09/09/13 8:00am
09/09/2013 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio at Monday's debate.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio at an Aug. 26 debate

Voters in Riverhead Town who are registered with the Republican, Democratic or Independence parties will head to the polls on Tuesday for primary day.

Below is a brief biography of each of the candidates.

TOWN SUPERVISOR

Angela DeVito

Angela DeVito

Hamlet: South Jamesport

Occupation: Retired

Primary Race: Democratic

Angela DeVito, 65, is the committee nominee for supervisor. She is a longtime workplace safety advocate with related degrees from Columbia University and the University of Utah School of Medicine. She retired in 2000 from a NYS health department occupational medicine program at SUNY/Stony Brook and then served as director of workforce development for the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk counties. She is an active civic leader who has served on the town Industrial Development Agency and the Riverhead school board.

Ellen A. Cotten-DeGrasse

Ellen A. Cotten-DeGrasse

Hamlet: Jamesport

Occupation: Retired teacher

Primary Race: Democratic

Supervisor hopeful Ellen A. Cotten-DeGrasse, 70, also known as Ann, taught at Riverhead High School for 32 years before retiring in 1997. During her time in the district she served as the head of the teacher’s union, Riverhead Central Faculty Association, from 1992 to 1997. She is the current president of the Riverhead Board of Education, to which she was first elected in 2008. She’s also a co-founder of the North Forth Breast Health Coalition, a charity and advocacy group that assists breast cancer patients.

TOWN COUNCIL

John Dunleavy

John Dunleavy

Hamlet: Calverton

Occupation: Retired police officer

Primary Race: Republican, Independence

Republican incumbent and committee nominee John Dunleavy, 72, is running for a third four-year term as a town councilman. Mr. Dunleavy is a U.S. Navy veteran and former Grumman Corporation employee who later joined the Riverhead Town police department where he came to head the department’s juvenile aid bureau for 15 years before retiring in 1988. He then worked in banking until 2007. Mr. Dunleavy was first elected councilman in 2006.

Jodi Giglio

Jodi Giglio

Hamlet: Baiting Hollow

Occupation: Owner of Bennett Enterprises

Primary Race: Republican, Independence

Republican incumbent and committee nominee Jodi Giglio, 45, is running for her second four-year term as a town councilwoman. Ms. Giglio has a business background, which includes relocating corporate executives for United Van Lines and serving as an on-site construction superintendent for a Long Island townhouse project. She owns and runs Bennett Enterprises, which assists landowners with residential and commercial applications.

Anthony Coates

Anthony Coates

Hamlet: Riverhead

Occupation: Investment consultant

Primary Race: Republican

Republican challenger Anthony Coates, 52, is seeking his first term in public office. He’s been active in public service since age 16, when he was an aide to a county legislator. He helped run a home heating oil company and is a former publisher of the Record newspapers, which were based in Port Jefferson. He’s also been a political adviser to local and nationally elected officials and worked as a financial portfolio manager.

Bill Bianchi

Bill Bianchi

Hamlet: Riverhead

Occupation: Owner of Bianchi-Davis Greenhouses

Primary Race: Independence

Democratic committee nominee Bill Bianchi, 82, is a former Bellport resident who served as a state assemblyman from 1972 to 1994. Mr. Bianchi got started in public service as a South Country school board member and president. He then was part of a lawsuit that effectively ended the county’s Board of Supervisors in favor of a Legislature. He’s worked continually in the orchid business and co-owns orchid greenhouses off Doctors Path.

*Sources: the candidates

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Supervisor hopefuls on how they‘d run town

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Republican rivals square off at primary debate

08/29/13 2:30pm
08/29/2013 2:30 PM
ANTHONY COATES COURTESY PHOTO |  Anthony Coates

ANTHONY COATES COURTESY PHOTO | Anthony Coates

They’re worried. Yesterday, Councilman Jim Wooten sounded retreat and the Old Guard Republicans started circling the wagons because they are worried.

They are worried it might be closing time for their clubhouse.

I came to the race for Town Council vowing to shake up Town Hall and it seems there is a whole lot of shaking going on. Harry Truman said, “I never gave ‘em Hell, I told the truth and they thought it was Hell,” and that’s what’s happening here in Riverhead.

I have dared speak the truth about public officials that care more about their pensions than the public good. I have dared speak out about the constant cost overruns that are a result of Town Board mismanagement. I have dared speak out about council members that are rarely at their desks. I have dared speak out about tax breaks that are given out to the Republican Party’s friends and family network but not to you. I’ve called for term limits and for reforms to keep politics out of Town Hall. I have called for full disclosure and I’ve offered a positive plan to get this town moving forward.

You see folks, it’s all about jobs. Oh, not your job, it’s about theirs and their ability to live off the system. Councilman James Wooten is not happy that I was honest with the public when I spoke out about the odd jobs he holds in addition to the municipal pension he receives and his salary as a councilman. Councilwoman Jodi Giglio was not happy when it was uncovered that she has had avoided paying her proper property taxes for over a decade, because she failed to get permits for her home — though she owns a permit expediting business that represents developers.

Ms. Giglio was not happy when it came to light that she and her partners received every tax break under the sun and $2.4 million in taxpayer money for their subsidized housing project downtown. Those are the facts and I didn’t report them, this newspaper did. The council members didn’t like that I put a video on YouTube showing them not in their offices. The recreation department head was not happy when I made an issue of the fact that he presided over huge cost overruns at the Calverton ball fields and still got an $8,000 raise.

Mr. Wooten calls that, “Negative” I call it telling the truth.

Truth brings reform and reform worries the Old Guard because they fear change. The tired Clubhouse knows I am a reform candidate that means what he says, that I won’t take “no” for an answer and they are worried I will win; they wouldn’t be attacking me if my message were not getting through.

When I go door-to-door, I see that people are wising up to the fact that the “in” crowd at Town Hall has had it their way for about 50 years and their legacy is that Riverhead is the highest taxed, poorest and most indebted town on the East End. This town can do better.

The Old Guard sees power slipping out of the grasp of their cynical fingers and they are worried. I was the Town Board’s pal when I ran their campaigns for 10 years. I was the Town Board’s pal when they unanimously appointed me to the BID board, but now that I have spoken out about their attitude of entitlement and how they milk the system, I am a bad man and they have called me names.

I have been and I will continue to be your watchdog. I have no interest in being part of their club. They can threaten me, call me names, yell, scream, stomp their feet and hold their breath but I don’t care because I have vowed to run a different type of campaign and I am.

I’m not in it for the salary, as they are. I’m not in it for the title, as they are. I am about public service, not self service.

I am in it to represent you and they are worried because they know their time is just about up.

Mr. Coates is a downtown resident and financial adviser who is running a Republican primary for a Town Council nomination.

08/28/13 2:30pm
08/28/2013 2:30 PM
FILE PHOTO | Councilman James Wooten (left) in  Town Hall.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Councilman James Wooten (left) in Town Hall.

I have sat back and watched and listened to all the obvious political hand wringing and bullet points presented throughout this primary season.

I will say never in my life, much less my political one have I seen such dirty politics, name calling, character assassinations and blatant bully tactics.

One can only hope and vote for the people that best represent them in the community, especially in a local town such as Riverhead. This new shade of western politics has no place in our community. I have seen and listened to once committed and dedicated community leaders get caught up in the frenzy, all of a sudden there is an axe to grind with heads to roll.

It’s just plain dirty politics.

This current Town Board has worked very closely with all the different entities that make up Riverhead Town, and with noticeable results. This board has dealt with the problems facing the future of our Town, and has been working to move forward.

What really irks me is all the attention being afforded to one political strategist, Anthony Coates, who from the time he arrived in our community has created a cloud of darkness and controversy. This is a man who couldn’t give a satisfactory answer to the first question posed to him at Monday evening’s debate regarding what he’s been doing the last five years to earn a living.

He only provided a very artful dodge to the question. Yet, he was quoted in a News-Review opinion piece as having earned “oodles of money” some years back.

It seems to me to be more like noodles of money.

Over the years we have been subjected to double headed llamas, the destruction of a Republican campaign for supervisor in 2005 and most recently, a public dismissal of his own candidate for county Legislator as a shoe he could longer shine.

How can we support a candidate whose allegiance is so fickle? It’s sad, really; I know there has to be a person in there somewhere. When your whole life is built around political maneuvering it’s easy to get caught up and actually believe the rhetoric you spew.

This town has changed a lot in the last 10 years, despite its growth I sincerely hope that it never loses its charm and hometown atmosphere.

Narcissistic political advisers and animated buffoonery are not the face of Riverhead, at least not where I sit.

I can name at least 10 civic and community leaders who are far better qualified and deserving to represent the town in government, who truly have the ability and proven desire through actions already displayed, not just talked about.

Mr. Coates isn’t even close on any list, except his own. Please don’t get caught up in the hype, this town is moving forward and the team in place has set a good course for the future, lets not muddy the waters with just plain unadulterated politics at its worst.

James Wooten is a retired Riverhead Town police officer and Republican town councilman currently in his second term in office.

08/27/13 11:27am
08/27/2013 11:27 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio at Monday's debate.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

Republican council candidates Jodi Giglio and Anthony Coates both called into question each other’s backgrounds during Monday night’s Riverhead Town primary debates at the Suffolk Theater.

This while Councilman John Dunleavy sat in between the two bitter rivals.

At one point, Mr. Dunleavy expressed gratitude that he didn’t have to get involved in the dispute, providing a moment of levity for a crowd of more than 200 people.

Mr. Dunleavy did, however, criticize some of his neighbors and management at the Foxwood Village community, while explaining his vote to allow the developer of a Costco-anchored shopping center  to clear trees right up the property line of the retirement community where he lives.

The debate, entitled “Riverhead at the Crossroads,” was sponsored and moderated by the local media outlets Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLOCAL.com.

RELATED: See the entire video of Monday night’s debate

In the Republican primary, incumbent party designees Ms. Giglio and Mr. Dunleavy are facing a challenge from Mr. Coates for two available seats in an at-large election.

Mr. Coates, who has been a political adviser to incumbent Republican supervisor Sean Walter, said he “is running to bring a new voice” to the board. Mr. Coates has endorsed Mr. Dunleavy’s candidacy, and has been critical of Ms. Giglio.

Ms. Giglio has claimed — and said again at Monday night’s debate — that Mr. Coates, who changed his registration from Democrat to Republican last year, turned against her only after she voted against appointing him to a “legislative secretary” position proposed by Mr. Walter in March 2012.

Mr. Coates would have gotten paid $65,000 for one year to help lobby the state on issues at town land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL). In her closing statements, she called Mr. Coates “obsessed” and said his campaign blog mentions her 15 times while rarely mentioning important issues like jobs, taxes and public safety.

Mr. Coates said he did the EPCAL job voluntarily even after he wasn’t hired, making trips to Albany with Ms. Walter to lobby state officials on proposed, EPCAL-related legislation

Ms. Giglio claimed it wasn’t until the town hired former congressman George Hochbrueckner to lobby on EPCAL issues that “results started to happen.”

Ms. Giglio was asked about her permit expediter business, and whether she’d be willing to disclose her clients.

“Absolutely,” Ms. Giglio responded. The town requires officials to file a disclosure statement in March and that lists “all of my business affiliations,” she said.  Ms. Giglio said she has recused herself on any vote involving a former client, and that she is not doing any expeditor business in Riverhead Town.

“That’s just not accurate,” Mr. Coates said. “Your disclosure statement is a piece of swiss cheese. It says nothing.”

He said Ms. Giglio has voted for proposals involving Ray Dickhoff and Martin Sendlewski, who are her partners in the Summerwind Square county-subsidized affordable apartments and retail project on Peconic Avenue.

He also criticized her for having time to oversee the Summerwind project but not getting proper permits for construction work at her Baiting Hollow home, as has been reported.

Mr. Coates said he’s seen Ms. Giglio in Brookhaven Town Hall working with a team of engineers on a proposal there, and then “hours later, you’re the councilwoman in Riverhead, with that same team of engineers that you called co-workers in Brookhaven.”

Ms. Giglio said that’s “simply not true…It’s just another bullying tactic and a character assassination.”

She said Summerwind Square was approved before she was on the board.

“I’m just glad I don’t have to get in on this conversation,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “I don’t represent anyone but the taxpayers of the Town of Riverhead.”

“John is a retired police officer,” Ms. Giglio responded. “I am a young working person.”

The candidates also were asked about the controversial land clearing on the north side of Route 58 for The Shops at Riverhead project, which will feature a Costco Wholesale as its anchor store.

The trees were cleared up to the property line at Foxwood Village.

Mr. Dunleavy, who lives in Foxwood Village, explained that a committee at Foxwoods picked a resident there to represent the neighborhood at Planning Board meetings, saying the unnamed rep “didn’t know what was going on.”

He said the owners of the property should have represented Foxwood Village at Planning Board meetings, as was the case with the Glenwood Village development, where the owner negotiated with the Planning Board as a developer was planning an adjacent shopping center. In that case, the property owner convinced the developers to build a sound wall and to leave 30 feet of trees as a buffer.

Mr. Dunleavy said he voted for the clearing permit for the Costco project because it met the town code.

Ms. Giglio said the site plan for the Costco project was approved by the Planning Board “long before we approved the clearing permit.”

She said the Planning Board allowed the developer to clear the property and that the Town Board “is not happy” with that decision.

Mr. Coates said that if he’s elected, “I will communicate to those agencies before a crisis happens” to ensure decisions represent the will of the Town Board.

Ms. Giglio and Mr. Dunleavy both said they didn’t feel the Town Board should be imposing its will on the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals. Ms. Giglio said the Town Board’s job is to make the town code works, and that the board is proposing land-clearing legislation to ensure that the type of clearing that happened with the Costco project doesn’t happen again.

Mr. Coates also was asked about his background and what he does for as living.

As has been reported, Mr. Coates worked for John McNamara, the former Port Jefferson businessman who was convicted of defrauding General Motors out of millions of dollars in the 1980s. Mr. Coates, who ran businesses for Mr. McNamara and acted as publisher of The Record newspapers, was never charged with any wrongdoing in that case. He said he’s proud of the work he did during that time.

He said that since 2003, he’s worked as an independent investment adviser and that people can look up his qualifications with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

However, Mr. Coates is not listed on FINRA’s online broker check, which only includes licenses from the past 10 years. He has said in interviews that his current work doesn’t require a license from FINRA.

On the subject of EPCAL, Ms. Giglio said she supports the current efforts to subdivide the land into 50 small lots while Mr. Coates said the town still needs to figure out how to pay for sewer and infrastructure improvements there, which will cost more than $30 million.

Mr. Dunleavy said he and former supervisor Phil Cardinale negotiated a contract with Riverhead Resorts, the company that had proposed a “snow mountain” at EPCAL, that earned the town $7.5 million in deposits, even though the sale never occurred.

He said “everybody laughed at ski mountain,” but that the town is still using that money.

Mr. Coates said the town has been working on some issues for 10 years with no solution and “has been run by the same cast of characters for the last 50 years.”

The event raised $1,045 for the Brendan House, a Sound Avenue facility that will provide 24-hour care for people with brain injuries.

tgannon@timesreview.com

Monday night’s debate also featured Democratic supervisor candidates Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela DeVito.

08/27/13 9:00am
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Town Board candidate Anthony Coates, from left, and Town board members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio address the moderators at Monday's debate at the Suffolk Theater.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Town Board candidate Anthony Coates, from left, and Town board members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio address the moderators at Monday’s debate at the Suffolk Theater.

The first of two town political debates sponsored by local media took place at the historic Suffolk Theater Monday night.

Monday’s first debate featured Democratic supervisor candidates Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela DeVito, followed by Republican town council candidates Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

The debates were moderated by News-Review executive editor Grant Parpan, RiverheadLOCAL editor and publisher Denise Civiletti and News-Review editor Michael White.

The Democratic candidates debated first, for about 45 minutes, followed by the Republican candidates.

The debate can be rewatched at the link below. The Democrats start at the 7-minute mark; Republicans begin one hour, 20 minutes in.

08/26/13 10:00am
08/26/2013 10:00 AM
Suffolk Theater in Riverhead

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The Suffolk Theater’s grand re-opening night in February.

The first of two town political debates being sponsored by local media and held at the historic Suffolk Theater tonight will see two Democratic primary supervisor candidates square off, followed by three Republican primary hopefuls for town council.

The debate, sponsored by Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLOCAL.com, will start at 7 p.m.

There will be a suggested $5 donation at the door, with all proceeds going to Brendan House, New Beginnings.

“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.”

Monday’s 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,

The Democratic candidates will debate first, for about 45 to 50 minutes, followed by the Republican candidates. Those arriving early for the second debate may be asked to wait in the theater’s lobby area, as to not disturb the first round of candidates.

All questions for the debates have been prepared in advance, and were written by readers as well as the moderators. All candidates will be given time to make closing statements. No outside video recording of the event is allowed.

Doors open at 5 p.m. and the theater’s bar and restaurant will be open at that time, but shut down during the debates, which are scheduled to run until 9 p.m.

The theater’s bar and restaurant will re-open after 9 p.m.

08/13/13 5:24pm
08/13/2013 5:24 PM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTOS | Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio is currently engaged in a bitter primary battle with Anthony Coates.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTOS | Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio has currently raised more money than primary challenger Anthony Coates.

Republican Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio is far ahead of running mate John Dunleavy and primary challenger Anthony Coates in terms of money raised and money spent in this year’s campaign, according to the latest Board of Elections disclosure reports.

The reports also show that Riverhead Town Democratic Committee has now raised more money than its Republican counterpart as of the latest filing period for this year.

Also, Democratic supervisor candidate Angela DeVito has raised nearly as much money as incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter, despite the fact that Mr. Walter ran a separate campaign for Suffolk County legislator earlier in the year.

The Board of Elections requires all fundraising committees to file campaign disclosure reports in January and July, but also requires candidates involved in a primary or a general election to file additional reports, including a 32-day pre-primary report that was due Friday.

In Riverhead Town, there is a Democratic primary for supervisor between party nominee Angela DeVito and challenger Ann Cotten DeGrasse, as well as a Republican primary for two council seats that pits party nominees Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy against challenger Anthony Coates, who has specifically targeted Ms. Giglio in his campaign.

There’s also a council primary for the Independence party nominations in Riverhead, pitting Ms. Giglio and Mr. Dunleavy against Bill Bianchi, a Democratic nominee.

The other Democratic council candidate, Millie Thomas, is not running in the Independence Party primary.

In the Democratic race for supervisor, Ms. DeVito, to date, has raised $21,509 and spent $13,764, with $7,735 left on hand. Her biggest contribution was $1,000 from the Ironworkers Political Action League.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse has raised $6,588 and spent $3,920, according to the most recent campaign finance reports. For the year, she’s raised $8,353 and spent $6,422, and ended the most recent filing period with $3,929 on hand.

Mr. Walter didn’t have to submit a pre-primary report since he’s not involved in a primary, but he has raised a total of $26,452 and spent $19,964 so far this year, with much of that being raised when he was running a special election for county Legislature earlier this year.

The Riverhead Town Democratic Committee had not yet posted a pre-primary report on the state BOE website but, to date, per the July filing, the Democrats had raised a total of $25,686 and spent $15,344 this year. The committee shows a balance of $15,550.

By comparison, the Riverhead Republican Committee had raised $5,950 and spent $7,172 through the July filing and the end balance showed them in debt to the tune of $4,102. The Republicans filed a “no action” notice in the pre-primary report, indicating that they had neither raised nor spent any money since the July filing date.

“I think it’s obvious that people want to change this Town Board this year and are supporting us,” said Riverhead Democratic chair Marge Acevedo.

Neither Mr. Bianchi nor Ms. Thomas have set up campaign fundraising committees yet.

The primary vote date is Sept. 10.

In the Republican race for two town council seat nominations, Ms. Giglio’s latest reports show her raising $14,760 more and spending $12,780 more since the prior reports in July.

Adding up the totals from the January and July filings, she has raised a total of $54,824 and spent $49,317. She started in January with $6,066, giving her a closing balance of $11,571, according to the report.

Ms. Giglio reported $4,542 in unspecified contributions in her latest report. Contributions of less than $100, such as those from people who attend fundraisers with a ticket price under $100, do not have to be listed by name.

Her biggest contributors named in the latest report are Phyllis Chulpsa of Smithtown and Composite Technologies of Calverton, each of which contributed $1,000.

Ms. Giglio’s campaign expenses show payments for fundraising events of $900 and $5,740 to Strategic Maneuvers and $1,500 to Third Rock, both of which have the same address as the Outer Banks Restaurant, which Ms. Giglio’s husband runs at the county’s Indian Island Country Club.

Mr. Dunleavy’s 32-day pre-primary report lists only $2,683 in additional contributions and $6,572 in additional expenses. For the year, including numbers from the prior reports, Mr. Dunleavy has raised $38,613 and spent $25,187. His campaign still has a balance $9,647 on hand.

His biggest contribution in the recent report was $1,000 from Randy Altschuler of St. James, who twice ran unsuccessfully for Congress on the Republican line against incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop.

Mr. Dunleavy also received $808 from Rudy Saviano Inc., of Ronkonkoma, which does fundraising auctions.

And Mr. Coates’ latest disclosure report shows only $1,000 more in contributions and $492 more in spending. The entire $1,000 came from Ron DeVito, who is seeking to build an assisted living facility on Mill Road.

Adding up all the reports, Mr. Coates has raised $6,275 and spent $5,336, although he started the year with $2,512, having raised $2,708 at fundraisers in late 2012. He still had $3,449 on hand at the end of the most recent filing period.

Mr. Coates’ expenses showed charges of $61 for “gas for petition travel” and $29 and $11 for “meal for petitioner.” In past reports, he has listed his cell phone costs as a campaign expense.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/02/13 7:00am
08/02/2013 7:00 AM

FILE PHOTO | Anthony Coates last year, announcing his intentions to run for Town Council.

I like a lot of what Anthony Coates is saying in his campaign for Riverhead Town Board.

A bright guy with a gift for gab, he’s painted an opponent as beholden to developers and himself as a political outsider who’s all about transparency in government.

He’s articulately outlined why you should believe he’s the better choice over his Republican primary opponents — well, one of them at least — and how much more he wants the job than anyone else. With 40 days left until the primary election, it’s been as spirited a challenge as you’ll see in this town or any other.

I’m just not sure it’s been a completely honest one.

In a phone call to WRIV radio this past June, Mr. Coates made a curious comment about the development experience of one of his opponents, Jodi Giglio.

“When it’s in your DNA and you represent developers, you represent them all over the place,” he said of the councilwoman. “Once it’s in your DNA, that’s where you’re cut from.”

That statement just hasn’t sat well with me since I heard it. Hasn’t Mr. Coates worked for developers? Isn’t that in his DNA?

Grant Parpan

Grant Parpan

It’s just an odd statement from a man who spent several years working closely with infamous Port Jefferson developer and automobile dealer John McNamara — a man whose empire came crashing down following his conviction in a $436 million Ponzi scheme. Mr. McNamara’s misconduct led to the arrest of Brookhaven Town officials he allegedly bribed to swiftly approve his development projects, though all town officials were acquitted in the case.

While the résumé Mr. Coates shared with the News-Review shows he worked as publisher of the Port Jefferson Record at a time when Mr. McNamara owned the paper, it makes no reference to Mr. Coates’ involvement with any other McNamara businesses. In fact, the résumé makes no reference to any experience working in development whatsoever.

It’s in line with an approach Mr. Coates has taken since moving to Riverhead, where he has acknowledged his time working for the disgraced developer in interviews but has often distanced himself from the scandal.

In an article published last March on RiverheadLOCAL.com, Mr. Coates said he ran “a portfolio of 15 businesses” for Mr. McNamara.

When asked about the résumé discrepancy in an interview with News-Review staffers last month, Mr. Coates said, “I did run a bunch of companies for him,” including a development company named 347 Corp. of Florida, a name similar to Route 347 Realty Corporation, the Port Jefferson Station company at the center of the McNamara bribery scandal. He stressed, however, that he had no involvement with the local development company or the car dealership, which Mr. McNamara used to secure financing from General Motors to keep his scheme afloat.

In August 1992, Mr. Coates claimed in a federal forfeiture action against the McNamara companies that he was owed more than $11,000 for eight weeks of unused vacation time while he was employed by Mr. McNamara. He claimed he was owed that money by Route 347 Realty Corporation in Port Jefferson Station and not 347 Corp. of Florida, which was also listed as a defendant in the proceeding, according to the documents.

In a follow-up interview this week, Mr. Coates maintained that he never worked for the company at the center of the scandal involving Brookhaven Town officials, but his attorney advised him that claiming that company owed him vacation pay increased the odds of getting paid.

“You go after the bigger company,” he said.

Mr. Coates also said in the earlier interview that he stopped working for Mr. McNamara on his own terms after he sensed his employer was having financial difficulties.

“My first kid was born, I’m making oodles of money and for the first time now the job isn’t fun,” he said. “And also, I went from this wet-behind-the-ears kid who doesn’t know [expletive] to, you know, Sinatra. So I was like, ‘I’ll go off and do other things.’” He said they parted ways mutually in a planned departure and left the door open for him to still do consulting work for Mr. McNamara’s companies. He said he could afford to leave the job — even at a time when his first daughter was just an infant — because he had become financially comfortable working for Mr. McNamara. He said during the interview that to this day his tenure with Mr. McNamara has afforded him a comfortable lifestyle.

When asked how much he made working for McNamara companies, Mr. Coates said, “Oodles of money. Many, many, many zeroes at the end of the money.” He said his salary was for his job at the newspaper and he “earned bits and pieces of other things he touched … mostly I was paid through the newspaper, though.”

As a creditor in the federal forfeiture action, Mr. Coates stated his tenure with Mr. McNamara ended with “an out-of-the-blue termination” on March 15, 1992, one month to the day before Mr. McNamara was indicted in the scheme to bilk GM out of $436 million. Mr. Coates states in his claim that his weekly pay rate was $1,442 during the time he worked for Mr. McNamara — about $75,000 per year.

When asked in a follow-up interview if that was his salary and if he would characterize that as “oodles and oodles of money,” he said that was just his salary and the bulk of his pay came from performance-based bonuses from the other companies he represented.

Even the dates Mr. Coates worked for Mr. McNamara are inaccurate on the résumé, which states he published the newspaper from 1989 to 1993. But Mr. McNamara sold the newspaper in November 1991 and was arrested in April 1992. He admitted in the interview that he left the newspaper before it was sold and spent the remaining months of his employment with Mr. McNamara working for other companies, including a highly profitable heating oil company.

After first being questioned by this newspaper several months ago about possible inaccuracies in his own résumé, Mr. Coates said in an email: “There isn’t an item on my résumé that is disputable, exaggerated or in doubt. I knew what was coming at me, I took every precaution. I may be a bit off on a date here and there because who really remembers their life to the day?”

In that same email, he said of Ms. Giglio, “People with thin résumés shouldn’t throw stones. It’s about time someone calls this woman on her lies.”

Mr. Coates has no doubt he said a lot of the right things during his campaign. But I do wonder how much of it he truly believes and how much of it is just the right thing to say.

Is he really disgusted by Ms. Giglio’s career in development, despite having once worked for one of Long Island’s most powerful developers and having later worked on other development projects? Is he really a political outsider frustrated with the current Town Board, even though he’s been involved in Suffolk County politics for more than 30 years and has run the recent campaigns of the current town supervisor? (His résumé says his first job was as a Suffolk County legislative aide at the age of 16.) Is he truly committed to transparency when his own résumé leaves off his development connections and downplays his role as an employee of Mr. McNamara at the height of the scandal?

When asked similar questions this week, Mr. Coates said his DNA is made up of a lot of different parts. He’s not just a guy who worked for developers, he’s not just someone who’s worked in politics and government. He’s also worked for a fuel buyer’s group and in the financial world. He accomplished a lot at an early age and has rejected a lot of the bad he’s seen in the early part of his career, he said.

He says a reformed insider is really the candidate he is today. I just wish, in the interest of true transparency, his campaign did a better job conveying that to the voting public.

Grant Parpan is the executive editor of Times/Review Newsgroup. He can be reached at (631) 298-3200, ext. 266 or gparpan@timesreview.com.