11/08/13 12:00pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead Republicans celebrate their victorious sweep Tuesday nignt in downtown Riverhead. From left: committee chairman Mason Haas, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman John Dunleavy. Mr. Walter said the team tried to stay positive during the campaign. He believes that approach resonated with voters.

In June 2012, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio filed a harassment complaint against Supervisor Sean Walter.

Months later, Mr. Walter put out a political hit on Ms. Giglio, which came in the form of a primary challenge from the supervisor’s friend and longtime political adviser, Anthony Coates.

During that contentious primary, Councilman John Dunleavy — perhaps sensing momentum building behind Mr. Coates — was continually found to be out campaigning without his committee-designated team, joining Mr. Coates in door-knocking efforts.

But blood is thicker than water, the saying goes, and as the outcome of the Riverhead Town elections began to crystallize before the family of Riverhead Republicans Tuesday night, judging by the hugs, kisses and high-fives — bygones were bygones. Despite their differences, the three incumbents on the Town Board had all won re-election.

Election 2013: By the numbers

“I’ve been involved in Riverhead politics for 14 years and I have never seen the Republican committee come together the way it has this summer and this fall,” Mr. Walter told a jubilant crowd of supporters at Cody’s BBQ & Grill.

Mr. Walter later said he believed the issue of in-fighting on the board was more media driven than anything.

“I think the residents didn’t focus on the fights or they wouldn’t have re-elected us,” he said. “They focused on the results, and if everybody got along all the time, I don’t think we’d have had the results that we had. We all add something to this mixture.”

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Assessor Laverne Tennenberg posting the election results Tuesday night.

But it wasn’t just the media. The Riverhead Democrats had been smelling Republican blood in the water for some time because of the in-fighting. Democratic challenger Angela DeVito’s campaign slogan, “Respect Riverhead,” was built on the promise she would bring courtesy and respect back to Riverhead Town Hall after four years of Mr. Walter and an all-Republican Town Board.

The voters favored staying the course.

Mr. Walter defeated Ms. DeVito with 56 percent of the vote, or 3,917 to 3,090, according to Suffolk County Board of Elections figures.

Ms. Giglio, who earned a second term, and two-term Republican Councilman John Dunleavy tallied 3,634 and 3,495 votes respectively, over Democrats Bill Bianchi, with 3,141 votes, and Millie Thomas, with 3,045, in the at-large election for two seats.

As it began to look like the election results weren’t going to break her way, Ms. DeVito — who led a team that came much closer than their Democratic counterparts in the 2009 and 2011 races for Town Board seats — told her supporters “we are still winners.”

She also said there’s still work to be done for the Democratic Party to make the sure the towns government, ruled by Republicans, is heading in the right direction and working for the people of Riverhead.

“Just because we aren’t in the driver’s seat, that doesn’t mean we can’t be passengers in the bus,” Ms. DeVito said from Democratic headquarters in a storefront behind the Riverhead Diner & Grill — and a short walk from Cody’s on East Main Street.

She then took that short walk, entering Cody’s back door and making her way through the crowd to congratulate Mr. Walter. The two candidates hugged and exchanged words as music pumped through the speakers. Ms. DeVito was also joined by campaign advisor Keisha Washington Dean.

Mr. Walter and party leaders attributed the Republican victories to a largely positive campaign.

“This town is moving in the right direction, no matter what Angela DeVito and Bill Bianchi say,” Mr. Walter said.

“I believe we’ve gotten our message across,” said Republican Committee Chairman Mason Haas, “which is that the town is moving in the right direction.”

In other town races, incumbent Republican assessor Laverne Tennenberg beat Democratic challenger Greg Fischer, 4,343 to 2,396, and Democratic highway superintendent George (Gio) Woodson beat Conservative challenger Michael Panchak by vote of 4,936 to 1,269.

Mr. Woodson and Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm are the only Democrats to hold an elected office in Riverhead Town.

A moral victory, so to speak, for Democrats in the town races came with the respectable showing of the council candidates.

The votes were much more evenly split than in the past two local elections, with Ms. Thomas, a Wading River realtor, earning 24 percent of the vote and Mr. Bianchi, a former state Assemblyman from the Bellport area, capturing 23 percent of the vote.

Ms. Giglio led the pack with 27 percent followed by Mr. Dunleavy with 26.

By comparison, in 2009, Democratic council candidate Kathy Berezny tallied 20 percent of the final vote for two seats, with 19 percent for Shirley Coverdale.

The Democratic council candidates fared even worse in 2011, when Marlando Williams got 16 percent of the vote and Matt Van Glad received 15 percent in an at-large race against incumbent Republicans James Wooten and George Gabrielsen for two open seats.

This election season, the Democrats also tried to capitalize on residents’ displeasure with the clearing of several properties along Route 58 to make way for commercial shopping centers. They had joined residents in a rally at the Costco Wholesale site, which was clear-cut right up to neighboring properties, and held their own press conference there, faulting the Town Board for granting an excavation permit for the project.

Mr. Dunleavy, who lives in Foxwood Village, one of the affected communities, also took heat from his neighbors during the campaign — not only for the clearing itself but for deflecting blame onto neighbors he said weren’t paying attention and attending town meetings.

He later apologized at a Town Board debate, saying no one was to blame.

On Election Day, even the election district that includes Foxwood Village voted for Republicans, including Mr. Dunleavy, according to numbers posted at Republican headquarters — though not yet available through the county — Mr. Dunleavy received 215 votes, with Ms. Giglio leading with 222 in Election District 11. Ms. Thomas earned 200 in ED11 and Mr. Bianchi, who came out on the attack against Mr. Dunleavy at the Oct. 24 debate, finished last in that district, with 196 votes.

“The few people that thought I was the sole person [responsible for the clear-cutting] for the Costco project, they were wrong, and the people that believed in me, voted for me,” Mr. Dunleavy said after the results came in and he was awarded a third four-year term.

For her part, Ms. Giglio told WRIV radio show host Bruce Tria that the election outcome could offer a renewed opportunity for the Republicans, who will now have to work together for at least another two years, the length of supervisor terms in Riverhead Town.

“We have to put things behind us and move forward,” she said, adding that she would reach out to Mr. Walter to perhaps talk over lunch.

Mr. Walter later told the News-Review he would be willing to sit with Ms. Giglio over lunch.

mwhite@timesreview.com

11/02/13 8:00am
11/02/2013 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | John Dunleavy, Millie Thomas, Jodi Giglio and Bill Bianchi.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | John Dunleavy, Millie Thomas, Jodi Giglio and Bill Bianchi.

TOWN COUNCIL
Four-year term, part time
Salary: $48,955

John Dunleavy
Incumbent
Hamlet: Calverton
Occupation: Retired police officer
Party lines: Republican, Conservative

About him: Mr. Dunleavy, 72, is running for a third four-year term as a town councilman. He is a U.S. Navy veteran and former Grumman Corporation employee who later joined the Riverhead Police Department, where he came to head the 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. He was born in Brooklyn and lived in Rockaway, Queens, before his family moved to East Islip. He joined the Navy in 1957.

His pitch: Mr. Dunleavy says he’s helped bring $8 million into town coffers, a number that includes $7.5 million in down payments for the Riverhead Resorts project that never happened. He helped negotiate a cell tower contract that has brought in $300,000 in fees and has saved $250,000 in salaries and benefits by heading the municipal garage, he says. He also lists two police dogs and an ATV obtained through the DA’s office, as well as a natural gas vehicle donated for senior use, as items he’s helped bring to the town at no cost.

In his words: “These are some of the examples of the work I’ve done and will continue to do if re-elected.”

 

Jodi Giglio
Incumbent
Hamlet: Baiting Hollow
Occupation: Owner of Bennett Enterprises
Party lines: Republican, Independence

About her: Ms. Giglio, 45, is running for her second four-year term as a town councilwoman. She 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. Ms. Giglio was born in Syosset and grew up in Wantagh and California before moving back to New York at age 19.

Her pitch: Ms. Giglio says she’s made good on several promises to the taxpayer since first running for office in 2009. Among them, she says, she’s looked out for how tax dollars are being spent while finding innovative ways to improve on quality of life in town. As a businessperson, she says her work and expertise in Town Hall are instrumental in identifying problems within the town code that can stifle businesses and job creation.

In her words: “I know that with your support, I will have even more to offer our great town.”

 

Bill Bianchi
Challenger
Hamlet: Riverhead
Occupation: Owner of Bianchi-Davis Greenhouses
Party lines: Democrat, Independence, Working Families

About him: Mr. Bianchi, 82, is a former Bellport resident who served as a state assemblyman from 1972 to 1994. He got started in public service as a South Country School District Board of Education 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.

His pitch: Mr. Bianchi touts his experience in the Assembly, during which time he said it was necessary to work with both parties, and believes he can bring a certain depth of knowledge and government experience to Riverhead Town. Mr. Bianchi says he is most proud of legislation he got passed in Albany that preserves the county’s four major rivers. He was also chairman of the Assembly’s agricultural and local government committees and a member of its ways and means committee.

In his words: “I always worked well with both parties.”

 

Millie Thomas
Challenger
Hamlet: Baiting Hollow
Occupation: Owner of Landmark Realty
Party lines: Democrat, Working Families

About her: Ms. Thomas, 63, has been a licensed realtor for 21 years. She owns Landmark Realty as well as a commercial building in Wading River. She is a past president of the Long Island Board of Realtors/North Shore Chapter and secretary of the Wading River-Shoreham Chamber of Commerce. She currently has 31 agents and two administrative assistants working for her company. She was born in Brooklyn and moved to Rocky Point in 1978. She moved to Baiting Hollow in 2002.

Her pitch: Ms. Thomas points to her success in navigating her real estate business through the recent economic downtown as proof she would be a good steward of the town’s finances. She says her business in Wading River not only stayed afloat but thrived during one of the worst housing markets in years. She knows how to squeeze a budget, she says, and will be fiscally responsible and accountable to taxpayers. She favors well-planned development but wants to work protect the area’s way of life.

In her words: “We should fight for revenue from large commercial developers who take from our town and should give back. We also need to make Riverhead a safer, better place through increased code enforcement.”

Read our endorsements for town council here

11/02/13 7:59am
Town council candidates Jodi Giglio and Millie Thomas

Town council candidates Jodi Giglio and Millie Thomas

The job of Town Council member is described as part-time, but it takes hard work and dedication for candidates to make good on those oft-repeated campaign promises to keep the town’s taxes in check while “preserving our way of life.” It takes not only time but also guts and the ability to learn all the technical aspects of what makes town government work — in order to help it work better.

Jodi Giglio and Millie Thomas have just the type of skills to be highly effective Town Council people.

Profiles: Meet the candidates for town council

Ms. Giglio, a Republican incumbent, already has four years’ experience under her belt and has proven her ability to understand the inner workings of town government. She’s also helped keep fellow GOP member and political rival Supervisor Sean Walter in check — especially in voting against Mr. Walter’s plan to hire his own political adviser, Anthony Coates, for a made-up job in 2012.

In addition, she has spearheaded an attempt to lure the Federal Aviation Administration to the town’s EPCAL site, despite pushback from the supervisor.

But as she made clear in her first run in 2009, Ms. Giglio is “business- friendly.” By trade, she is a permit expediter for developers. This could prove beneficial when it comes to recognizing when developers are trying to play the town. But when developers do exactly that — and they have; one has only to look to the Costco site along Route 58 for a recent example — one can’t help but wonder: Where was Jodi? But she makes no apologies about land-use rights, to the point that it’s hard to even imagine her as someone who will truly fight to make sure developers give back to the town just as much as they take from it.

Enter Ms. Thomas. Her résumé, like Ms. Giglio’s, includes “business owner,” but her civic involvement and the priorities of the town’s Democratic slate in general — neighborhood preservation through strict adherence to the town code — may serve to counterbalance Ms. Giglio’s business-friendly approach.

Ms. Thomas’ ability to navigate one of the worst economic downturns in the real estate market while maintaining her business, Landmark Realty, is impressive. A former president of the Long Island Board of Realtors, she said at a debate co-sponsored by the News-Review that her firm handled $27 million worth of sales last year, ranking in the top 10 percent in Suffolk County.

It’s a shame Ms. Thomas wasn’t more vocal in touting her achievements out on the campaign trail. Unlike her fellow candidates, she failed to start a campaign fund or raise any money. While many politicians often say they’re “not a politician,” to explain away what would appear to be a lack of true dedication, with Ms. Thomas, it’s believable. Aside from her business, she’s been involved in numerous charitable endeavors, taught religious classes for a dozen years through St. Anthony’s Church in Rocky Point and has dedicated time and knowledge to the Long Island Board of Realtors, serving it as director, secretary and vice president. No one could ever accuse her of being lazy. Given her track record, there’s no reason to believe she wouldn’t bring the requisite level of dedication to improving town government.

As for Republican incumbent John Dunleavy, he should be credited for his public service to the town as a police offer and for eight years as a councilman. But he’s been too comfortable for too long maintaining a superficial knowledge of how the town works. He’s too apt to take people coming to the Town Board at their word, without the appropriate level of skepticism and research.

He’s recently said he doesn’t know how to read site plans but, after eight years in office, what’s the excuse? With respect to the clearing of vegetation to make way for the Costco, Mr. Dunleavy said early in last week’s council debates that he “did not know they were going to clear-cut the whole shopping center.”

Yet in November 2011, the News-Review ran the first of several news stories explaining that developers intended to do exactly that at the 42-acre site. The story’s headline read: “Costco plans shrink; land clearing doesn’t.”

Here’s an excerpt from that story: “The new layout presented to the town shows the northern quarter of the site — closest to the senior complex — unoccupied by buildings or other infrastructure, but it also shows this area being entirely cleared of the trees currently there, then revegetated with landscaping.”

Even if Mr. Dunleavy can’t read site plans, he can read the newspaper. His job as a Town Board member is to stay on top of issues for his constituents, and maintaining a thorough base of knowledge about issues of such importance reigns paramount.

We think it’s time he moves on.

Back on the Democratic side of the ticket, council candidate Bill Bianchi would bring 22 years’ experience as a state assemblyman to Town Hall, but he’s been unable to articulate in any detail his accomplishments in state office or exactly how that experience would translate into his Town Council work. He has said he knows how to work across party lines, but it seems that fighting within political parties poses more of a challenge for Riverhead. Mr. Bianchi’s experience in Albany, we imagine, could prove useful as the town continues to work with the state on the effort to redevelop the EPCAL land — but, so far, Mr. Walter, state Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele seem to be moving along just fine. Introducing a new personality coming out of Town Hall could disrupt that chemistry.

10/10/13 4:30pm
10/10/2013 4:30 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, left and challenger Angela DeVito with moderator Sid Bail.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, left and challenger Angela DeVito with moderator Sid Bail.

When it came to issues like town finances, Route 58 planning, Town Board bickering, and redevelopment downtown and at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, Republican incumbents largely saw the glass half full at a candidates forum held in Calverton Wednesday night.

The Democratic challengers? Well, they saw the glass half empty.

The Greater Calverton Civic Association and the Wading River Civic Association sponsored the event at the Riley Avenue school in Calverton. Sid Bail of the Wading River Civic Association served as moderator.

Incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter and council members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio are being opposed by Democratic supervisor challenger Angela DeVito and council candidates Bill Bianchi and Millie Thomas.

Mr. Dunleavy was not present, due to a previously planned vacation.

Here’s what the rest of the candidates had to say about the issues:

TOWN FINANCES 

Mr. Walter said that when he took office four years ago, the town’s annual audits were many years behind. The town was bonding items that should have been funded by the general fund, it had no budget for road paving, and taxes were rising due to the debt associated with a failed landfill reclamation project, which has accounted for more than $4 million in debt service each year, he said.

Since then, he said the town has drastically cut its spending, the audits are caught up and the town is closing in on a plan to be able to sell land at EPCAL, which he feels will provide tax relief in the future.

“The revenue streams are trending in the right direction,” he said.

But Ms. DeVito said the town has been offsetting taxes with the use of about $3 million in surplus funds each year, and that money is close to running out.

She pointed out that a recent audit states that unless the town gets a big infusion of money by 2014, this approach “will result in a catastrophic tax increase in the next few years,” she said.

Mr. Walter said the landfill debt, which was accumulated by the previous administration, is the main reason for the town’s tax increases.

Ms. Thomas disagreed with the supervisor’s assessment of town financing.

“As far as I know, the town’s broke,” she said, adding that while downtown is improving it still needs to be revitalized.

Ms. Giglio says she’s saved the town $2 million by insisting that its garbage contract be put out to bid, and she initiated a phone audit that gained the town $75,000.

EPCAL

Ms. DeVito and the Democratic candidates said that while the EPCAL subdivision is close to happening, the redevelopment of EPCAL won’t bring the town any money until the land is actually sold.

“EPCAL still is pie in the sky until that first shovel goes in the ground,” Ms. DeVito said. “It could still blow up in our faces.”

Mr. Bianchi said he believes the town still needs to upgrade the sewer system and infrastructure at EPCAL, which could cost $40 million, and he says the industrial park at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton already has infrastructure and still hasn’t attracted many businesses.

Mr. Walter said he’s confident the lots at EPCAL will sell once the subdivision is approved. He said the town doesn’t need to sell all of the lots at once, since selling one or two per year will provide enough revenue to offset tax increases.

The state legislature has approved a proposal for development applications at EPCAL to be fast-tracked, so long as they meet criteria spelled out in the legislation, said Mr. Walter, who added that no other municipality in the state has such legislation.

But Ms. DeVito pointed out that the EPCAL legislation has not yet been signed into law by the governor.

TOWN BOARD BICKERING

Mr. Walter said people have criticized the all-Republican board for its infighting, but “the proof is in the pudding.” He said EPCAL, downtown and the town finances are improving under the current board, despite the fighting. The supervisor said that when Ms. Giglio first suggested trying to lure the Federal Aviation Administration’s new air traffic control center to EPCAL, he opposed it, but he says now it could be a reality.

“Don’t worry about us fighting,” he said. “It makes for good TV.”

Ms. DeVito said she’s heard from many people who don’t participate in government because “they are made to feel unwelcome and they don’t like the environment.”

Ms. Giglio, also said the board does fight a lot, but that they are a “spirited board” whose members come from diverse backgrounds. She said the board communicates with each other, debates issues and compromises.

ROUTE 58

The current condition of Route 58, where four large commercial projects have resulted in hundreds of acres of trees being cleared, was a topic where the Republicans acknowledged there were mistakes made, but vowed to correct them.

Democrats went on the attack.

“Route 58 looks like a war zone,” said Mr. Bianchi, who served 22 years in the state Assembly when he lived in Bellport. “It looks like Saudi Arabia, just a sea of sand.”

He said residents in Foxwood Village found their lives “partially destroyed” by the clearing near their homes.

“How anyone on the Town Board can allow that to happen boggles the mind,” Mr. Bianchi said. “Do you think East Hampton or Southampton would allow that to happen?”

Ms. Thomas said the town doesn’t need all the big box stores on Route 58, which are providing “minimum wage jobs” and not even increasing as much taxes as they should.

Mr. Walter and Ms. Giglio both argued that Route 58 does generate a lot of taxes for the town, and people’s tax bills would be a lot higher without that money.

Ms. DeVito said Route 58 stores are a major source of income tax revenue for Suffolk County, and the town doesn’t get any of that money. She feels the town should fight to get a bigger share of the income tax revenue it generates.

The town generates about $30 million in income tax revenue for the county, Mr. Walter said. But he feels it would be “pie in the sky” to think the county would give up that money.

As for the recent clearing on Route 58, the supervisor said the town Planning Board made a mistake and will fix it. But he said those boards are autonomous, and the Town Board can talk to them, but can’t tell them what to do.

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/10/13 6:30pm
09/10/2013 6:30 PM
GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Councilwoman Jodi Giglio celebrates her primary election win with fellow Town Board members James Wooten (left) and George Gabrielsen.

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Councilwoman Jodi Giglio celebrates her primary election win with fellow Town Board members James Wooten (left) and George Gabrielsen.

Riverhead Town Democratic Committee nominee Angela DeVito beat challenger Ann Cotten-DeGrasse by 501 to 229 votes in the primary race for the Democrats’ supervisor nod Tuesday.

In the at-large Republican race for two Town Council nominations, Jodi Gilgio was the top vote-getter with 912, followed by John Dunleavy with 878 and Anthony Coates with 484, according to the county Board of Elections.

And in the Independence Party primary for Town Council, Ms. Giglio led the three-candidate pack with 68 votes, followed by Democratic nominee Bill Bianchi with 65 and Mr. Dunleaby with 37. That was also an at-large race.

The News-Review had reporters at all the candidates’ camps and reported live from 8:30 p.m. The polls closed at 9 p.m.

Click below for the live reports, including quotes, photos and reactions from the candidates and supporters.

Riverhead voters head to the polls on primary day

Brief bios on primary candidates for town office

Republican rivals square off at primary debate

Supervisor hopefuls on how they would run town

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

08/27/13 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.