Giglio in crosshairs at Riverhead Town Board meeting

11/21/2012 1:11 PM |
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.

Campaign season may have come a little early for Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.

At Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting, both Anthony Coates, who has already announced his intention to target her council seat in the 2013 elections, and Matt Hattorff, the president of the town employees union, both became engaged in heated discussions with Ms. Giglio on budget issues.

Mr. Coates, a political adviser to Supervisor Sean Walter, announced last week he would seek the Republican nod for a council seat in 2013, when Ms. Giglio and Councilman John Dunleavy, both Republicans, are up for re-election.

Mr. Coates and Mr. Walter have both publicly stated they are targeting Ms. Giglio, and not Mr. Dunleavy.

Mr. Coates criticized a proposal Ms. Giglio, along with Councilman George Gabrielsen, put forward to restore two positions that were cut in Mr. Walter’s proposed 2013 budget.

Those positions include a $105,645 personnel director job held by Meg Ferris and a vacant youth bureau director job that the two council members sought to fund for half a year at $38,097. The board ultimately kept the personnel director but not the youth bureau director.

Mr. Coates said he doesn’t believe the town needs a personnel director.

“I will urge you tonight not to fill the position because we don’t have the money,” he said.

He criticized Ms. Giglio for coming up with what he called “fairly dubious savings” and then immediately proposing to spend that money on restoring positions.

He felt the savings should be kept as reserves, saying the town faces double-digit tax hikes once it spends the rest of its reserves in a few years.

“Weren’t you lobbying the board for a $100,000 a year job just this past April?” Ms. Giglio asked Mr. Coates, alluding to a proposal by Mr. Walter to hire Mr. Coates as a legislative secretary to the supervisor to work on EPCAL issues.

Mr. Coates said it was only a $65,000 a year job, not counting benefits, and that the position was only a one-year job and it was needed in order to create revenue at EPCAL.

Ms. Giglio said it’s almost a year since then and the town still hasn’t created revenue at EPCAL.

The resolution to hire Mr. Coates to that position was defeated by the board majority.

Mr. Coates said he wasn’t impressed with Ms. Giglio’s work either. In her four years on the board, the only thing that has happened at EPCAL happened this week, when storm-damaged cars began being stored there, Mr. Coates said.

Ms. Giglio pointed out that Mr. Coates doesn’t own a home in Riverhead Town and doesn’t pay property taxes, since he rents.

“You wanted to add that (the town job) to our backs as taxpayers and homeowners, but now, you are here protesting us putting two jobs back in the budget?” she asked.

“I’m concerned that this town is hamster on a treadmill in a race it can never win,” Mr. Coates responded, saying the town is spending more than it can afford.

Mr. Hattorff, president of the local Civil Service Employees Association representing most town employees, criticized Ms. Giglio for a budget proposal to cut the $22,213 part time building inspector position of Jack Wherry, while using savings Ms. Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen found in the budget to restore the personnel director position.

But the elimination of Mr. Wherry’s position as of May 1, which was in a proposal discussed at last Thursday’s Town Board work session, was not included in the resolution that was voted on Tuesday night, according to Mr. Gabrielsen.

Despite this, Mr. Hattorff spent several minutes criticizing that proposal.

Ms. Giglio said the board was considering eliminating two part-time building inspector positions to create on senior building inspector position.

“How about writing back some union members into the budget?” Mr. Hattorff asked. “We took a hit of 13 not too long ago and I’m losing one more that’s not being funded and another that’s been taking out [of the union.]”

Mr. Hattoff said Mr. Wherry is a town resident, while Ms. Ferris lives outside the town.

“And just so you know, that’s the guy you’re firing,” Mr. Hattorff said, pointing to Mr. Wherry. “Jack, stand up.”

In 2010, the board eliminated 13 CSEA jobs. This year, in addition to the proposal to eliminate Mr. Wherry’s job, Mr. Walter’s budget eliminates one CSEA position, a housing investigator post held by Kevin Maccabee, while the board made the deputy tax receiver a non-union job, something the CSEA has filed a grievance over.

“You’re the one who always says ‘that person doesn’t live in Riverhead and we’re not hiring him,” Mr. Hattorff said to Ms. Giglio. “Now you’re taking our tax dollars and fund a position for a person who doesn’t even live in Riverhead?…It’s pathetic.”

Ms. Giglio asked Mr. Hattorff why he was singling her out when it was a board decision to possibly eliminate Mr. Wherry’s job.

Mr. Hattorff said it was Ms Giglio who told Mr. Wherry of their intentions. She said she was the one who spoke to him only because she in the Town Board liaison to the building department.

Mr. Hattorff said he was never told of the plan until he heard it from other building department employees.

Ms. Giglio said many town employees live in the town when they are hired and move out later, and the town can’t just fire them for that.

Mr. Hattorff urged the board to reject the changes proposed by Ms. Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen and let the supervisor’s budget become the adopted budget.

“Jodi, I will remember in November,” Mr. Hattorff said.

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