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Village Justice

Attorney Ted Rosenberg defeated incumbent Ron LaVita for the village justice seat in Old Field. Photo from candidates

A race 20 years in the making has created some bad blood.

The Old Field village justice election between incumbent Ron LaVita, who has run unopposed for two decades, and attorney Ted Rosenberg, ended in a 114-all tie March 20 after all the votes, including absentee ballots, were counted. A recount confirmed the vote totals and a run-off election is scheduled for Tuesday, April 3.

Rosenberg, the village’s current associate justice and a partner with Rosenberg & Gluck LLP, said he was surprised when he heard the news. LaVita, a general practice attorney, said he was disappointed when he heard the results.

“I thought I would have a commanding lead,” he said, adding he should have notified residents who were unable to vote March 20 to submit absentee ballots while he was campaigning, feeling that would have helped him take the election.

Things became heated between the two candidates before the March 20 election for the unpaid position when Rosenberg alleged during his campaign that LaVita did not have a certificate of occupancy for his home since making renovations 15 years ago. After submitting a Freedom of Information Act request with the village, it was confirmed by The Village Times Herald there is no current CO on record.

In a letter he handed out to residents, LaVita addressed the allegations saying he was ignorant in dealing with a “gypsy” contractor who he said did not complete the renovation and failed to file the proper paperwork. In spring 2017, LaVita said he paid the requested permit fees in anticipation of obtaining a CO. In July of that year, he was granted an extension, which expires in July of this year.

In the letter to residents and an ad, LaVita said despite doing his best to follow the canons of judicial ethics, he felt he needed to address allegations and provide further information about his opponent. He alleged Rosenberg represented an accident client who sued the Village of Old Field and the constable, and hosted a campaign fundraiser, which violates judicial ethics; and that the village treasurer works for Rosenberg’s law office.

Rosenberg confirmed he represented a client against Old Field and said he checked with the mayor first, who said there was no conflict of interest created for taking on the case. As for the alleged fundraiser, the attorney said it was a meet and greet his wife arranged, and there was no admission charged.

Rosenberg said he looks forward to a run-off election, and added he had hoped this time around there would be a meet the candidates night or debate so Old Field residents could learn more about the candidates. At press time, there was no debate scheduled, but Old Field residents can meet Rosenberg at The Setauket Neighborhood House at 95 Main Street April 2 at 7 p.m. to learn more about him. LaVita has not scheduled any sort of debate or meetings.

“I think it’s an opportunity for the voters of the village to gain more knowledge about the candidates and our qualifications,” Rosenberg said in regard to a debate. “Particularly for me, because I’m not the incumbent.”

During the March 20 election, Michael Levine, who has been mayor of Old Field since 2008, ran unopposed and maintains his seat. Bruce Feller and Tom Pirro are the village’s new trustees. Feller and Pirro ran for two seats on the village board after Timothy Hopkins and Robert Whitcomb decided not to run for re-election.

The village justice run-off election will be held April 3 at the Keeper’s Cottage at 207 Old Field Road. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Absentee ballots will be re-accepted and must be in to Village Hall no later than 9 p.m. April 3

Attorney Ted Rosenberg defeated incumbent Ron LaVita for the village justice seat in Old Field. Photo from candidates

After a tie between Old Field Village justice votes was confirmed, a run-off election has been scheduled.

Twenty-year incumbent Ron LaVita and attorney Ted Rosenberg each received 114 votes once all ballots, including absentee votes, were counted March 20. A recount confirmed the numbers March 22.

A run-off election will be held Tuesday April 3 at the Keeper’s Cottage, located at 207 Old Field Road. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Absentee ballots will be re-accepted, and must be in to Village Hall no later than 9 p.m. April 3, according to Village Clerk Adrienne Kessel.

To read more about other results from the election, and reactions from the village justice candidates: Old Field justice race ends in tie.

Run-off election will be held April 3

Attorney Ted Rosenberg defeated incumbent Ron LaVita for the village justice seat in Old Field. Photo from candidates

A race 20 years in the making ended in a tie March 20.

The Old Field village justice election between incumbent Ron LaVita, who has run unopposed for 20 years, and attorney Ted Rosenberg, ended in a 114-all tie after all the votes, including absentee ballots, were counted. A run-off election will be held Tuesday April 3 at the Keeper’s Cottage, located at 207 Old Field Road. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Absentee ballots will be re-accepted, and must be in to Village Hall no later than 9 p.m. April 3, according to Village Clerk Adrienne Kessel.

Both candidates received the news of the tie the night of March 20. A recount confirmed the vote totals.

Rosenberg, the village’s current associate justice and a partner with Rosenberg & Gluck LLP, said he was surprised when he heard the news.

He looks forward to a run-off election, and said after the results were in that he hopes this time around there will be a meet the candidates night and/or debate so Old Field residents can learn more about each of the candidates.

“If there’s another election, I think it’s an opportunity for the voters of the village to gain more knowledge about the candidates and our qualifications,” he said. “Particularly for me, because I’m not the incumbent.”

LaVita, a general practice attorney, said he was disappointed when he heard the results.

“I thought I would have a commanding lead,” he said, adding he should have notified residents who were unable to vote March 20 to submit absentee ballots while he was campaigning, feeling that would have helped him take the election.

LaVita said he is also open to a meet the candidates night and/or debate.

During the election, Michael Levine, who has been mayor of Old Field since 2008, ran unopposed and maintains his seat. Bruce Feller and Tom Pirro are the village’s new trustees. Feller and Pirro ran for two seats after Timothy Hopkins and Robert Whitcomb decided not to run for re-election.

This version was updated to include that the vote totals were confirmed and a run-off election is scheduled.

Bill Glass is a newly appointed village justice in Port Jefferson. Photo from Glass

Bill Glass has big robes to fill.

The local lawyer was appointed Port Jefferson village justice on Monday afternoon to hold the seat of Peter Graham, a judge who served more than 30 years on the village bench before he died last week.

Glass, a 60-year-old former village prosecutor, attorney and trustee who has lived in Port Jefferson his entire life, was previously an assistant district attorney in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, where he worked under village Trustee Larry LaPointe in the Rackets Bureau.

“He’s a person of the highest character and I think he’ll do this village proud,” LaPointe said at the village board of trustees meeting Monday.

A graduate of Fordham Law School and a longtime fire department volunteer, Glass currently runs his own practice out of Port Jefferson, representing fire and emergency medical service groups throughout Suffolk County.

“I’ve never been behind the bench so this should be interesting,” he told the board at the meeting.

Glass signed his oath of office the same day he was appointed, and will wield the gavel until at least June, when there will be a village election to fill the justice seat for the three years remaining on Graham’s term.

Graham had been most recently re-elected to a four-year term this past June.

The coming election is one in which Glass plans to run, he said in a phone interview Tuesday. He added that he brings “a lifelong commitment to living in this village to the job.”

The new justice previously tried to win Graham’s seat in a 2011 election, but voters overwhelmingly supported the incumbent.

“It’s my home, it’s my community and I like to see things done right here,” Glass said about his interest in serving as a justice, adding he hopes he can “begin to live up to the reputation that [Graham] left behind.”

Graham was known for his vibrant personality, particularly his sense of humor. His life was full of color, between being born on Independence Day, abandoning the seminary after four years of study in favor of practicing law, and his service in the U.S. Army. After he died last week, those who knew him called him irreplaceable.

“I’m certainly not in a very real sense replacing Pete, because you can’t really replace Pete,” Glass said at the board meeting. “What a huge character and a valued part of the village. But I’m certainly going to do my best to do so.”

According to the new justice, he is concerned about villagers’ quality of life, which is why he wants to tackle issues from the bench.

As she appointed him to the bench on Monday afternoon, Mayor Margot Garant said, “I don’t know another attorney and resident of the village who is more up to the task.”

Justice Peter Graham has served Port Jefferson for more than 30 years. Photo by Talia Amorosano

After more than 30 years, Justice Peter Graham left his mark on Port Jefferson.

The village judge, who died on Tuesday afternoon, will be remembered for his personality and for his service to the court — but his path to that position was a little out of order.

Born on July 4, 1930, to Pedro and Helen Graham, the Brooklyn-born Peter Graham didn’t always know he would study law. He entered seminary at age 14 and stayed for four years before he realized that it wasn’t for him. Known for his sense of humor, the justice freely described his decision as being guided by his aversion to “the two Cs”: chastity and celibacy.

He hung up his cassock and went to college, studying biology and chemistry before heading to law school.

In an interview in July, Graham said he took a detour before reaching the courtroom, serving in the U.S. Army.

“When I finished law school, I felt that I owed my country two years of my life,” Graham said.

It was in the service that he got his first hands-on law experience, as he was appointed the district attorney of his battalion and was tasked with prosecuting murder, assault and rape cases.

Graham rose from those humble beginnings to eventually become a village justice in 1983. He was most recently re-elected in June.

“All I do is try to be fair to the people,” he said earlier this year. He described his experience living in Port Jefferson and serving as a village justice as “a pleasure.”

Mayor Margot Garant, who knew Graham since she was a child, called him a “dear friend.”

“It’d be really fair to say that [he] was just an integral part of everyone’s life here in the village,” she said.

The mayor referred to the justice’s personality as “friendly, personable, jovial.”

“He will be absolutely irreplaceable,” Garant said. “There’s not going to be one person … that will ever be able to step into his shoes.”

Graham had the respect of both residents and the people who worked with him.

“He’s awesome. I’ve actually worked for eight judges and he is one of my top,” Village Court Clerk Christine Wood said in an interview in July. “He’s the most caring gentleman, and I don’t say that about many people. He’s got a heart of gold.”

Graham is survived by his loving Mary Ellen Mulligan; children Kim (Jim) Sloane and Patrick Mulligan; beloved grandchildren Jimmy, Patrick, Sean and Shannon; dear sister Maureen and brother Robert (Millie) Graham; along with Phyllis Graham and children Peter, Paul, Mary Jane and Christopher, and Mary Jane’s daughter Nina. He is also survived by other grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

“He was a magnificent grandfather,” Mulligan said on Wednesday. “You couldn’t have a better human being, a better man.”

A memorial celebration will be held at the Bryant Funeral Home in East Setauket on Friday, from 6 to 10 p.m. A funeral Mass will take place the next morning, at Infant Jesus R.C. Church in Port Jefferson at 9 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Stony Brook Cancer Center and to the loving nurses and aides of 19 North.

Man on village bench has worn many hats over the years

Justice Peter Graham has served Port Jefferson for more than 30 years. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

When he entered a seminary at age 14, Port Jefferson Village Justice Peter Graham had no idea he would eventually study law, let alone hold a gavel or ever be referred to as “your honor.”

But after four years of training to become a priest, instead of the voice of God it was the voice of singer Hoagy Carmichael through his bedroom window, delivering a message about “a gal who’s mighty sweet, with big blue eyes and tiny feet,” that resonated with him. It was then that Graham decided to abandon this path in favor of one that did not necessarily encompass what he referred to as “the two Cs”: chastity and celibacy.
He traded in his cassock for textbooks, studying biology and chemistry in college and completing law school.

But instead of heading straight for the courtroom, Graham enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“When I finished law school, I felt that I owed my country two years of my life,” Graham said.

He enlisted as a private and refused to receive a commission.

“For 16 weeks they gave me infantry basic training,” he said. “I ran all day. … On the last day [of basic training], I walked 26 miles alone. I was frustrated.”

Just when things seemed low, an unexpected opportunity arrived in the form of a long plane ride to Germany and a short conversation.

“You went to law school, right?” asked a colonel, according to Graham. Before he knew it, he was declared the district attorney of his battalion. Riding on the reassuring words of the colonel — “Don’t make a mistake” — Graham worked on murder, assault and rape cases and gained real experience in the field he had previously only studied.

A particularly interesting case, the justice said, involved a woman who Graham believes murdered her husband, an Army major. Graham had jurisdiction over the case and tried to get her convicted. However, the Supreme Court eventually ruled it could not convict because the defendant was not enlisted. To this day, Graham does not know what became of her.

Despite that situation, “I learned so much [about law] from being in the Army.”

All these years later, and after spending more than 25 years on Port Jefferson Village’s bench, Graham still practices law and specializes in criminal and civil law. As a village justice, a role to which he was recently re-elected for another term of service, he remains diligent about informing himself of the latest policies and practices.

He also keeps an eye on changes in his community — he emphasized the importance of maintaining an awareness of what’s going on in the area and said doing his job helps to keep him alert to the needs of the people. But he stayed away from patting himself on the back.

“All I do is try to be fair to the people,” he said. “I want to make sure they understand what the charge is and what their alternative is.”

Graham’s ability to make people feel comfortable in the courtroom may have something to do with the friendly treatment he gets in out-of-work environments. He said what is most rewarding about being a village justice is “the respect you see on the street. … I’ve been around so long that people are saying hello to me and I don’t even know who they are.”

In addition to praising his community, Graham spoke highly of his colleagues.

About fellow Justice Jack Riley, Graham said he is on the same page about how to handle people in the courtroom. Of Village Court Clerk Christine Wood, with whom he has worked for almost 11 years, he said,

“She does phenomenal work. … I don’t think she’s ever made a mistake.”

Wood was just as complimentary in return.

“He’s awesome. I’ve actually worked for eight judges and he is one of my top,” she said. “He’s the most caring gentleman, and I don’t say that about many people. He’s got a heart of gold.”

Wood said Graham “goes above and beyond” for his village justice role.

When Graham isn’t working, he enjoys being active around Port Jefferson. Although he won’t play golf “because golf is for old men,” he defined himself as a once-avid tennis player.

“They used to call me the deli man because my shots were always slices.”

He plans to start playing more again in the future, when his elbow feels better.

In addition to the “beautiful tennis courts,” Graham appreciates Port Jefferson’s proximity to the water and its abundance of outdoor activities.

He described his experience living in Port Jefferson and serving as a village justice as “a pleasure.”

“I never ask for an increase [in pay]. Whatever it is, it is, and it’s great.”

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