Civic factions fight over presidential election

Civic factions fight over presidential election

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Fran Navaretta calls for a delay in the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association board election. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Ed Garboski was re-elected president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association on Tuesday night amid a clash between members.

What started as an orderly meeting turned into emotional and heated debate, complete with lobbed accusations, when the time came to vote for the next executive board. One group, largely on the left-hand side of the room, called for a delay in that vote until the civic membership nominated and approved a board of directors, citing a 1977 constitution of the association that requires one.

The legal authenticity of the constitution was later called into question, and it was unclear whether the document is binding.

The civic association does not currently have a board of directors, nor has it in at least recent history. Supporters on Tuesday night wanted to change that before voting on a separate executive board, while critics favored electing an executive board that would further investigate the matter.

Faith Cardone was the first to raise the concern about a board of directors, saying she and like-minded members are trying to do things the right way. And Treasurer Lou Antoniello, a presidential candidate, said just because the civic never had a board of directors doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have one now.

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association President Ed Garboski was re-elected. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association President Ed Garboski was re-elected. Photo by Elana Glowatz

“It has nothing to do with Ed being president,” Antoniello said, after an accusation that the members in favor of delaying the executive election were simply scheming to oust the president, Garboski, who was seeking re-election Tuesday.

Controversy is no stranger to Garboski’s presidency in the last year. Members divided into two factions, much like they were on Tuesday night, had argued at a similar volume during a June meeting, after it was announced that Garboski would be running for town board against incumbent Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station). In that case, one side had called for Garboski to resign over a perceived conflict of interest with the campaign, which he ultimately lost in November, and the other had called for a simple leave of absence until after the election. The latter side won out in that case.

On Tuesday, as some called for the executive board election to be delayed in deference to creating a board of directors, Garboski said he doesn’t think the civic needs two governing boards — but that either way the civic has to take time to investigate the matter.

Frank Gibbons, the civic’s head of traffic and transportation as well as its nominating committee for the election, said about delaying the vote, “To change the time we’re going to vote because we don’t have something we’ve never had is ridiculous.”

Former executive board member Laurie Green expressed dismay about the state of the civic’s unity, saying it used to act as a cohesive unit: “What the hell is going on?” she said to the debaters to her left. “You are trying to divide this civic association and this community.”

Jeff Napoleon received the only applause of the night when he suggested the civic elect leadership that could guide members on the board of directors issue, avoiding impulsive decisions. The civic voted to support that idea.

Four executive board positions were filled first without a contest, by unopposed candidates: Salvatore Pitti for vice president, Charlie McAteer for corresponding secretary, Howard Aron for treasurer and Sheila Granito for recording secretary. Then Garboski beat Antoniello for the president’s role, 27-7.

But the argument did not die without a final breath.

Fran Navaretta, who had previously spoken in favor of delaying the election, called into question whether all the voters were in good enough standing to cast a vote, as she did not recognize some of the people in the audience. She started to leaf through Garboski’s binder of civic attendance records.

The civic is expected to nominate a board of directors at its next meeting.