07/31/13 12:00pm
07/31/2013 12:00 PM

The Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLOCAL.com are partnering with the Suffolk Theater to host a pair of Riverhead Town debates this election season.

The first event will be held Monday, Aug. 26, in advance of the Sept. 10 Republican primary for town council and the Democratic primary for town supervisor. All five candidates vying for the two posts have accepted an invitation to participate in the debate. The second debate will be held Thursday, Oct. 24, before the Nov. 5 general election.

“We’re very excited to be working together to bring these debates to the public,” said Times/Review Newsgroup executive editor Grant Parpan. “Given the current political climate in this town, there’s no doubt these events will be good shows worthy of the theater’s grand stage.”

Both debates will be moderated by Mr. Parpan, RiverheadLOCAL editor and publisher Denise Civiletti and News-Review editor Michael White.

“Riverhead is at a crossroads,” Ms. Civiletti said. “The next town board will be making crucial decisions that will affect our future for generations to come. Voters need to know where the candidates stand on important local issues.”

The Aug. 26 debate will feature Democratic supervisor candidates Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela Devito, followed by Republican town council candidates Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio,

All questions for the debates will be written in advance by the three moderators and the candidates will be given time to make closing statements. Readers can submit questions in advance to denise@riverheadlocal.com or mwhite@timesreview.com.

The events are scheduled for 7 p.m. and the theater will offer beverage service before and after the debates. The bar will open at 5 p.m.

Admission to the debates will be $5; all proceeds will be donated to a local charity.

07/30/13 12:08pm
07/30/2013 12:08 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Just two petitions have been challenged in Riverhead Town this election season.

Only Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, who is running a Democratic primary for Riverhead Town supervisor, and Mike Panchak, the Riverhead Republican Committee’s candidate for highway superintendent, have had specific objections filed against their nominating petitions for this fall’s town elections.

Since the deadline for filing objections has passed, that means there will be a Republican primary for Town Council in September, with Anthony Coates challenging committee nominees John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

The challenge against Mr. Panchak came from Keisha Washington Dean, who is a member of the Riverhead Town Democratic Committee.

Ms. Dean claimed that since Mr. Panchak is not a registered Republican, he requires a certificate of authorization from the Republican leadership, and failed to get that certificate, sometimes called a “Wilson Pakula,” by the July 15 deadline.

“It’s still in the hands of the Board of Elections,” Mr. Panchak said.

He said he plans to run whether he’s on the Republican line or not because he’s still going to be on the Conservative line and no challenges were filed on his position there.

Mr. Panchak, who is challenging incumbent Democrat George ‘Gio’ Woodson, is not registered with a political party, and is listed as a “blank” by the Board of Elections.

“We missed the filing period to give him a Wilson Pakula,” said Republican vice chairman Mason Haas of Mr. Panchak. “Normally we would have caught this mistake. However, the distractions of late has unfortunately caused us to have missed the filing deadline for the Wilson Pakula and Mr. Panchak may be a casualty of that.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, whose name appears on the ballot as Ellen A. Cotten-DeGrasse, filed 429 signatures, and three different people filed objections to them, including Ms. Washington Dean. Maxine Kleedorfer of Baiting Hollow also challenged all of Ms. Cotten’s petitions on the grounds that she listed her address incorrectly.  Jeanne Luboja of South Jamesport is the third person to file petitions against Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, who is challenging Democratic party nominee for Angela DeVito for supervisor, listed her address as 8 Legend Lane in Jamesport, although the town changed her address to 37 Legend Lane for the e-911 emergency phone system. In addition, since she gets mail delivered to a mailbox, her mailing address should be Legend Lane in Riverhead, since the Jamesport Post Office doesn’t deliver to mailboxes in front of homes.

The Board of Elections will rule on both cases in the coming weeks.

Mr. Coates said he filed general objections to the Republican petitions, through his girlfriend, Cleo Beletsis, but decided not to file specific objections because it would be too much of a distraction.


07/24/13 12:48pm
07/24/2013 12:48 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Town supervisor hopeful Ann Cotten-Degrasse at a Riverhead Board of Education meeting in May.

Three challenges have been filed to the nominating petitions of Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, who is opposing party nominee Angela DeVito for the Riverhead Democratic party’s supervisor nomination in a Sept. 10 primary.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse filed petitions with 429 signatures, and said she received a package in the mail on Tuesday notifying her that one person had challenged 186 of those signatures for various reasons, while two other people challenged all of her petitions on a residency issue.

The Board of Elections will rule on the challenges in the coming weeks, said Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, who added that she has to respond to the challenges by Thursday.

“It appears to me that I am being denied my right to run for election by petty actions which restrict, if not confound, the Democratic process,” Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said. “Why does my opponent fear a primary election, which would allow the registered Democratic voters to decide on their candidate?”

One of the objections was filed by Keisha Washington Dean,  a member of the Demcoratic committee working on Ms. DeVito’s campaign.

Ms. DeVito said she did not initiate the challenges to her opponent’s petitions, but she supports people’s rights to do so.

“I think that just the same as every individual has the right to carry petitions for a candidate, citizens retain the right to file objections to those petitions,” Ms. DeVito said Wednesday.

She said Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse should have been aware of the rules.

“Whoever’s giving her advice is giving her advice that’s not correct,” she said.

Ms. Cotten DeGrasse listed her address as 8 Legend Lane in Jamesport, an address she’s used for 30 years.

But she said the town changed her house address to 37 Legend Lane for the e911 program several years ago, and since she has a mailbox, her mailing address is from the Riverhead 11901 zip code, rather than the Jamesport 11947 zip code.

That’s because Jamesport doesn’t do mail delivery to mailboxes, and only has post office boxes. People in Jamesport who get their mail delivered to a mail box, such as Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, get their mail from the Riverhead Post Office.

She said she uses the 37 Legend Lane address on bills and credit cards because it became a problem with deliveries, but she never thought to change the address on her voter registration.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said it’s ironic that the package from the Board of Elections was mailed to her home and got there with no problem.

She said hers is the only home on Legend Lane with a mailbox.


05/24/13 3:29pm
05/24/2013 3:29 PM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTOS | Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela DeVito

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTOS | Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela DeVito

After being passed over by the Riverhead Democratic Committee in her bid for a supervisor nomination Thursday night, Riverhead school board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse said she will be running a primary against nominee Angela DeVito.

And she likes her chances.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, a former Riverhead School District teacher and union leader, is also the founder and a past president of the North Fork Breast Health Coalition advocacy group.

“I’ve met a whole lot of people [in Riverhead], many of whom I’ve taught in the school district, so I’ve got a pretty good base,” she said. “Between that and the breast cancer coalition, I’m not too worried about how I’m going to fare in this primary.”

She was also the leading vote-getter in her re-election to the Riverhead school board in 2011, with 1,960 votes.

Reached Friday, Ms. DeVito said she didn’t think a primary would be too much of a distraction in the run-up to Election Day.

“I don’t think it’s going to put me off course in focusing on the target, which is Nov. 5,” she said. “I look at it as an opportunity for the people of Riverhead to vote for me twice.

“I respect Ann Cotten-DeGrasse greatly, she is right when she says she’s made a contribution to our community,” Ms. DeVito continued. “I, too, have made an equal contribution. I had hoped that last evening, when she saw the tremendous support I got from within the committee, she would have re-thought it.

“If the vote last night would have been close, then pursuing a primary would have made more sense.”

Ms. DeVito is a member and former president of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association and is retired from her position as director of workforce development with the Long Island Building Trades Council.

She served on the Riverhead school board from 2006 to 2011 and was board president in the 2009-10 school year.

She announced she would step down from the school board in 2011, a year before her term was set to end, during a public debate with Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse during a meeting.

On Friday, Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said she had fully committed to run a primary before Thursday night’s convention.

“I didn’t go to the convention last night with the idea that I was going to overturn the screening committee’s recommendation [in Ms. Devito],” she said.

Ms. Cotten DeGrasse got only about 10 percent of the committee’s support for the nomination.

Between the two women, Ms. DeVito was the first to announce publicly she would run for supervisor, something Ms. DeGrasse said might have hurt her chances.

“I came late to the dance,” Ms. Cotten DeGrasse said. “I had really been thinking about this for about a year.”

She had been going back and forth on whether to run for supervisor, she said, when she was approached from people within the committee to run and finally decided to do so.

As for Ms. DeVito, she, too, had said she would not rule out running a primary if she didn’t get the nomination Thursday night.

But, she said, an overwhelming defeat at the convention might have changed her mind.

“It does create a distraction,” she said. “It weakens the party’s chances, but it is her right to do that, and I respect the process.” 


05/23/13 9:28pm

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Board members (from left) Jim Wooten, John Dunleavy, Supervisor Sean Walter, Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen.

Riverhead Town Republicans and Democrats both hosted their nominating conventions in Polish Thursday night. Read a recap of our live reports below:

04/16/13 4:56pm
04/16/2013 4:56 PM

VERA CHINESE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead school board president Anne Cotten-Degrasse is considering a run for Riverhead Town Supervisor.

While the Riverhead Republicans appear to have some high profile internal battles for Town Board seats awaiting them this election season, the town Democrats are taking a more low-key approach.

The committee is just beginning to set up a schedule now to screen potential candidates.

“Our screening committee will be meeting tomorrow night to set up a schedule for next week,” said Riverhead Democratic Committee chairwoman Marge Acevedo. “We have had about six people that have expressed a desire to screen. So far we have three for supervisor and three for council. Our screening committee has always had a policy that we do not give out names, if the candidates wish to do so that is up to them.”

So far, a few names have gotten out.

Angela DeVito, a former president of the Riverhead school board, announced in March she would seek the Democratic nomination for supervisor, and Ann Cotton-DeGrasse, the current president of the Riverhead school board, confirmed this week that she would also seek to the screened by the Democrats for supervisor.

Ms. Cotton-DeGrasse said she had hoped to keep her intentions quiets until after the screening, but it was leaked at an event over the weekend.

Also seeking to screen with both the Democrats and the Republicans is Greg Fischer of Calverton, who announced his intention to screen with both parties for a Town Board seat but did not specify if he would be seeking a supervisor or council seat.

Mr. Fischer ran a Democratic Primary for council in 2007 and for supervisor in 2011, when he also remained on the ballot on an independent line. He has been calling for elected trustees at the Long Island Power Authority, and has gone to court in an attempt to force that change.

Aside from her work on the school board, Angela DeVito is a retired director of workforce development with the Long Island Building Trades Council, and is active in the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association, the Riverhead Democratic Committee and has sat on the town’s Industrial Development Agency board.

“I have many, many years of public sector service that I think will serve the citizens of this town better,” she said last month.

Ms. Cotton-DeGrasse is a retired teacher of 32 years who served as president of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, the union serving district teachers, for five years. She and her husband, Antonio DeGrasse, also founded the North Fork Breast Health Coalition in 1998, and Ms. Cotton-DeGrasse served as president of that organization for eight years.

“I’ve never known when to quit,” Ms. Cotton-DeGrasse said. “I think I have a lot to offer. I certainly know how to get peep to work together.”

The Republicans held their first screening session Wednesday night, after press time.


03/05/13 7:00am
03/05/2013 7:00 AM
Angela DeVito and Riverhead

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Angela DeVito, pictured here at a school board meeting in 2011, is now looking to run for town supervisor.

Former Riverhead school board president Angela DeVito has thrown her hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination for Riverhead supervisor.

Councilmen Jim Wooten (left) and John Dunleavy in 2011.

Councilmen Jim Wooten (left) and John Dunleavy in 2011.

She’s not the only one seeking to challenge incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter.

Incumbent Republican Councilman James Wooten told the News-Review this week he plans to screen for the Republican nomination for supervisor against Mr. Walter, who will be running for a third two-year term this year.

“I do plan to screen for supervisor,” Mr. Wooten said.

Beyond that, he said, it would be up to what the Riverhead Republican Committee and the people want, adding he wouldn’t rule out a primary if he was not chosen by the committee as its supervisor candidate.

Ms. DeVito announced she’d be running for supervisor through news website RiverheadLocal.com.

“I looked at the current Town Board and its administration and I truly believe our town deserves a lot better,” Ms. DeVito told the News-Review after confirming the earlier press report. “I have many, many years of public sector service that I think will serve the citizens of this town better. I know how to work across the aisle, as they like to say, and get people to work with me. Not on everything, but I do get things done.”

Ms. DeVito says she’s thought about running for town office in the past but time constraints didn’t allow for it, as she had a full-time job and she had to look after her aging mother as well.

She has since retired from her position as Director of Workforce Development with the Long Island Building Trades Council and says she has more time now.

Asked specifically about Mr. Walter, who has been elected to two two-year terms, Mr. DeVito said, “Given the personalities and ambitions of the Town Board he had to work with, he hasn’t shown the leadership to step up and put that aside. It may just be that they are difficult to work with. They all want his job. It’s like a feeding frenzy.

“They can’t wait to diss each other.”

Sean Walter of Riverhead

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter at a Town Board meeting.

Ms. DeVito has been a member of the Riverhead Democratic Committee since 2005 and this year is a member of its executive board. She has told town Democratic leader Marge Acevedo of her desire to run for supervisor, and said she also will seek the Independence and Working Families lines.

The Working Families party traditionally backs Democratics, but the Independence party has backed both Republican and Democratic candidates in recent years.

Ms. DeVito said she will have to screen for the position, despite her familiarity with committee members already.

In addition to working with the Building Trades Council, Ms. DeVito also has worked as a director of Occupational Health and Safety for the state Public Employees Federation, and was associate director for the Long Island Occupational and Environmental Health Program at Stony Brook University.

Locally, she served on the Riverhead school board from 2006 to 2011 and was board president in the 2009-10 school year. She’s been active in the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association since 2002 and served as its president for several years as well.

Having served the public, while also working on the side of civics dealing with public boards, Ms. DeVito says it’s important that officials listen to the public and encourage public input, something she believs the current Town Board doesn’t always do, as some officials have referred to civic groups as “NIMBYs.” (Not in My Back Yard)

Asked why he plans to screen for supervisor, Mr. Wooten said, “I think I have a good handle on how government works and I have the ability to coordinate different groups and bring the community back to the table in order to gain consensus.”

He said he thinks that process,  seems to be sometimes “contentious” now.

A retired town police officer, Mr. Wooten also screened for supervisor against Mr. Walter in 2011, but eventually dropped that bid and ran for his council seat, allowing Mr. Walter to go uncontested for the Republican supervisor nomination.

Mr. Wooten’s council seat is not up for reelection this fall.

Reached for comment on the potential candidates for the supervisor job, Mr. Walter said, “I like Angela DeVito. We have a good working relationship and she’s a very smart woman.”

As for Mr. Wooten running?

“I’m not surprised,” Mr. Walter said.  “I’m running. I’ll be seeking the Conservative and Independence party lines as well as the Republican line, and if I’m not nominated by the Republican committee, I will run a primary. So, I’m running either way. My fate as town supervisor should be left to the voters of the town.”

Mr. Walter said what’s happening in Riverhead happens everywhere.

“I was at the Association of Towns convention recently and in talking to supervisors from other towns, they all have the same thing. Every Town Board member wants to be supervisor, every senator wants to be president, ever state senator wants to be governor. It’s the way it is, and it’s part of the job.”

Riverhead Republican Committee chairman John Galla said its still early in the process, as screenings aren’t usually held until April, but he said so far, Mr. Walter is the only person to formally request his party’s nomination for supervisor.

The screening process is open to everyone, he said, adding he will look forward to running a campaign against whomever the Democrats nominate.

Mr. Walter  said that he fears if he is not reelected, the work he has accomplished at the Enterprise Park at Calverton and the subdivision being developed there could be undone by a different administration.

He said that the EPCAL subdivision will not be finished before his current term ends at the end of this year, and that he needs to be reelected to push that process forward so the town can start selling its land in Calverton and bringing in businesses and jobs.


01/19/13 5:10pm
01/19/2013 5:10 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Nir Silva of Hampton Bays (from left), Virginia Lemmers and Nina Keller, both of South Jamesport, sort through the donated Items in Ms. DeVito's bedroom Saturday afternoon.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Nir Silva of Hampton Bays (from left), Virginia Lemmers and Nina Keller, both of South Jamesport, sort through the donated Items in Ms. DeVito’s bedroom Saturday afternoon.

Angela DeVito’s bedroom overflowed with bags full of jackets, coats, sweaters, scarfs and gloves Saturday afternoon.

Ms. DeVito hosted a Coats for the Community event at her South Jamesport home along with volunteers Nir Silva of Hampton Bays, Nine Keller and Virginia Lemmers, both of South Jamesport.

Ms. DeVito has been participating in the National Day of Service since in 2008 in Southold Town, but this was her first year hosting an event at her home.

“I think the response from the community has been tremendous,” Ms. DeVito said. “I’m very encouraged to know that so many people care about others who are less fortunate than them.”

The volunteers began sorting the items into piles for children, women and men so they can be delivered this week to First Baptist Church and Maureen’s Haven in Riverhead.

Volunteer Nina Keller, 15, who was doing community service for St. Anthony’s High School, was touched by the event.

“This even has more meaning after Sandy because so many people are still being affected,” she said.