A race 20 years in the making has created some bad blood.
The Old Field village justice election between incumbent Ron LaVita, who has run unopposed for two decades, and attorney Ted Rosenberg, ended in a 114-all tie March 20 after all the votes, including absentee ballots, were counted. A recount confirmed the vote totals and a run-off election is scheduled for Tuesday, April 3.
Rosenberg, the village’s current associate justice and a partner with Rosenberg & Gluck LLP, said he was surprised when he heard the news. LaVita, a general practice attorney, said he was disappointed when he heard the results.
“I thought I would have a commanding lead,” he said, adding he should have notified residents who were unable to vote March 20 to submit absentee ballots while he was campaigning, feeling that would have helped him take the election.
Things became heated between the two candidates before the March 20 election for the unpaid position when Rosenberg alleged during his campaign that LaVita did not have a certificate of occupancy for his home since making renovations 15 years ago. After submitting a Freedom of Information Act request with the village, it was confirmed by The Village Times Herald there is no current CO on record.
In a letter he handed out to residents, LaVita addressed the allegations saying he was ignorant in dealing with a “gypsy” contractor who he said did not complete the renovation and failed to file the proper paperwork. In spring 2017, LaVita said he paid the requested permit fees in anticipation of obtaining a CO. In July of that year, he was granted an extension, which expires in July of this year.
In the letter to residents and an ad, LaVita said despite doing his best to follow the canons of judicial ethics, he felt he needed to address allegations and provide further information about his opponent. He alleged Rosenberg represented an accident client who sued the Village of Old Field and the constable, and hosted a campaign fundraiser, which violates judicial ethics; and that the village treasurer works for Rosenberg’s law office.
Rosenberg confirmed he represented a client against Old Field and said he checked with the mayor first, who said there was no conflict of interest created for taking on the case. As for the alleged fundraiser, the attorney said it was a meet and greet his wife arranged, and there was no admission charged.
Rosenberg said he looks forward to a run-off election, and added he had hoped this time around there would be a meet the candidates night or debate so Old Field residents could learn more about the candidates. At press time, there was no debate scheduled, but Old Field residents can meet Rosenberg at The Setauket Neighborhood House at 95 Main Street April 2 at 7 p.m. to learn more about him. LaVita has not scheduled any sort of debate or meetings.
“I think it’s an opportunity for the voters of the village to gain more knowledge about the candidates and our qualifications,” Rosenberg said in regard to a debate. “Particularly for me, because I’m not the incumbent.”
During the March 20 election, Michael Levine, who has been mayor of Old Field since 2008, ran unopposed and maintains his seat. Bruce Feller and Tom Pirro are the village’s new trustees. Feller and Pirro ran for two seats on the village board after Timothy Hopkins and Robert Whitcomb decided not to run for re-election.
The village justice run-off election will be held April 3 at the Keeper’s Cottage at 207 Old Field Road. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Absentee ballots will be re-accepted and must be in to Village Hall no later than 9 p.m. April 3