could improve on the way we run government,” Creighton reiterated at Tuesday morning’s work session. “I do think this would be an improvement because we would have far more accountability.”

Creighton said neighboring municipalities, including Brookhaven, already had similar makeups, differing greatly from Smithtown’s current structure of appointing councilmembers as liaisons to check in on various department heads.

“We do have liaison relationships with these various departments, but liaison is liaison,” Creighton said. “Direct control is something else.”

Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R), however, remained unimpressed by the proposal, as he was when it was discussed two months ago. While he said he was open to the prospect of Schneider coming to the board to discuss the restructuring, he did not feel it would sway him in favor of doing it.

Vecchio said in March he was worried that such a reform would bring about more political obstructionism in Smithtown, saying he felt the town already runs efficiently and that there is risk of losing sight of that by changing power.

“I have no problem with the town board. I really don’t,” Vecchio said. “I think we run very well. I’m not convinced this will make the town run any better. I just don’t see the need.”

When the plan was discussed in March, Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) called for a financial analysis on such a proposal so as not to cost Smithtown taxpayers any additional dollars. Creighton brought that concern to the table Tuesday morning, suggesting that if commissioners were chosen out of the pool of current town employees, no additional costs would be accrued.

“We can use people from within and it will not cost the taxpayer anything,” Creighton said. “It’s a more reasonable span of control.”

The next work session is scheduled for June 2 at town hall.

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