Walter locks horns with Amper, civic group over Democratic mailings

11/07/2011 4:12 PM |

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter is accusing the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and Richard Amper of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society of being involved in the town Democratic party’s campaign.

And he says he will ask the state attorney general to investigate the matter after Election Day.

RNPC leaders and Mr. Amper deny that they were involved in a campaign, and both say a threat left by Mr. Walter on Mr. Amper’s voicemail indicates that the supervisor is the one being political.

The RNPC issued a press release Monday morning saying that Mr. Walter had left a message on Mr. Amper’s voicemail “threatening to use his office to work against the RNPC’s efforts.”

RNPC is a coalition of civic groups and individuals that was co-founded by Dominique Mendez of Wading River and Phil Barbato of Jamesport.

They transcribed the message left by Mr. Walter on Mr. Amper’s voice mail as follows: “Look, do me a favor and save this message and repeat it and play it back. You better hope that Phil Cardinale wins because you’ve sealed your fate, you and Dominique Mendez have sealed your fate. You guys are no better than ACORN, you’re a political machine. I don’t give a crap what you think, that people aren’t gonna know you did this. Good luck with it, Dick, I hope for your sake Cardinale wins.”

Ms. Mendez played a copy of the recording for a reporter Monday.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Walter did not deny leaving the message.

“The RNPC was formed as a civic organization and it has not held itself out to be a civic organization,” Mr. Walter said. “Very early on, it became apparent that certain members of the RNPC were pushing to get Phil Cardinale re-elected.”

Mr. Walter said that on Friday, a Democratic candidate for Town Council told Anthony Coates, a political adviser to Mr. Walter, that “Dick Amper is not happy with me and is going to do a political hit piece on me,” meaning the supervisor.

Mr. Walter also said that Mr. Amper spoke to Mr. Coates about a mailer containing words to the effect that Mr. Walter had said “drop dead” to Wading River.

Then, on Saturday, a political mailer was sent out by the Democrats with a fake headline from a fictional newspaper called “Wading River Press” saying: “Sean Walter to Wading River: ‘Drop Dead.’ ”

“All the things that Dick Amper was saying to my campaign staffer happened to be in this piece,” Mr. Walter said.

Mr. Amper denies ever saying that to Mr. Coates.

Mr. Coates said he and and Mr. Amper talked about language similar to that, which is a play on a famous headline about President Gerard Ford telling New York to drop dead. Mr. Coates said Mr. Amper is a friend and often uses him as a conduit to voice complaints about Mr. Walter.

The flier in question indicates that it came from the Riverhead Democratic Committee and doesn’t mention RNPC or Long Island Pine Barrens Society anywhere.

Ms. Mendez said more than 1,000 members, both individuals and civic groups, belong to RNPC and many of them are Republicans and Conservatives.

She said they do not get involved in political campaigns.

As for Mr. Walter’s allegation, Ms. Mendez said, “Even if true, it would never justify using his power to threaten us.”

She said Mr. Walter’s threat puts her organization in a difficult position because the supervisor is vowing not to work with them.

Mr. Amper said, “It’s appalling to me that an elected official would leave a message on a citizen activist’s phone saying that a movement would be punished for allegedly helping out a political candidate.”

He added that he doesn’t support Phil Cardinale and didn’t think Mr. Cardinale did a good job when he was supervisor. He also noted that he doesn’t even vote in Riverhead Town.

Mr. Walter said Monday that he will treat RNPC the same way he treats political parties and not how he treats a civic organization.

“With a civic organization, those are people that represent the entire town; a political party only represents one wing of the town,” Mr. Walter said. “I’m going to treat the RNPC as I would treat the Young Democrats, if there were any.”

tgannon@timesreview.com