Tags Posts tagged with "Margot Garant"

Margot Garant

Village board hires financial firm to untangle information gaps in capital fund record keeping

Capital project funds asphalt walkway, replacing crushed bluestone at the Harborfront Park for $249,000. Photo by Lynn Hallarman

By Lynn Hallarman

Concerns were raised by newly-appointed village treasurer Stephen Gaffga about the bookkeeping practices that track the village’s capital project fund, prompting a call for a full accounting of the fund’s financial records going back at least seven years.

Gaffga was recently the treasurer for the Village of Greenport. He was hired this past summer by Port Jefferson Village, replacing Denise Mordente who served as treasurer for the previous administration.

During the Nov. 20 meeting of the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees, Gaffga described the capital fund’s bookkeeping as having a “severe information gap” in the fund’s ledger. Standard financial procedures “were not followed as best practice,” according to Gaffga.

“I came into Port Jefferson in September, and I saw a negative balance with the capital fund,” the treasurer said. “I tried to figure out how that came to be.”

Gaffga explained at the meeting that capital projects were approved and money was spent, but all these expenses were recorded as a “running tally on the ledger.” This accounting method makes it seem like there is a negative balance for all these projects. 

“That’s not the case — we borrowed money, got grant funding, transferred money from the general fund, but the trail is very difficult to follow,” he said.

Gaffga recommended the board hire an outside specialized CPA firm, PKF O’Connor Davies of Hauppauge, to receive assistance in analyzing the record keeping of the capital fund going back in time. As stated at the trustees meeting, the cost of the lookback should not exceed $4,500 per year analyzed. The goal of the analysis is to uncover the financial history of each capital project and “establish a clean slate,” Gaffga said. 

“It is entirely possible that everything is OK dollarwise, and it is just a mess on the books,” he told TBR News Media. 

Former village Mayor Margot Garant, objected to Gaffga’s characterization of the records. “We did a lot in 14 years, and we used our money very carefully,” she said in an interview, adding, “The documents in place are pretty easy to follow. I don’t know what their issue is.” 

The New York State Office of the State Comptroller requires municipalities to undergo an annual audit of financial records. According to the 2022 audit done by the independent accounting firm Cullen & Danowski of Port Jefferson Station, the village had areas for improvement. 

Firstly, the village neglected to properly inventory its capital “hard” assets, according to Chris Reino, who represented the auditor at the August trustees business meeting.

The village has no running list of assets like trucks, buildings, computer equipment and furniture, for example, since “at least 2014,” Reino said. 

As a consequence, if something goes missing or “there is a catastrophe, it will be hard [for the village] to make a claim to an insurance company to replace it,” Mayor Lauren Sheprow noted.

Secondly, the report indicated that the “village did not maintain adequate accounting records” of the capital project fund.

Cullen & Danowski did not respond to email and phone requests for comment for this story.

Capital project fund

The capital project fund financed a range of projects over time for the village, such as restoring the East Beach bluff, repaving walkways at Harborfront Park, creating the Barnum Street parking lot, building bathrooms at Rocketship Park, digitizing records and more.

The trail of money for a project should be easy to follow by a citizen, according to the state Comptroller’s Office. Bookkeeping for the capital fund should tell the complete story of how taxpayer dollars are appropriated and spent for each project to prevent overspending or leaving financial holes in the funding for essential village improvements. 

“I want this board to be educated about this process, so we are all aware of where the money’s coming from and how it’s being spent,” the mayor said at the November board meeting. 

Financial transparency

At the August board meeting, Sheprow complained that members of the previous board “never saw the 2022 audit.” 

“I don’t recall specifically, but I know I had a discussion with [the trustees] and the treasurer that [the audit report] was in, and I believe that was January,” Garant told TBR News Media.

While financial audits should be posted, along with other yearly financial records on the village website after the Board of Trustees reviews them according to OSC best practice, the 2022 audit submitted to the village administration in January this year was not posted to the village website until this past week, shortly after TBR News Media requested to review the audit report (see portjeff.com/fiscalyear2022auditdocuments).

Mordente did not respond to requests for comment for this story about the village’s 2022 auditing process.

Moving forward, Sheprow said she wants to remedy this perceived gap in transparency.

Gaffga said at the November board meeting the village wants to establish a clean slate so there are no “skeletons bookkeeping-wise that could hold the village back.”

File photo by Raymond Janis

Searching for answers in Three Village school district

I noted with interest a recent article in The Village Times Herald [“Ward Melville principal surprise inquiry to remain private,” Nov. 23], in which we were informed that the erstwhile principal of Ward Melville High School, William Bernhard, had been “reassigned,” and has been replaced by a former assistant principal.

And furthermore, we are told by Superintendent Kevin Scanlon that “parents should not expect more about the surprise reassignment and investigation, and “transparency is not possible.” Reassuringly, however, Scanlon went on to say that “parents have nothing to worry about regarding their children’s education.”

While I have no doubt that Superintendent Scanlon has our best interests at heart, I think we would be well advised to remember the admonition given to us by President Ronald Reagan [R], which was “Trust, but verify.” According to the article, “Due to federal and state privacy laws, district representatives can’t discuss personnel matters – and they won’t be able to even after the issue is resolved.” But surely this need not be taken seriously, all of the time, even though it may be a “law.” And at the federal level, the prohibition of information leaks has evolved into a sort of suggestion or recommendation, rather than something that is absolutely inviolable. For example, ask the Supreme Court clerk who leaked the draft of the Roe v. Wade decision, or U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff [D-CA30] who routinely leaks information from meetings, often while the meetings are still in session.

Board President Susan Rosenzweig has suggested that we avoid “percolating speculation and hearsay on social media.” Accordingly, I have undertaken my own reliable research, and I have learned that Bill Bernhard was and still is an outstanding and highly respected math teacher, at the junior high school, senior high school and college levels. He currently teaches math courses at Stony Brook University, which begin at 2:30 p.m. after the high school classes have been completed. His grade on the SBU Rate My Professors website is 4.8 (out of 5), which is remarkably good. And I have it on good authority that Bill Bernhard has been seen in the Emma Clark Library, enthusiastically explaining the vagaries of higher mathematics to young students, and doing it very well.

It really is disappointing to learn from our elected officials that we can never hope to learn the true story about the unfortunate loss of a great teacher. Let us hope that they are mistaken.

George Altemose


Containment efforts and plans for restoration at Tesla Science Center

As many of you are aware, our beloved Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe was struck by a serious fire last night [Nov. 21].

Over 100 firefighters from 11 departments responded to the blaze, demonstrating extraordinary courage and determination throughout the night. To these heroes, we owe a debt of gratitude beyond words. We are immensely grateful for their commitment and bravery.

Given the ongoing activity, we strongly urge everyone to avoid visiting the site for your safety and to allow emergency services to operate unimpeded. We promise to keep you informed through regular updates on our website and social media channels.

The full extent of the damage is yet to be determined. In the coming days, our site engineer, historical architect and structural engineer, along with the Suffolk County Police Department, the Brookhaven Town fire marshal and the county’s Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services, will conduct a thorough assessment. Their insights will be crucial in shaping our ongoing plans to restore and rebuild this historic landmark.

It brings a sense of relief to share that the structural integrity of the building, dating back to 1901, seems to have withstood the ordeal. This resilience is a testament to its original robust construction and durability.

We recognize the profound emotional impact this incident has had on our community and on our supporters from around the world. Rest assured, our commitment to transparency remains steadfast. We will provide accurate, timely information, countering any misinformation that may arise.

It is also important to note that, while we were poised to begin a significant renovation and restoration project, construction had not yet commenced, sparing us from additional complexities at this stage.

For ongoing updates and verified information, please visit our website at teslasciencecenter.org. Your support and understanding in these challenging times are invaluable. Together, we will navigate this crisis and emerge stronger, honoring the legacy of Nikola Tesla and the spirit of innovation, determination and resiliency that this center embodies.

Marc Alessi

Executive Director

Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe

Potential environmental and health risks of proposed railyard

Ads have appeared weekly on behalf of the Kings Park Rail transfer facility near Town Line Road and Old Northport Road. This would be privately-owned and run, accommodating waste, construction debris, incinerator ash, construction materials and anything else that can be shipped by rail to and away from Long Island. There are dozens of acres for tractor trailers and trucks, covered buildings and parking areas.

The latest Townline Rail ad discusses incinerator ash. It states household trash “which we all create” is burned. Incinerators also burn waste from businesses and industries which include chemicals, heavy metals, medical waste, electronics, batteries, pesticides, poisons, fluorescent bulbs, radioactive waste, carcinogenic asbestos and more. Some of the aforementioned are supposed to be banned but they can get into the waste stream anyway.

The ad states incinerator ash is not classified as a USDOT toxic material. Really? The 2017 DEC Huntington incinerator emissions statement includes quantities of the carcinogens, birth-defect-causing and neurological toxins like benzene, formaldehyde, PCBs, dioxins, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, zinc, hydrogen chloride, sulfuric acid, hydrogen fluoride, ammonia, tetrachlorodibenzofuran, particulates (carbon, silica), volatile organic compounds, aromatic hydrocarbons and more.

Incinerator ash is one of the most highly toxic and poisonous substances composed of superconcentrated hazardous materials. Spills, accidents and derailments occur. Rain-washed ash is dispersed. Explosions and fires are possible. Winds distribute ash particles when doors are open and in transit by trains and trucks. Furthermore, this is over a Suffolk County Department of Health Services-designated Article 7 deep recharge aquifer protection zone.

Do we want piles of this poisonous, cancerous material over our sole source of drinking water? This facility does not have to exist. It is a for-profit venture by the landowner. There are many residents, schools and health facilities in the area. The region’s drinking water, not to mention quality of life, are in jeopardy.

Public officials have a duty to protect us.

Mark Sertoff

East Northport

Thank you, voters

Dear Neighbor,

Thank you, voters of the 13th Legislative District, for reelecting me to the Suffolk County Legislature for my sixth term.

I appreciate your giving me the opportunity to serve you, and I will continue to be committed to ensuring the safety of our neighborhoods, exposing corruption and waste in county government, preserving open space and promoting economic development.

I look forward to working together with our new county executive-elect, Ed Romaine [R], and my colleagues to maintain and enhance our communities and to protect our taxpayers.

Again, thank you for your vote of confidence, and I look forward to working on your behalf.

Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga)

Suffolk County Legislator

13th Legislative District

Concerns over ethics overhaul in PJV

I am writing to express my concerns about the proposed ethics code for the Village of Port Jefferson. The establishment of an ethics counsel and the formulation of a new code have raised several questions that need to be addressed for the sake of transparency and fairness.

Firstly, it’s essential to understand who initiated the idea of appointing an ethics counsel and the specific instances that led to this decision. Have there been significant ethical breaches by past or current staff members that warrant this action?

Furthermore, the role of an on-call ethics counsel seems redundant considering the resources and guidance available through NYCOM [New York Conference of Mayors], a benefit of our membership in this statewide organization. One must ask if such an appointment is truly necessary or if it’s an added layer of bureaucracy and cost.

The goal of any ethics code should be clarity and ease of interpretation, minimizing the need for constant legal advice. However, the proposed code seems to leave much room for subjective interpretation and potential abuse. This ambiguity does not serve the residents of Port Jefferson but instead appears to protect the very entity to whom it is meant to govern.

A comparative analysis with other well-established ethics codes, like those in Suffolk County and New York City, might offer better models for us to follow. These codes are comprehensive, clear, and have stood the test of time and legal challenges.

In summary, the proposed ethics code and the appointment of an ethics counsel raise more questions than they answer. The residents of Port Jefferson deserve a code that is clear, fair and impartial, one that upholds the highest standards of ethics and governance.

Traci Donnelly

Port Jefferson

Open letter on Harborfront Park walkways

Dear Mayor Sheprow,

I am writing to express vehement opposition to the current asphalt paving project at Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson. The decision to pave every pathway in the park with asphalt, extending to the waterfront, is deeply concerning for a multitude of reasons. Asphalt is notorious for its heat retention, posing a significant risk to pets and children who regularly utilize the park. Additionally, its impermeability is a known contributor to flooding, particularly problematic given our proximity to the waterfront.

A committee of 60 residents under the leadership of former Mayor Jeanne Garant worked to design the park and former resident, Bob Tumilowicz, worked tirelessly to engineer this park. The original plan (dated Aug 1, 2022) did not call for the northern-most walkway to be touched, just the paths interior to the park. In particular, drainage of the grassy areas and crushed bluestone pathways was critical. They required careful consideration to prevent runoff and erosion. So the park was designed with deep underground trenching that contains perforated plastic pipe covered with gravel and crushed bluestone on top. This bluestone, gravel and underground piping allows for proper flow of rain and stormwater buildup.

Aesthetically, the use of asphalt in what is fundamentally a natural, nonurban space undermines the park’s natural beauty. It’s perplexing why alternatives that blend more harmoniously with the environment, like grasscrete, a permeable stamped concrete, were not seriously considered. These materials offer the added benefit of permeability, preventing water runoff and associated flooding, and are much more in tune with the park’s natural setting. If the water can’t be absorbed, it will run off, pool up and/or cause damage to the greenspaces or worse.

Your step toward using asphalt for all the pathways, including the one in which the main sculpture stands, is not necessary and is harmful to the environmental well-being and engineered design of the park. I, for one, stand against the asphalting of the park – a turn toward the hardening of the face of the village in spite of the hard work the original 60 members of the Harborfront Park committee put in when considering the beautification of this prime waterfront jewel.

Margot Garant

Port Jefferson

Editor’s note: The writer served as mayor of Port Jefferson from 2009-23.

Due to walkway reconstruction, Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson is currently closed to the public.

In an exclusive interview, Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Lauren Sheprow offered updates on the park project, outlining the motivations guiding this initiative.

“We wanted to make sure that we could do the whole park with whatever solution we came up with,” she said. “The priority was safety, and then fiscal responsibility was the second responsibility,” leading to the choice of asphalt.

Roger Corcella, project manager for the park, said the preexisting walkways were not adequately maintained, prompting safety concerns from village officials.

He said the walkways were “in desperate need of repair,” noting, “It wasn’t safe to walk anymore, especially if you had any physical issues. It wasn’t [Americans with Disabilities Act]-compliant.”

Corcella added that the village considered various factors before deciding on asphalt for the walkways. He said the village required a material that would be cost-effective, durable, eco-friendly, customizable, ADA-compliant and require minimal maintenance.

He pointed to other municipalities, such as Brookhaven and Babylon, which use asphalt on park surfaces. “This is a very common practice to use this,” he said.

Further defending the choice of material, Corcella noted that asphalt enables Harborfront Park to serve residents as “a 12-month park” due to simple snow removal service.

During the November general meeting of the village board of trustees, former Mayor Margot Garant objected to the use of asphalt over stamped concrete due to environmental and permeability concerns [See story, “Harborfront Park walkways spark debate, former and current Port Jeff officials clash over materials,” Nov. 9, TBR News Media]. Responding to the objections, Sheprow reiterated her public safety concerns.

“We get way too many reports of trips and falls in the community and didn’t want Harborfront Park to be one of those locations,” the mayor said. “Therefore, we had to look at the whole entire park and look at resurfacing the walkways around the entire park.”

“We want to make the park accessible to everybody, and if we put in stamped concrete, we wouldn’t be able to do the whole park,” she added.

To finance the costs associated with the walkway reconstruction project, which totals $248,907, the village board is making use of grants from Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven that will subsidize over a third of the overall expense.

“We were looking at $90,000 that would help us pay for this project,” Sheprow said. “Had we not acted immediately, we wouldn’t have received it,” adding, “In order to be eligible for those grants, the understanding was that [the project] would have to be for the entire park. … We needed to be compliant with the requirements of the grants.”

During the interview, Sheprow referred to the practice of “deferred maintenance.” Given the safety concerns identified with the walkways, she concluded that the administration had to act.

“If you don’t address a situation when it first becomes an issue, it becomes an even bigger issue,” she said, adding, “My goal was not to defer the maintenance of the park any longer — to let it become a bigger issue — but to address it immediately.”

Corcella said he aims to complete the walkway reconstruction project by mid-December. To view the village’s full Q&A page on the Harborfront Park project, visit portjeff.com/harborfrontparkconstruction.

Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson is closed for walkway reconstruction until Jan. 1. Photo by Raymond Janis

Officials from past and current village administrations quarreled Monday evening, Nov. 6, over the ongoing walkway renovation project at Harborfront Park in downtown Port Jefferson.

During the public comment period, former Mayor Margot Garant expressed opposition to the project for its use of asphalt on walkways throughout the park.

“We’re demanding an immediate halt to the project to allow time for a thorough revision of the chosen materials, costs involved and the potential environmental impact,” Garant said. “We also call for a more transparent and inclusive decision-making process that genuinely considers public feedback.”

Village clerk Sylvia Pirillo said the administration had met with an engineer regarding the use of asphalt, referring to asphalt as the “industry standard” for its cost-effectiveness and durability.

“Part of the reason it’s the industry standard is that it’s maintenance-free,” Pirillo said. “And unlike the crushed blue stone,” — the material currently used on the walkways — “it actually is [Americans with Disabilities Act]-compliant, which was a tremendous factor in the decision-making as well as, of course, the cost differential.”

The village clerk pointed to the sanitary benefits of asphalt, noting that “animal feces and other dirt and problematic-type residue do not fall into it and can more easily be washed away.”

Garant referred to the extent of the renovation project as “not necessary” and “harmful to the environmental well-being and engineering design of the park,” saying asphalt contributes to heat retention and impermeability, “particularly problematic given our proximity to the waterfront.”

Public safety

Sergio Möller, community relations officer for Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct, reported favorable findings during the department’s public safety report, noting that crime was generally down throughout the village.

Following a SCPD survey at Brook Road, however, Möller said that the roadway “has become a problem.”

Code enforcement chief Andy Owen presented promising results from a traffic survey conducted on California Avenue, which found “a majority of people are in compliance,” with 94% of cars surveyed traveling at or below the speed limit.

Owen added that there were no incidents of note occurring during recent village-sponsored events.

To watch the full meeting of the village board, including trustee reports and board resolutions, see the video above.

Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant during a Board of Trustees meeting June 5. File photo by Raymond Janis

Former Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant, the Democratic Party nominee in this year’s contest for Town of Brookhaven supervisor, has suspended her campaign.

Lillian Clayman, a resident of Port Jefferson and adjunct professor of labor and industrial relations at SUNY Old Westbury, will now lead the Democratic ticket.

Garant recently experienced “an unforeseen health issue,” prompting her to exit the race, according to a statement from the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee.

“This was not an easy decision,” Garant said. “Public service has been the honor of a lifetime, and my love for Port Jefferson and Brookhaven knows no bounds.” But, she added, “Right now, I need to put my health and my family first.”

Incumbent town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) announced his candidacy for Suffolk County executive in February, triggering an open contest to fill his seat. Garant and Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville) had secured their respective party’s nominations that same month.

Panico responded to news of Garant’s departure. “I wish Margot the very best for a speedy and full recovery,” he said in a text to TBR News Media.

Anthony Portesy, chair of the town Democratic committee, confirmed Clayman, former BTDC chair from January 2016 to August 2020 and three-time mayor of Hamden, Connecticut, from 1991-97, has stepped forward to replace Garant as the party’s nominee.

“I wish my dear friend Margot Garant a speedy recovery,” Clayman said. “I am delighted to join a slate of Democratic candidates who are committed to making Brookhaven a forward-looking, honestly governed community.”

In a message published on social media, Portesy offered consolation to Garant, maintaining an optimistic tenor as the race continues.

“I want to take the time to thank my dear friend Margot Garant for stepping up to run this race, and I wish her a rapid recovery,” the committee chair said. “The battle marches on, but you remain in our hearts, our thoughts and our minds as we carry your vision forward into November.”

Garant served as mayor of Port Jefferson from 2009-23. She announced her plans to retire from the village government earlier this year and was succeeded by trustee Lauren Sheprow on July 3.

Village board advances nonprofit rental rates, energy tracking program

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden presides over the Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees business meeting on Monday, June 26. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees held the final business meeting of its term Monday afternoon, June 26, during which departing Mayor Margot Garant was absent due to illness.

In her absence, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden presided over a meeting marked by several notable goodbyes. Garant, Snaden and village attorney Brian Egan will all leave the board next week when trustee Lauren Sheprow takes over as mayor.

Trustee Rebecca Kassay recognized Snaden, who lost to Sheprow in last week’s mayoral election. Snaden’s four-year tenure on the village board now ends. 

“You put your heart and soul into it — and it shows,” Kassay told the departing deputy mayor. Following these remarks, Snaden was greeted with thunderous applause by the dozens in attendance.

Garant’s fiancée, Traci Donnelly, delivered a short address on the mayor’s behalf. Garant thanked colleagues and constituents.

“I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to each one of you for the trust you’ve shown me over the past 14 years,” the statement said. “I hope and pray that the team of individuals who remain will continue working tirelessly to ensure the continued growth and success of our beloved village.”

Egan, who has served as village attorney since 2013, thanked the court clerks, village clerks, treasurers and professional staff with whom he had served over the last decade. In this final report, he paraphrased his favorite line from Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” 

“Lewis Carroll said it best when his advice to the white rabbit was — ‘Start at the beginning, then continue to the end; then stop.’”

Other business

The board agreed to extend the reduced rental rate for the Long Island Foundation for Education & Sports, a children and family services group which rents a room in the Village Center, until the end of the 2023-24 school year. The nonprofit will be charged $35 per hour during that period, a reduction from the pre-pandemic rate of $42 per hour.

The board also approved a resolution to track and publish energy usage data for village buildings. The initiative, Kassay explained, “moves us one step closer” toward receiving grant funds through the New York State Research and Development Authority’s Clean Energy Communities Program.

Kassay, liaison to the newly created village Tree Committee, announced the committee’s members had held their first meeting and established a set of objectives.

“Their first task is going to be exploring how to survey the existing canopy of trees” on village properties and public rights-of-way, the trustee said. The committee will also “examine the current tree code to see how it can be more effective and balanced.”

Sheprow and trustees-elect Loucks and Bob Juliano will be formally sworn into office this Tuesday, July 4, following the village’s annual Fourth of July parade. The reconfigured board will hold its reorganization meeting the following Monday, July 10, at 5 p.m.

Lauren Sheprow, mayor-elect of the Village of Port Jefferson. File photo by Raymond Janis

The Village of Port Jefferson is undergoing its first mayoral transition in 14 years. Outgoing Mayor Margot Garant, who has held the village’s highest post since 2009, will officially leave the office early next week, handing the reins of power to trustee Lauren Sheprow.

Sheprow, a write-in candidate who campaigned as an agent of change, defeated Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden in last week’s village election [See story, “Write-in candidate Lauren Sheprow elected Port Jeff Village mayor,” The Port Times Record, June 22, also TBR News Media website]. Throughout her campaign, she proposed several initiatives, such as new staffing procedures, committees and communications channels.

In an exclusive interview, the mayor-elect opened up about the transition process, unveiling her expectations for the office and offering some reorganization plans.

“Fourteen years is a long time,” she told TBR News Media. “Mayor Garant did amazing things in Port Jefferson, and I never want to take anything away from her and what she’s done.”

“I’m just excited to start something new and fresh, and see what we can do to help bring Port Jefferson to the next chapter,” she added.

She offered that she is currently “working through sort of an organizational chart,” assessing where current staff members will fit within the organizational hierarchy and whether there are opportunities for change.

Through this chart, she is “trying to understand if everything makes sense the way it’s laid out,” she said. “Possibly it does, but that’s the evaluation process that I’m going through right now.”

With one year remaining in her unexpired term as trustee, one of Sheprow’s highest-profile vacancies is the one she will create by swearing in as mayor. New York Village Law empowers the mayor to “appoint individuals to fill vacancies in both elected and appointed offices when the vacancy occurs before the expiration of the official’s term of office,” with this type of mayoral appointment “not subject to board approval.”

Outside of village attorney Brian Egan, who announced his resignation this week, Sheprow declined to reveal any other major administrative changes or forecast upcoming mayoral appointments.

One of Sheprow’s central positions during her campaign was the formation of new resident task forces and committees to assist the board in local decision-making. Sheprow maintained her intent to move ahead with plans for committees on parking, budgets and the Port Jefferson Power Station, among others.

“I have three or four people that I can tap into immediately on the Audit and Budget Committee,” she said. “I’ve been talking to people about the Parking Committee, the LIPA Committee,” adding that the village government is exploring a portal for residents to enter their interests and alert the committee boards on which they would like to volunteer.

Expanding upon this initiative, Sheprow said she had contacted Kevin Wood, the village’s communications committee head, about overhauling the village’s municipal website, suggesting a website revamp would likely be a multimonth endeavor.

Sheprow also said she has been scrutinizing the village’s existing Code of Ethics, noting this “probably hasn’t been touched in all the years since it’s been established,” adding that a similar approach is underway for procurement and investment policies.

The mayor-elect described the transition process as “exciting,” noting a personal lack of anxiety in preparing for the mayor’s office.

“It’s just energizing, and I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “We have a great operating institution in the Village of Port Jefferson. The people in place are doing their jobs, and I hope to empower them to do their jobs even more.”

Sheprow will be sworn in as mayor outside Village Hall this Tuesday, July 4.

Mayor-elect Lauren Sheprow celebrates on Election Night. Photo by Aidan Johnson
By Raymond Janis & Aidan Johnson

In a historic upset, trustee Lauren Sheprow — a write-in candidate — was elected Village of Port Jefferson mayor Tuesday night, June 20, capping off a contentious season in the village. 

In a contested race to succeed Mayor Margot Garant, who is running for Town of Brookhaven supervisor, Sheprow defeated Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden 956-796.

Incumbent trustee Stan Loucks and former village clerk Bob Juliano were elected with 935 and 1,244 votes, respectively, in an uncontested race. Voters also elected Tara Higgins as village justice with 1,381 votes.

Sheprow announced her bid for mayor in March, running on a platform of change and pledging to move the village in a new direction.

‘Our Village Hall is now open to all residents.’

— Lauren Sheprow

Her campaign hit an unexpected stumbling block on May 30, just three weeks before Election Day, when the Suffolk County Board of Elections removed her name from the ballot due to faults in her petitions after charges brought on by Snaden’s campaign.

Despite the unfavorable Suffolk BOE decision, Sheprow became a write-in candidate. In an interview, the mayor-elect commented on the race’s conclusion.

“It was an uphill climb all the way, but the determination of my supporters and the residents themselves made it possible to overcome every challenge,” she said. “I also want to congratulate Kathianne Snaden for a spirited race. I know we both want the best for Port Jefferson and its future.”

She added, “I’m humbled and honored by the unwavering support and the positive feedback I received from all the residents I met with throughout the village during this whole process.”

Before entering the board last year, Sheprow had worked as a media relations professional at Stony Brook University and Mather Hospital. Her father, Harold, had served as village mayor from 1977-85 and 1987-91.

Sheprow also congratulated the newly elected trustees and village justice, expressing optimism and pledging to follow the public will.

“I look forward to working with this board … to make positive change and a fresh start for Port Jefferson,” she said, adding, “Our Village Hall is now open to all residents. Whether you voted for me or not, I am listening.”

In a separate interview, Garant thanked the community for entrusting her throughout her 14 years at the helm. “I think I’ve done my job, and I’ve left this community in a good spot,” the outgoing mayor said. “I just hope for the base to know to keep it going forward.”

After four years of service on the Board of Trustees, Snaden’s tenure now ends as the deputy mayor had vacated her trustee seat to run for mayor. In the wake of the election result, Snaden released a statement expressing her gratitude for those who supported her campaign.

“While I may not have won this election, I am grateful for the opportunity to have shared my vision for the future of this village,” she said. “I believe that together, we can continue to make this village an even better place to live, work and raise a family.”

She added that she would remain involved, saying:

“To the Port Jefferson community, I want to say that I will continue to be a voice for positive change and progress. I will continue to work to ensure that this village remains a wonderful place to call home. I will continue to be an advocate for our community, and I will work to build bridges and bring people together.” 

Incumbent trustee Stan Loucks, left, and former village clerk Bob Juliano were also elected to the village board Tuesday night. File photos by Raymond Janis

Loucks, who has been on the board since 2015, ran alongside Snaden on the Unity Party ticket. While thanking the community for its vote of confidence in him, he expressed sympathy for his running mate.

“I think the village lost a very valuable person with Kathianne Snaden,” he said. “But congratulations, I guess, to the opponent.”

Outside of the uncontested Higgins, Juliano received the highest vote count of any candidate. In a phone interview, the first-time elected official thanked the community for its strong support.

“I am humbled by the support and encouragement that I have been getting from everyone,” he said. “I promise to do my best and make Port Jefferson a better place for us all,” adding, “I’m looking forward to sitting down with all the new board members and discussing where we want to see Port Jefferson head.”

The current board will convene for one final meeting this Monday, June 26, at 3:30 p.m. The new mayor and trustees will swear into office outside Village Hall on July 4 following the annual parade.

Trustee Lauren Sheprow, left, and Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Village of Port Jefferson is nearing a crossroads.

Residents will enter the polls this Tuesday, June 20, to decide on a successor to Mayor Margot Garant. After 14 years leading the administration, the incumbent is stepping down to head the Democratic ticket for Town of Brookhaven supervisor against Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville).

Garant’s seat is being contested by Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden and trustee Lauren Sheprow. In an exclusive office debate spanning nearly two and a half hours, the mayoral candidates pitched their respective visions to the voters.


Defeated by just four votes in her first bid for trustee in 2018, Snaden won election to the board the following year and has since secured several liaison posts before taking over as deputy mayor in 2021.

She said she first ran for office “to be the voice” of the people, bringing their wishes to Village Hall and putting their priorities into action. 

“I am ready to run for mayor because I want to use all of that institutional knowledge, all of my experience, to do even more for the community,” she said.

Sheprow entered the board 10 months ago, unseating former trustee Bruce Miller during last year’s village election. She has since helped establish multiple advisory committees while serving as commissioner of communications, among other liaison positions.

She said she is running to take the village government in a new direction.

“I have been hearing a lot from residents and how they would like to see a fresh start for Port Jeff,” she said. “That’s what I was responding to when I decided to run.”


This year’s mayoral contest took an unusual plot twist very recently, on May 30, when the Suffolk County Board of Elections opted to remove Sheprow’s name from the June 20 ballot over faults in her petitions.

“I take full responsibility for not putting my cover sheet on the petition submission,” Sheprow said. “But you know what? I don’t care. I’m running a write-in campaign. I would never stop fighting for the people of Port Jefferson.”

Snaden, whose campaign brought about the charges, said using the Freedom of Information Law to assess the opposition’s petitions is standard practice.

“We all have to follow the same rules,” she said. “It’s our job as candidates to know the laws and follow the laws.”


The candidates offered competing perspectives on the village’s present finances.

Snaden regarded the current fiscal health as “excellent,” noting the relatively low-interest rates the village pays when borrowing money.

She acknowledged “the budget can always use some tweaking,” adding, “there are some needs that I believe need an increase in budget.” 

Chief among them are salaries, Snaden said: “Bringing those numbers up would be imperative for getting the highest quality employees we can.”

Sheprow suggested the village’s Moody’s rating, a measure that calculates an organization’s relative credit risk, “can be improved,” saying her administration would strive for a AAA bond rating [compared to the current Aa3].

The trustee proposed instituting an advisory committee of certified public accountants and other financial professionals to assist the village board in preparing its budget.

“A zero-based budget is so important,” Sheprow said. “Also, having that budget committee [will help] create a budget that is responsible to the taxpayers.”


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced new regulations targeting existing power plants, placing a cloud of uncertainty over the Port Jefferson Power Station.

With questions surfacing about the possible decommissioning of the plant, the candidates were asked whether the village should begin preparing for further losses of public revenue.

Sheprow again advocated for expert consultation.

“I think we need to include the Advanced Energy Center at Stony Brook University,” she said. “Maybe we can come up with ideas about how to bring advanced energy initiatives into that location.”

Snaden said continued collaboration with wind power companies, such as Ørsted and Eversource, would remain pivotal in “bringing green energy to Long Island through the Village of Port Jefferson.”

To account for potential losses in public revenue, she also proposed “increasing our tax base through responsible development.”


Both candidates agreed the administration is understaffed but departed on possible solutions.

Snaden emphasized hiring a planner for the building and planning department and additional personnel for the code enforcement department.

She indicated the practice of assigning multiple administrative titles to a single staff member is “absolutely not” sustainable.

“I think that’s where the budget needs to be enhanced — to hire the right people to head up these departments and divide up more of the tasks,” she said.

Sheprow maintained the hiring process should follow “a [human resources] system and policy.”

“The idea that I have, should I become mayor, is to bring in someone to take a deep dive into the organizational chart of the village,” she said. “I find there are some conflicts of interest for these positions and roles for people who wear multiple hats.”

Public meetings

To boost attendance at public meetings, Sheprow supported overhauling the village’s municipal website.

“It is not responsive,” she said. “If there’s a village board meeting coming up, it should be on the front page on the carousel of the website.”

She also favored a more dynamic social media presence on behalf of the village, with suggestion boxes and other modes of “active responsiveness” between board members and residents.

“I think we need to set up — here we go again — another committee to hear and review complaints and take [them] forward to the Board of Trustees.”

Snaden discussed the value of live streaming public meetings.

“Bringing the meetings to [residents] in their living rooms, recorded so they could watch at a later date, was key” during the COVID-19 public health emergency, Snaden said, proposing to expand and enhance these methods post pandemic.

She also touched upon the role of the Port eReport in dispersing information to the public.

In welcoming more citizens into the local decision-making process, Sheprow expressed pleasure at the reformation of the Port Jefferson Civic Association, saying, “That means the people care, that the people in the community want to get involved.”

She said the chance for more frequent communications between residents and trustees during board meetings is “a huge opportunity for us.”

Snaden said, “Regular meetings with whoever wants to have a voice,” combined with an active social media presence, would be crucial for welcoming more residents into the process.

“I also believe there’s an aspect of people going to meetings when there’s a negative issue or problem,” she added. “As a person who always looks for the positive in things, I like to believe that a portion of the people not coming to meetings are very happy with what’s going on.”

Open government

Another central administrative function is the swift distribution of time-sensitive documents, such as public minutes and agendas.

Snaden returned to hiring when asked about expediting the release of these materials.

“That rests now on the clerk’s [Barbara Sakovich] responsibility list,” she said. “She’s just overwhelmed with the amount of work,” adding, “I believe we could help by bringing in more people to divide up those duties to get [those documents] out there.”

Sheprow favored implementing a “proactive communications system,” including an internal newsletter, to bring the information to staff and the public more expeditiously.

“We need somebody who’s creating content,” she said. “The content would include a press release after every meeting [saying] here’s what happened.”

Building density

During the May 1 public hearing on possible zoning code changes for the Maryhaven Center of Hope property, several community members voiced concerns about increased villagewide building density.

Sheprow raised objections of her own.

“The proposals and the sketches that have been drawn for this space are looking like we’re bringing city life into a transitional [not entirely commercial nor residential] area of Port Jefferson,” she said. “The surrounding communities are horrified by the prospect of seeing four stories from their backyards.”

Snaden noted, “Density is already here,” referring to some existing apartment and condominium developments neighboring Maryhaven.

In moving through the building and planning stages, she said, it will be necessary to continue consulting traffic and environmental studies, which she indicated are “always done as a matter of course.”

“Residential use has been proven to be the softest use, environmentally speaking,” the deputy mayor added. “My concern is that if we don’t move ahead with … some type of a code change, then as of right, an office park could move in, causing more issues for the neighboring community.”

Parking garage

The village is also working to mediate longstanding parking issues, with both candidates detailing how a proposed parking garage could offset shortages.

“There has to be a careful balance with that — without overbuilding but creating the parking spaces that are needed,” Snaden said of the parking structure.

She also supported continued public-private partnerships for shared parking agreements.

Sheprow called for establishing a parking committee, composed primarily of business owners, to help manage the village’s municipal parking apparatus.

She referred to the proposed garage as “an idea I think residents need to hear and weigh in on.”


During a recent climate resilience forum at Village Hall, local architect Michael Schwarting shared alarming projections of more frequent and intense flood events in Lower Port. Each candidate was asked how the village could mitigate these concerns.

“Utilizing an engineer or planner to lead that process,” coupled with a new grant writer to help underwrite new projects, could “move the village forward conceptually,” Sheprow suggested.

Snaden proposed daylighting hidden underground water bodies to offset increases in flood load. “I would like to continue building bioswales,” she added, “making gardens in conjunction with these bioswales.”

Concluding remarks

Sheprow expressed appreciation for the residents throughout the campaign process.

“I’m having a lot of fun talking to people and learning more about everyone in our community,” she said. “There’s a lot of love for this community, and I would just be grateful to represent them and have their trust put in me.”

Snaden reiterated her past experiences in positioning her for the responsibilities of mayor.

By “voting my opponent in as mayor, you lose me entirely — you lose my experience, knowledge and love for this community,” Snaden said. “However, if you vote for me, Lauren stays on as a trustee, and you have us both.”

Voting information

The public will be the ultimate arbiter of these two mayoral candidates on Tuesday, June 20. Voting will take place at Port Jefferson Village Center, where polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden on her bid for mayor. Sketch by Kyle Horne: @kylehorneart • kylehorneart.com

Seven-term incumbent Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant is leaving the village government, instead making a run for Town of Brookhaven supervisor under the Democratic ticket. 

In a contest to fill Garant’s seat, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden is running against trustee Lauren Sheprow, who is now a write-in candidate. In an exclusive interview, Snaden opened up about her plans for economic development, East Beach, recreation, parking and more.

What would be your top priority for the coming term, if elected?

Using my institutional knowledge and experience in every aspect of the village.

One of the things I had just started working on and want to take to the next level when I become mayor is economic development. Over the last year or so, Kevin Wood — our parking and mobility [administrator] — has been in charge of economic development.

I’d like to start a task force to bring together business and restaurant owners, the chamber of commerce and the Business Improvement District. I want to reach out to developers and real estate brokers and have a committee or task force that will be able to connect with other businesses — national businesses, restaurants and retail establishments — to see what they need to come into our village to continue to make our downtown a thriving district.

Doing that task force will be beneficial to take our village to the next level, where it needs to go. We’re very lucky to have a vibrant downtown, and we must keep that going. It benefits the residents and the entire village as a whole.

If elected, how do you intend to help guide East Beach bluff stabilization efforts and maximize the use of the village-owned Port Jefferson Country Club?

Fortunately, we have a map forward with that. 

We’ve been working with our coastal engineers, and the Board of Trustees voted unanimously on their plan, which includes finalizing the bluff stabilization with the FEMA grant — the $3.75 million.

Once the bluff is stabilized, we will move to the redevelopment of the property at the top of the bluff. Our coastal engineers, the experts in this field, were able to give us a plan for pickleball and tennis courts, which is key to bringing back that membership. 

We were very sad to lose that membership when we had to shut the courts down for reconstruction, but I’m hoping this new racket sports complex will bring back that membership. 

The best part about that is all of that project will be self-sustaining, paid for by the membership. This will not be on the backs of the taxpayers, which is very important to me. I support that whole plan.

What is the role of the village board in overseeing new developments and redevelopment projects?

Working very closely with our planning and building departments and our Zoning Board of Appeals if that’s one of the routes a developer takes. Careful and responsible development, always looking at traffic studies and environmental impacts. Always talking to the surrounding residents and the residents as a whole.

Keep in mind that development will help to increase our tax base. At this point, with the LIPA glide path continuing and going into its final stages, we must be very mindful of our tax base, making sure that it’s solid.

How can the village alleviate its parking capacity challenges, balancing the competing interests of residents, businesses and tourists?

As we know, parking is a big issue in Port Jefferson because we’re not getting any more property.

One of the things I did when I started as parking liaison was work with our Parking Department head to build our Barnum parking lot. That was key.

When I found out that we have about 640 spaces in the village and over 300 were used by employees, I said, “We have to do something.” Employees need to park, but that’s a large portion of our parking capacity.

For an employee — let’s say a waitress, for example — that doesn’t make a huge salary, it would be a huge hit to pay for parking every shift they have. But if we incentivized them to park in the Barnum lot free of charge, I felt that that would be very helpful. That parking lot has 43 spaces, I believe, and it has been very successful.

I continue to work with the Business Improvement District and the chamber of commerce, adapting to their changing needs. As times changed — and during COVID, the needs changed — we were able to pivot on the fly, changing the parking for the needs of the businesses.

One of the other things I’ve done and continue to work on is the PASSPort rideshare service. The idea behind PASSPort was that even though we do have resident parking, it’s limited. To alleviate residents’ parking in the other spaces that visitors can park in, they can take the PASSPort rideshare service.

One of the other things I started about four years ago was working with an engineer and our head of parking for a potential parking structure. That’s been in the works for a few years. Initially, there was an issue with the location and cost of the structure, as well as whether it would yield enough spaces to pay for itself.

One of the things I pride myself on is never saying “no.” There’s always a path to solve a problem. When I hear, “We can’t,” I say, “How can we?” And I gather the best minds in the room to figure out the best path forward that benefits the entire community.

What is your preferred method for public engagement?

That’s the reason I ran for trustee in the first place — I ran to be the voice of residents of the village of Port Jefferson. 

I enjoy speaking to people, hearing their concerns. Having the ability as deputy mayor to take their problems to Village Hall and get that problem addressed immediately has always been very important to me.

When I see the back-and-forth on a platform like Facebook, being able to answer resident questions in real time with factual information has always been something I’m happy to do. I would continue to always be available to people on social media.

Another thing I brought to the village and would continue to expand on is technology changes. We started live-streaming board meetings during COVID, and I was a strong advocate for continuing that once COVID ended.

The other thing I started was our [Port] eReport, our newsletter. I got people on board to help write the newsletter and gather the information. It expanded and expanded, and it is what it is today because of that initiative. 

I’m a “my door is always open” kind of person. I’ve always been very proud of my openness and ability to communicate with folks on many levels.

What is your professional background, and how does it apply to the role of a village mayor?

I worked as a paralegal for almost 20 years in the Buffalo area of upstate New York and on Long Island. 

In litigation, I worked on the insurance defense side for Ford and Hyundai motor companies. I did insurance defense cases for them and did a lot of work as a family law paralegal for attorneys here on Long Island.

I have been deputy mayor for the last two years and trustee for four years. I have been commissioner of building and planning, commissioner of public safety, liaison to parking and mobility, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the planning department, beautification, the Business Improvement District and have worked closely with the chamber of commerce.

My vast experience in the village and my institutional knowledge of all of the workings of the village have all come into play to get me where I am today.