Walter: GOP meeting called to settle infighting

04/11/2011 5:22 PM |

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter says he and Councilman James Wooten, a fellow Republican, will be huddling with Riverhead Republican Party leaders Tuesday evening in an attempt to “work out our differences,” and avoid a scenario where Mr. Wooten would try to unseat the sitting supervisor in a party primary.

“We’ll get through it,” Mr. Walter told the News-Review Monday, adding that the political challenge from the councilman stems from more than personality conflicts, as others on the board told the paper.

“I think there are forces [within the Riverhead Republican Committee] that are wreaking some havoc,” he said. “But we’ll get through it. We’re having a meeting and I think our executive committee is going to try to work through those issues.”

Mr. Wooten could not be reached for comment Monday, but over the weekend emailed the News-Review saying he would be scheduling a press conference to announce his intention to run for supervisor, “possibly Tuesday afternoon.”

Mr. Walter said the Republican meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The Republican group’s leader, John Galla, has not been available for comment.

“[Mr. Galla] is working hard to try to resolve these issues and I think he’s going to be able to do it,” Mr. Walter said.

Mr. Wooten, a retired Riverhead Police officer, was elected to the Town Board in 2007. His four-year term expires this year.

Mr. Walter, a lawyer and former Riverhead Conservative Party chairman, was elected to a two-year term in 2009 along with three other Republicans, making for an all-Republican Town Board.

Councilmembers George Gabrielsen and John Dunleavy, who were reached by phone Monday, both theorized that the potential political challenge stems from personality conflicts between the two men.

“Wooten’s a nice guy and he’s very community minded but I really don’t know where he’s coming from,” Mr. Gabrielsen said. “I think we got some really good projects moving forward with the supervisor and you have to put personality aside. I’m 110 percent behind Sean. I have nothing bad to say about Wooten. I’m just puzzled; I don’t have a clue what he’s thinking. I think personalities is what’s driving this. It’s almost bizarre to me.

“Believe me,” he continued. “Sean and I got at it sometimes, but the next day we’ll talk and we’ll get back [to work].”

Mr. Dunleavy said Mr. Walter’s management style can be off-putting. He also blamed the supervisor for a lack of leadership skills required to build more consensus on the current board — whose members have often disagreed loudly and publicly over issues — and said the supervisor also resorts to threats and scare tactics with board members.

‘Last week, he got mad at me and came into my office and said some threatening words to me,” Mr. Dunleavy said when pressed for details. “And I looked at him, and said, ‘What the hell did I do now?’ I had to talk to him after, when he was calmed down. As long as you haven’t done anything wrong he shouldn’t be able to come in and give you any threatening words, which he does. And I think that’s immaturity.”

When told of Mr. Dunleavy’s remarks, Mr. Walter described the board’s dynamics as being split, with Mr. Dunleavy and Mr. Wooten, —who served together under a former Democratic supervisor Phil Cardinale — often voting together on controversial issues, and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen often voting the other way.

“I’m the swing vote,” he said. “But I don’t know what John Dunleavy’s saying. We’ve built consensus on many different things. With the previous board, it was paralysis by analysis. We chart a path once we build a consensus of three votes. I told the board, we make a decision and move on. Sometimes the other board members are not happy because they don’t have the votes. In my opinion it’s better to make a decision and move forward than not make a decision at all.”

As for Mr. Dunleavy’s statement that Mr. Walter has threatened him, the supervisor said he’s “not threatening him.”

“In my family when you raised your voice; it was wasn’t a really a big deal,” Mr. Walter said. “But some families, if you raise your voices people think you’re angry or mad. I like to project. “

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, reached Monday afternoon, declined to offer specific comments on a potential primary.

“This is between party leaders and between my colleagues,” said Ms. Giglio. “Whatever comes out of this will, hopefully, be in the best interest of the taxpayers.”

Meanwhile, both the Democratic and Republican parties are getting ready to screen potential candidates for this year’s local elections.

Democratic chairman Vinny Villella said the GOP’s infighting could work to his party’s favor in November.

“It depends on how it plays out,” he said. “If Wooten gets the GOP [nomination] and Sean goes third-party line then I’m sure that would help us.”

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11 Comment

  • Is the “political machine” at work here trying to coerce Wooten into conceding to Walter? Hang tough, Jim, we’re all behind you. Sean seems like a spoiled child going to his parents (the GOP) because he isn’t getting his own way. Shame on Walter for disrespecting Dunleavy. That makes the threats Wooten alledged all the more believable. We have had enough of Walter’s shenanigans. It is time for someone new.

  • Watching this Town Board disintegrate is like watching Jersey Shore: a bunch of drunk, dumb, loud mouths into tatoos fighting about who hooks up with whom.

    Maybe Sandmine Sean can redeem Bill Rothaar and market Town Board meetings as a reality TV show to cover his bail.

  • Quit trying to sugarcoat things Sean. You are rude, a snake, and trying to do anything in an effort to undermine Wooten. Don’t you and the party get it….. we can’t stand you!!! This is one Republican that will vote the other way if Sean is on the ticket. George, if you are behind Sean, then you can go with him. The combination of Sean and Bill Rothaar are killing this town!! Get rid of them!!!!

  • Quit trying to sugarcoat things Sean. You are rude, a snake, and trying to do anything in an effort to undermine Wooten. Don’t you and the party get it….. we can’t stand you!!! This is one Republican that will vote the other way if Sean is on the ticket. George, if you are behind Sean, then you can go with him. The combination of Sean and Bill Rothaar are killing this town!! Get rid of them!!!!

  • Whoa! When did Civil War II start?

    In my family after the votes are counted the winners are expected to represent everybody.

    Did Supervisor Walters really say “we build a consensus of three votes”?
    While a simple majority may be legally sufficient to “make a decision and move forward”,
    such politics by majority rule is clearly not “in the best interest of the taxpayers”.

    To be honest, a supervisor that does not know the meaning of consensus* is incompetent and should be impeached not reelected.

    Is there any hope that the Republican Party leaders will not have to settle for majority rule (by a primary) and succeed in building a real consensus?

    * >> Consensus decision-making is a group decision making process that seeks not only the agreement of most participants but also the resolution or mitigation of minority objections. Consensus is defined by Merriam-Webster as, first – general agreement and, second – group solidarity of belief or sentiment. It has its origin in a Latin word meaning literally feel together. … <<

  • Is Walter implying that because he was raised in an environment where it was accceptable to “raise your voice” he thinks behavior like that is acceptable in the work place or at Town Hall? I guess his parents didn’t teach him to respect his elders, either. Just because he was raised that way is no excuse as people can and do rise above their circumstances. If he were an employee he would be terminated for such behavior. He should be setting an example for those under his supervision. It just goes to show you that the problems at Town Hall begin at the very top. His behavior is more than just about being “loud”. He is arrogant, rude, and apparently threatening to anyone he perceives is standing in his way. Maybe he should pray for some humility and compassion at next Thursday’s prayer session with Rothaar……

  • A meeting to threaten Mr. Wooten more than likely. We want an alternative to Sean!!!

  • As someone who has experienced Town Hall meetings as well as work sessions I can tell you that Sup. Walter is arrogant, sarcastic and condescending at best. Mr. Wooten has probably experienced enough of Sup. Walter’s behavior and realizes that he does not work in favor of the majority of residents and dodges tough decisions to retain votes. One might suggest lawyers do not belong in the role of Supervisor as they can not get past their fears of being sued. But, on the other hand you need only look at the legal team Sup. Walter has assembled to understand that he has no problem spending taxpayers money to defend his poor decisions in court.

    As the coming election nears there will probably be more dissension among the council members. If only the residents of Riverhead knew what goes on that isn’t printed in the papers they would be highly disappointed. As for Sup. Walter, his arrogance and sarcasm does little to mask his incompetence in his role.


  • The individual that EXTRACTS Riverhead Enterprises- Shelly Gordon- from downtown – they own all the EMPTY storefronts will
    win the votes , and hearts and minds in perpetuity – this is the most important issue because a pretty, thriving mainstreet will attract quality investment at grumman Because People will WANT to be here it will legitimize
    our town

  • It sounds like they are treating this as a private club and not publicly elected independent positions. Very bad.