Now we know for certain what we have long suspected. The Riverhead Town Board is totally dysfunctional. Four Town Board members have confirmed it, and even some of them acknowledge it’s time for change. Just read the public statements — as reported by local media — made by our incumbent town officials over the last few weeks.
Councilman Jim Wooten
“I just don’t feel the local people of Riverhead are being fairly represented.”
“I can’t take the infighting anymore. It’s not good for Riverhead.”
“People think it’s time for a different kind of leadership in Town Hall.”
“Riverhead can do better. I see this dysfunctional board which I think hinders government.”
“Sean is paranoid about everybody…”
Supervisor Sean Walter
“I have a board where at least three of the four board members think they should be supervisor.”
“Councilman Wooten has been in office four years. Ask him what his accomplishments are.”
“I’d like to get a new town council member.”
“We need people with vision. Jim Wooten does not have vision.”
“I guess in January he [Wooten] will be looking for a job.”
Councilman John Dunleavy
Walter’s management style can be off-putting (paraphrase).
“Last week he got mad at me and came into my office and said some threatening words to me. I think that it’s immaturity.”
Councilman George Gabrielsen
“I really don’t know where he [Wooten] is coming from.”
“I don’t have a clue what he’s thinking.”
“I think personalities is what’s driving this. It’s almost bizarre.”
The supervisor and Town Board members have told us voters exactly what we need to know. It is time for different leadership in Town Hall. The infighting on this dysfunctional, all-Republican Town Board is not good for Riverhead. There is no vision on this Town Board. The work of this one-party board is too often disrupted by party politics and petty personality differences. The actions of our supervisor do suggest immaturity and paranoia.
We do need new board members. Riverhead can do better.
What is extraordinary is that the supervisor and three Town Board members have admitted all of this by their public statements. Who can disagree? They work with each other every day (or at least those days they show up).
To borrow a phrase from Councilman Gabrielsen, it really is “almost bizarre.”
Our supervisor and Town Board members cannot find time to attend a board meeting to consider a major polo proposal at EPCAL. They are quick to dismiss before hearing all the facts a proposal to rent downtown dock space for a dinner cruise boat. Yet they can find time to publicly berate each other. John Abbaticchio, a member of the business group which sought to rent downtown dock space is an independent third party observer. He says (referring to Town Hall) “Things are a little cuckoo over there.” Who can argue with this observation?
Councilman Wooten last week announced “It is time for the [Republican] Party to have a new appearance in Town Hall.” How about a disappearance on Election Day instead? While the supervisor and his all-Republican Town Board insult each other and fiddle around at the edges of the town’s real problems, Riverhead burns.
Mr. Villella is the chairman of the Riverhead Democratic Committee and a former Riverhead supervisor.