Politics

Supervisor Ed Romaine file photo

A state assemblywoman from Ithaca is pushing to provide state aid to municipalities that host four-year, residential State University of New York colleges and universities, and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is signing onto the cause because of the potential financial relief it could bring to Long Island.

The legislation, introduced by Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca) on March 24, seeks to offset the cost of providing public safety services to state schools, which are currently tax-exempt. The move came shortly after Romaine vowed to work with the New York State Board of Regents to seek a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, for the Stony Brook and Setauket fire departments, which both serve SUNY Stony Brook University.

Lifton, who represents the cities and towns of Ithaca and Cortland — which host SUNY Cortland and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University — called the lack of aid a big issue for her municipalities.

“There is a deficit there that we need to makeup,” she said, noting that the state’s Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, or AIM funding, has decreased over the years.

The legislation earmarks $12 million in aid for the host municipalities, and establishes a formula to distribute the aid based on the cost of public safety services, how much AIM funding the community already receives and the student population.

Lifton said there are a lot of rental properties in Cortland, so the police and fire departments “provide more than the normal amount of services.” In the City of Cortland, firefighters are paid, but Cortland Town firefighters volunteer their time.

While the legislation currently doesn’t propose aid be rewarded to a fire districts like those in Stony Brook and East Setauket, Romaine still said he was supportive of the idea.

“We think this is a solution,” Romaine said.

Like in Cortland, Brookhaven officials have been dealing with off-campus rental properties, which university students often inhabit. Over the last two years, the town has tried to curtail illegal and overcrowded rentals in the Stony Brook and Setauket area by strengthening its codes, increasing fines and working with the university to educate students about illegal rentals. The town also hired additional investigators to stay on top of the issue.

While Romaine said the legislation would help Brookhaven, he continued to advocate for “some contribution to the fire districts involved so their taxpayers don’t have to bear that burden.”

Romaine also said he hopes Long Island’s state representatives would support the legislation, and that at some point along the line, a PILOT agreement is established.

State Assemblyman Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) did not return requests for comment.

Stony Brook Fire Department Commissioner Paul Degen, who works as a town investigator, said 50 percent of Stony Brook Fire District’s tax base is exempt, which has made things financially difficult at times as the department has spent money retrofitting trucks and adequately training volunteers.

“It is what it is, but it would be nice if 50 percent of our district paid their fair share,” he said.

According to records from Stony Brook University, alarms requiring a fire department unit on the scene have dropped since 2012 when single detector activations, which are investigated by university fire marshals and don’t require fire department presence, were implemented in May 2012.

In 2012, the Stony Brook and/or Setauket departments were on scene for a total of 137 alarms. In 2013, the number drastically dropped to 25.

While there has been progress, Degen said he would like to see more incentives to attract department volunteers, which aren’t easy to come by these days. The department currently has 72 members, and more than half of them are over 50 years old.

One idea, he said, would be to offer some sort of tuition break or benefit to volunteers, which could help attract students to the department.

“All of that needs to be visited,” he said.

Romaine, Lifton and Degen expressed similar sentiments about the universities, saying they play important roles in the host communities, which welcome them, but still shouldn’t burden the taxpayers.

“All I’m asking for is some kind of remuneration,” Romaine said. “The full burden should not fall on the taxpayer. That is just not fair.”

By Julianne Cuba

Peaches Rodriguez, a break dancing pioneer, stand-up comedian and East Northport resident who broke into stardom after her role in the 1984 film, “Beat Street,” is the unlikely doppelgänger of a well-known French politician.

Comedian and dancer Peaches Rodriguez, above, is enjoying a new level of intercontinental fame, thanks to her resemblance to French politician Marine Le Pen. Photo from Peaches Rodriguez
Comic and dancer Peaches Rodriguez, above, is enjoying a new level of fame, thanks to her resemblance to French politician Marine Le Pen. Photo from Rodriguez

After a break dancing competition in Queens last month, Abdel Karim, who is a hip-hop choreographer and a friend of a friend of Rodriguez on Facebook, created a video meme of Rodriguez break dancing with the suggestion that it was actually Marine Le Pen, the popular nationalistic politician, dancing just after local elections in France.

Because of its extreme absurdity, the video went viral in France, with nearly 300,000 views on Facebook. That video, along with a second video of Rodriguez and a few other break-dancers, also went viral in the United States, with more than 100,000 hits.

“It’s always good to get exposure no matter how you get it,” Rodriguez said in a phone interview this week. “You can’t control something that goes viral. And you have to take it as it comes. It’s almost so random you just have to roll with it and enjoy it as it happens … the views are continuing to go up.”

It’s as if there was a video of a Hillary Clinton look-alike break dancing after an election, Rodriguez suggested for comparison — because that’s exactly what happened, she said.

Comedian and dancer Peaches Rodriguez is enjoying a new level of intercontinental fame, thanks to her resemblance to French politician Marine Le Pen, above. Photo by Rémi Noyon, through Flickr Creative Commons license
A video of Peaches Rodriguez has gone viral, due to her resemblance to French politician Marine Le Pen, above. Photo by Rémi Noyon, through Flickr Creative Commons license

In the 1980s, after moving from Connecticut to New York with the hopes of beginning a career in comedy, Rodriguez said she got into break dancing after realizing how good she actually was at that style of dance.

Today, Rodriguez still does both — stand-up comedy and break dancing. But her main job is a traveling comedian in the tristate area, she said.

“I break-dance part time, they have battles and events,” she said. “It’s a cool underground scene.”

Rodriguez also spends her time mentoring young, novice dancers in the industry.

Due to her new intercontinental fame, Rodriguez said she has a few gigs already lined up in the U.S.
Rodriguez added that if Clinton wins the 2016 presidential election, she would not hesitate to dress up like the former U.S. secretary of state and bust a move or two.

Some residents concerned as village votes to allow larger budget increase

Port Jefferson Village is crafting its budget for next year. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Port Jefferson Village officials have a green light to override the state’s cap on its tax levy next year, if necessary.

The board of trustees voted 4-1, with Trustee Bruce Miller dissenting, to allow themselves to pierce the cap — as the group has done each year since the state law restricting tax levy increases was enacted.

In the next budget cycle, the village has a 1.68 percent state-imposed cap on its tax levy increase, according to Treasurer Don Pearce. But tentative budget figures would increase the levy — and thus taxes — by 4 percent.

The latter increase would translate to the average Port Jefferson homeowner paying about $37 more next year in village property taxes.

During a public hearing on the matter Monday night, a few residents railed against the prospect of busting through the cap.

“This is just not tolerable,” Molly Mason said about tax increases.

And Matthew Franco pointed to what he saw as wasteful expenditures, such as what the village spent on exploring uses for the Port Jefferson marina, which it had hoped to purchase from Brookhaven Town before the deal fell through. He spoke against the officials’ idea “to come to us and say, ‘Look, we want to go over the cap again.’”

According to Pearce, the tentative budget totals almost $10.3 million. In order to meet the levy cap, instead of piercing it, the village would have to shave more than $140,000 in expenses or bring up revenues that amount.

Mayor Margot Garant said the board would work to reduce that sum, what she called a “gap.” She also noted that the village uses $400,000 from its fund balance each year to keep down resident taxes, a measure she said the village would take again next year.

During recent budget workshops, the board has pored over budget lines, slashing more than $300,000 in proposed expenses. The trustees have also contended with increases in mandated expenditures.

“I don’t know many businesses that go year to year with only a 1.68 percent increase in expenditures,” Trustee Larry LaPointe said. “If you’ve got a union contract, which we do, and there are built-in increases to all your employees’ salaries in that union contract, you’re going to have budget increases unless you fire people and reduce services.”

He added that he did not think there would be resident support for reducing services.

The village will hold a public hearing on a finalized 2015-16 budget on April 15.

Steven Leventhal, attorney to the ethics board, spearheads a work session this week. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington Town officials took steps to strengthen the town’s ethics code by discussing various revisions during a work session Tuesday.

Mulling nearly a dozen residents’ suggestions at its annual meeting in March, Huntington Town’s Board of Ethics & Financial Disclosure discussed topics ranging from campaign finance disclosures, prices of penalties for ethics code violations and how frequently the board should meet during the year.

Training town employees and officials in the town’s ethics code and creating a “plain language” guide to the code are some suggestions board members said they are considering.

Chairman Howard Glickstein and members Lois C. England and Ralph Crafa attended the work session at Huntington Town Hall, as did Steven G. Leventhal, of Leventhal, Cursio, Mullaney & Spector, LLP — the board’s counsel.

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) listened on in the audience.

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) directed Edwards to spearhead ethics code revisions. She said she plans to have a proposal for town ethics code tweaks in place at the April 21 town board meeting.

Board members said they agreed that creating what Leventhal termed a “plain language” guide to ethics was a good idea. Leventhal noted that the guide, which could be distributed as a small booklet handout to town employees and officials, would have both a simple, clear explanation of what’s right and wrong under the town’s code, and would, in the back, include the actual town ethics code. Ethics board members said they liked the suggestion.

“In my view it’s a great valuable service to the town workforce, to prepare and distribute a plain language guide that helps them interpret the language of the law itself,” Leventhal said. “The plain language guide does not replace the law and must, of course, remind readers that it is the law itself that controls, but that the plain language guide was developed to assist them in interpreting the law and to encourage them to bring any questions to the board of ethics.”

Ethics training of town employees and officials also earned consensus from board members.

“I regard it really as one of the most important functions of the board of ethics,” Leventhal said.
Board members also said they’d be in favor of increasing the penalty for an ethics violation, which is currently $5,000. Residents asked the board to consider holding meetings quarterly instead of annually. Leventhal said as the board’s work increases — possibly through increased ethics training of employees and officials — the board would meet more frequently.

Tom McNally, who spoke on behalf of the Huntington Republican Committee, called for mandatory training in ethics code for all town officials and employees. He also said all ethics complaints filed with the town clerk should be made public, as well as all decisions of the ethics board, how they voted and whether any ethics board members recused themselves from a vote.

“That was very, very well put together,”  board member England reflected.

Leventhal did, however, take issue with making all ethic complaints public, noting that in the early stages of an ethics investigation it “may be premature and ultimately unjust” to publicize the complaint. Many times, complaints are not actual violations — a complainant may allege someone was rude to him or her — but while “rudeness is bad,” it’s not a violation of the code, he said.

Edwards commended the board’s work in an interview after the meeting, saying she was “really pleased with what we heard.”

Leslie Kennedy with her husband, John M. Kennedy Jr., who serves as Suffolk County comptroller. File photo

In a special election held just nine months before the term is over, Leslie Kennedy (R) was elected Tuesday to succeed her husband, Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy  Jr. (R), in the county Legislature’s 12th District.

Leslie Kennedy, a 58-year-old resident of Nesconset, bested Democrat Deborah Monaco of Smithtown in Tuesday’s special election with 993 total votes from Republicans, Conservatives and Independents versus Monaco’s 149 from strictly Democrats, according to the county Board of Election’s unofficial vote totals.

She previously served as an administrative aide under her husband when he held a seat in the Legislature.

The current comptroller was elected to his seat in November, leaving the Legislature spot vacant at the beginning of this year.

Both Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and the entire Suffolk County Republican Committee had pegged Leslie Kennedy as their choice to succeed her husband, calling her a hard-working and popular figure in her community.

“The Democrats tried to make Leslie Kennedy an issue in the [November] county comptroller race, where John Kennedy scored a substantial victory on one line, the Republican line,” Suffolk GOP Chair John Jay LaValle said. “The move backfired terribly and cemented Leslie Kennedy’s reputation as a constituent favorite. Her record of service is unassailable and she will continue a powerful legacy of protecting our tax dollars and serving the people of the 12th District.”

Monaco, 55, had not been actively campaigning for the seat, according to Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Richard Schaffer, who said her name was on the ballot in order to provide voters with options come March 31.

She previously served as secretary of the Suffolk Democratic Committee as well as the county’s Board of Elections.

Kennedy Jr. beat Democrat Jim Gaughran, chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority, with 53 percent of the vote to 47 percent. After his election, a jubilant Kennedy vowed to “open up the books,” in Suffolk County, while Gaughran said he had “no regrets about this race.”

The 12th Legislative District is a largely Republican-dominated region of the North Shore and includes Smithtown, Nesconset, Hauppauge, the Village of the Branch, Lake Grove and parts of Commack, Islandia and Ronkonkoma.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has feuded with the federal government about getting resources to New York during the coronavirus pandemic. File photo by Erika Karp

Just a few hours before the New York State Legislature approved the state’s 2015-16 budget, which includes a number of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform initiatives, school districts across the North Shore finally got to know how much aid they’ll receive next year.

The state aid runs showed districts getting more than they expected, since many budgeted around a 1.7 percent increase. Earlier this year, Cuomo (D) announced state aid would only increase by $377 million — a 1.7 percent increase from this year — if his state education reforms didn’t pass the Legislature.

And while not all of the initiatives passed, a few did, so the aid increased by about $1.4 billion statewide.

“This is a plan that keeps spending under 2 percent, reforms New York’s education bureaucracy, implements the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive disclosure laws for public officials and makes the largest investment in the upstate economy in a generation,” Cuomo said in a statement.

But not all were convinced the education initiatives would reform public schools.

The Education Transformation Act of 2015 amends the teacher evaluation system, changes the time to gain tenure from three to four years and creates two designations for failing schools. The hot-button item, though, was the teacher evaluation system.

Under the act, the State Education Department will develop a new teacher evaluation system by June 30, which school districts will then have to locally negotiate and enact by Nov. 15 in order to receive their allotted aid. The system also includes a component based on students’ performance on the state’s common core-aligned tests. The evaluation system was last changed in 2013.

In a phone interview on Wednesday morning, Middle Country Central School District Superintendent Roberta Gerold, who is also president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, said she believed the change to the system was misguided, and wished elected officials would have learned that “rushing into a system that doesn’t have details attached” — as was the case in 2013 — doesn’t work.

Some Assembly members said they shared Gerold’s concerns.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) voted against the Education, Labor and Family Assistance State budget bill, which Cuomo issued on Tuesday with a message of necessity. When asked about the reforms, Englebright immediately interjected, “they are not reforms,” he said.

He said he voted against the measure because it was unclear as to how it would impact students.

“[It] doesn’t mean we can’t make improvements, but those improvements need to make sense,” he said.

Englebright strayed from his fellow party members by voting against the bill, which he said was a difficult decision.

“The people who sent me [to Albany] are the ones who I finally had to vote in accordance with,” he said.

Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport) said in a press release the education measure “takes away local control and is downright insulting to principals, administrators and teachers.”

While most North Shore Assembly officials voted down the education component, Mike Fitzpatrick (R- St. James) voted yes. In a phone interview Wednesday, Fitzpatrick said he stood by his decision.

He said he believed the reforms would bring more accountability to the system, which needed to be reformed. Fitzpatrick also said the amendments take away some of the New York State United Teachers union’s power. The union referred to the changes as a disgrace and the evaluation system as a sham.

“Good teachers, and they know who they are, they don’t have anything to worry about,” Fitzpatrick said.

Rohma Abbas contributed reporting.

The smokestacks of the Port Jefferson power plant loom over the village and the local harbor. File photo by Erika Karp

The Long Island Power Authority must study the area’s aging power plants with an eye toward upgrading the facilities, according to a provision of the next New York State budget.

Language that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and state legislators have agreed upon requires the utility to “perform an engineering, environmental … and cost feasibility analysis and study” of upgrading — also known as repowering — the plants in Port Jefferson, Northport and Island Park. The focus will be on using more efficient and environmentally friendly technology at the plants.

Those three sites have been on shaky ground because they are old and using outdated technology. The Port Jefferson and Northport host communities have feared losing essential property taxes from the plants, which would happen if the plants were to reach the ends of their useful lives without being repowered.

“We are extremely proud that our representatives and our lobbying efforts are working toward a repowered plant in [Port Jefferson],” village Mayor Margot Garant said in an email. “We always believed this was the best repurposing of our site, and in the best interest of the ratepayers of [Long Island].”

The utility must begin studying Port Jefferson and Island Park no later than Oct. 1, and must start working on the second study in Northport by October 2018, according to the budget language. The studies must be completed and presented to the LIPA board of trustees and the department of public service no longer than 18 months after they begin.

LIPA will repower the plants if it determines, based on the studies, “that repowering any such generating facility is in the best interests of its ratepayers and will enhance the authority’s ability to provide a more efficient, reliable and economical supply of electric energy in its service territory, consistent with the goal of improving environmental quality.”

Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport) said the studies “could change the whole tax certiorari issue.”

Huntington Town and the Northport-East Northport school district have been battling LIPA over the value of that property, with the utility arguing the plant is grossly overassessed and filing to be reimbursed for taxes overpaid as a result. Town Supervisor Frank Petrone has extended an offer to LIPA to freeze its tax assessment if it repowers Northport.

“Northport and East Northport are looking down the barrel of a gun,” Raia said Tuesday, “and if they repowered Northport that whole case would go away.”

Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said in a statement that the study requirement will be included in the state budget “since LIPA did not follow through on their [previous] promises” to complete economic feasibility studies on the aging plants.

PSEG Long Island, the private utility that has taken over management of LIPA, was on board with the repowering studies this week.

“After careful study last year, we determined that there was no need for additional generation on Long Island until, at least, 2024,” PSEG Long Island spokesman Jeff Weir said in an email. “We wholeheartedly embrace this process because all we want is to implement the lowest cost and most reliable solutions for our customers on Long Island and in the Rockaways.”

Rohma Abbas contributed reporting.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone file photo

By Julianne Cuba

At his fourth State of the County address, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone began by ensuring the county government and public that he has never been more optimistic about the current state of the region and its future.

At the William H. Rogers Legislative Building in Hauppauge on March 26, Bellone (D) also took time commending the county legislature for successfully and efficiently reducing government by more than 10 percent — an initiative that will save Suffolk County taxpayers more than $100 million a year. The county executive announced that when he took office three years ago, the unemployment rate for Suffolk County stood at 8.2 percent. As of the end of 2014, it stands at 4.2 percent.

However, Bellone continued, “I’m not here to talk about where we are today. I am much more interested in talking about where we are going and what the future could look like.”

In order to combat what Bellone said he considers the fundamental issue of our time — a two-decade trend of losing young, qualified and educated people to other regions of the county — he pointed to the county’s economic development plan, Connect Long Island.

“We cannot reach our economic potential, we cannot build a more prosperous future, if we are not a region that can attract and retain the young, high-knowledge, high-skill workers necessary to build an innovative economy,” he said.

Connect Long Island will make progress on the five crucial issues that are driving young people away, which, according to Bellone include high costs, lack of transportation options, lack of quality affordable rental housing, lack of affordable housing in desired environments and a lack of high-paying jobs.

“We build walkable, transit-oriented downtowns that have strong, public transportation links to one another and to universities, research centers, job centers and parks and open space. Effectively, what Connect LI will do is to build a quality of life ecosystem that will be attractive to young people,” he said.

But, unfortunately, Bellone said, the lack of sewage systems in many of Suffolk County’s downtown areas — which are critical parts of the region’s future — is limiting the opportunity for growth.

Suffolk County’s sewage problem impacts not only the regions economic development but its water quality as well. The water quality issue was one of the three major problems on which Bellone focused.

“We have 360,000 unsewered homes in Suffolk County — that is more than the entire state of New Jersey. Those 360,000 homes represent, potentially, 360,000 customers. So I’m happy to report that four companies donated 19 systems, which we are putting into the ground to test under local conditions. At the same time, with the leadership of Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Dr. Samuel Stanley, [Stony Brook University] will begin a new program to identify the next generation of septic technology, with the goal of providing better, more cost-efficient options for Suffolk County residents,” Bellone said.

Bellone announced that with the help of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), the county’s state and federal partners, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), he was able to secure $383 million for one of the largest investments in clean water infrastructure in more than 40 years — the Reclaim Our Water Initiative.

Legislator and Minority Leader Kevin McCaffrey (R) said that he agrees 100 percent with everything the county executive said in regard to economic development and improving drinking water. However, he added that the county’s debt must be cut and the legislature needs increased oversight.

“We must ask ourselves if we are going to control the irresponsible and reckless spending and borrowing, we must become more focused on the county’s ever-increasing debt,” McCaffrey said.  “We must ask ourselves if we want to throw debt on the backs of our children and our grandchildren. It’s time to cut up the credit cards and learn how to live within our means.”

 

Smorgasboard of suggestions at annual meeting

Tom McNally speaks at a town ethics board meeting last week. Photo by Susan Risoli

Huntington Town residents brought an assortment of suggestions to the annual public meeting of the town’s ethics board last week, where board members gathered input on improving the town’s ethics code.

The meeting room on Wednesday, March 18, was about half-full with attendees. Members of the town’s Board of Ethics & Financial Disclosure included Howard Glickstein, Louis England, Ralph Crafa and board counsel Steven Leventhal. Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) and Councilman Gene Cook (I) also attended the meeting.

Cook told board members that citizens have asked him “why the ethics board does not get back to them” when they make a complaint. He said he will send a letter to the board asking for an explanation, and he asked how long it would take the board to respond. Leventhal told Cook that “in all fairness,” ethics board members needed to see the letter before they could commit to a time frame for response. Cook pressed for details — “six months?” — and Leventhal said he “will undertake to help the board to respond to you in a reasonable amount of time.”

Many in the audience asked the board to hold public meetings quarterly, rather than once a year.

Robert Rockelein said he wanted to address “some noise in the streets” about the need for greater oversight of the ethics board. “Who’s watching the watchers?” he asked, and he called for increased scrutiny of the ethics board because “the current perception is that things are being swept under the table.”

Rather than relying on town employees to disclose their own finances, James Leonick said the ethics code should require employees submit supporting documents to back up their financial disclosure. He called for the information to be compared with documentation of previous years’ finances to show “any changes in assets, liabilities or income.” Leonick also said financial disclosure data should be kept on file for seven years. His request drew scattered applause and one listener murmured, “Excellent.”

Tom McNally said he spoke on behalf of the Huntington Republican Committee when he asked for mandatory training in ethics code for all town officials and employees. Such training “is done as standard operating procedure for most corporations,” he said.

He also said all ethics complaints filed with the town clerk should be made public, as well as all decisions of the ethics board, how they voted and whether any ethics board members recused themselves from a vote.

“Just looking for a little bit more transparency,” McNally said.

McNally asked the board to raise the penalty for ethics code violations, saying it should be much more than $5,000.

“We are now in the process of reviewing the code … we appreciate the thoroughness of your presentation,” Glickstein responded.

Marie Rendely took issue with Glickstein, calling him “good sir” and then pointing out that she used the term with sarcasm. “Our board of ethics is appointed by the town board,” she said. “Right there is a conflict of interest.”

Jim McGoldrick agreed, and said that when the ethics board is appointed by the town board, “it’s like the fox watching the chicken coop … it’s just not right.” Ethics board members should have no connection to the town, McGoldrick said.

Referring to recent Newsday reports of accusations of ethics violations by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), Gerard Seitz said, “Why is Mark Cuthbertson still sitting on the town board? Why is he still voting on the downzoning of Oheka Castle for their luxury townhomes, when we already know about his questionable receiverships from [Oheka owner] Gary Melius along with Melius’ large Political donations?” Seitz said. “This isn’t an appearance of a conflict of interest, it is a conflict of interest.”

Poquott Civic Association President Carol Pesek says her group is still pursuing $23,000 they allege former President Eddie Schmidt mishandled when he was at the helm. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Missing money has the Poquott Civic Association approaching a boiling point.

An ongoing mystery regarding the $23,000 civic members alleged former President Eddie Schmidt mishandled two years ago reached a new milestone Thursday when the 21-year-old fired off a mass email to the civic. In the email, Schmidt outlined his tenure as president, explaining his silence since the accusations arose late last year and how they have affected him.

“The silence was a courtesy as I thought the present Board was genuinely working towards a mutual agreement between us to benefit the community. Unfortunately, the board was not genuine in its dealings, and has acted contrary to resolution,” Schmidt said in the letter. “I am writing this letter now to explain the situation, as I have genuine concerns regarding the presentation of the information by the Board, and by the climate of rumor that has spread throughout our village.”

Schmidt went on to detail the events he helped push as president despite a hefty workload while attending college at 19 years old. He said accusations, which he referred to as rumors, deeply hurt him.

“I did my best to work towards common ground while rumors became widespread, and incorrect information and damaging assumptions were presented.”

Schmidt, who resigned as president of the Poquott Civic Association in September, was accused of stealing more than $23,000 from the organization during his time at the helm. Civic leaders allege that while president, the 21-year-old used money raised at civic events to purchase things unrelated to civic expenses, like gasoline, Vineyard Vines clothing and dining at gourmet restaurants.

Members of the civic spoke up on the matter at Thursday’s monthly meeting for the first time in months as legal matters were ongoing. Civic President Carol Pesek brought new details on a potential settlement between her group and Schmidt as the parties try to reconcile the thousands of dollars that allegedly went missing.

“The letter opened the door for the civic board to bring more information to the community,” Pesek said in an interview the day after the meeting.

The board read a response back to the letter and then finally spoke about what members have been enduring the last few months. Peter Lavrenchik, a legal advisor who spoke on Schmidt’s behalf, said the former president and the board were exploring a potential settlement.

Pesek said the settlement offer was for $15,000 — $5,000 less than the money originally demanded late last year — and also included a controversial confidentiality clause that would forbid the board from speaking of the matter. There was also a nondisclosure clause that would forbid it from letting the community know where the money came from, and an agreement that Schmidt would not be prosecuted, the civic board said.

“It was an offer, but we couldn’t get past the confidentiality agreement,” Treasurer Felicia Chillak said.

Calling on legal advice, members of the board said they would not sign onto any settlement agreements for the time being. The response elicited a rousing response from members of the Poquott community.

“We never presented [the offer to the public] because in the beginning, we couldn’t get the confidentiality clause off the table,” Pesek said. “If we could have gotten rid of the confidentiality clause, we would have brought it to the table.”

Pesek said the board repeatedly told Lavrenchik that it would not sign a confidentiality clause, and he said there would be no offer without it.

Calls to Schmidt and Lavrenchik were not returned. Both parties were invited to the civic’s meeting, Pesek said, but did not attend.

Any future offers or potential settlements would be brought before the civic, Pesek said.

As community members went back and fourth discussing the $15,000 settlement Thursday night, Schmidt’s mom, Beth Schmidt, spoke emotionally in defense of her son, whom she said was waiting outside in her car. The legal trouble has weighed heavily on her son, who has been losing weight as a result of the emotional stress, the mother said.

“My kid did not steal $20,000 or $23,000,” his mother shouted at the meeting last week. “You practically destroyed him. I’m watching my kid suffer. He is a nice kid and feels terrible.”

Also in attendance at the meeting was Schmidt’s girlfriend, Kaitlin Sisti, who came to Schmidt’s defense and said there was no way he could have stolen the money, as it was all used for community events.

As the meeting drew closer to its conclusion, some members of the civic argued that regardless of which party was at fault, it was in the community’s best interests to move beyond this legal trouble.

“It’s tearing the village to pieces,” resident Harry Berry said after last week’s contentious meeting. “In 34 years, I have never seen anything split the village like this.”