04/16/13 6:00am
04/16/2013 6:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Town assessor Mason Haas at his desk in 2012.

There will be a crowded field of people seeking the Republican nomination for town supervisor, as town assessor Mason Haas and Councilman James Wooten are screening this week to take incumbent Supervisor Sean Walter’s job.

Mr. Walter is also still seeking his job.

JAMES WOOTEN

JAMES WOOTEN

The Riverhead Republican Committee will be screening candidates for town offices at the Hyatt hotel on East Main Street Wednesday night in advance of this fall’s town elections, said Republican chairman John Galla.

Mr. Galla said Calverton resident and frequent office-seeker Greg Fischer asked to screen as well, though Mr. Fischer on Monday said in a press release he wasn’t sure whether he wanted a supervisor or Town Council seat.

Mr. Wooten had screened for supervisor two years ago before instead agreeing to seek re-election to his council seat. He said in March that he would again screen for supervisor this year.

Mr. Haas has been a town assessor since 2008 and has a background in real estate title research. He’s also a member of the Jamesport Fire Department and a former Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps chief.

He’s been active in leading the fight against the county’s placement of trailers for homeless sex offenders on the East End.

Both Mr. Haas and Mr. Wooten said they agree with Mr. Walter on many of the issues he is working on, but believe the ways he goes about things needs work.

“At times, I think a different approach might be necessary,” Mr. Haas said.  ”I’ve told Sean, I like what he’s doing, but I would approach it differently so that there’s not all this fighting.”

Mr. Wooten’s comments were similar.

“It’s not that Sean and I are that different when it comes to the goals we set for the town, but I think it comes down to management style and approachability,” Mr. Wooten said.

GREG FISCHER

GREG FISCHER

Mr. Wooten blames much of the Town Board’s divisiveness on Mr. Walter.

In seeking office, Mr. Fischer said in the release he “is pushing for issues such as having elected LIPA trustees, and for the creation of a Suffolk County inspector general,” among other things.

Mr. Walter does not see the competition from within his own party as a good thing.

“It’s unfortunate,” Mr. Walter said, “because I feel like the Republican Committee hung a ‘help wanted’ sign on the door to the supervisor’s office, and they don’t usually do that when the incumbent is from their own party.”

He said he plans to run on his record and he run a primary if he doesn’t get the party’s nomination.

Ms. Haas said he will not run a primary and Mr. Wooten said he has not made that decision yet.

“I don’t think anyone can really say that the town is not better off now than it was four years ago,” Mr. Walter said, pointing to “a downtown that’s thriving,” the privatization of the town animal shelter, the opening of the Suffolk Theater and the fact that the EPCAL subdivision is nearing completion.

“On all fronts, the town is better off now than it was four years ago.” he said. “All of this is about personalities. But I defy anyone to find an effective leader that pleases 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time. It can’t happen or else you’re not an effective leader.

“Judge me on how effective I’ve been as a leader.”

Mr. Walter said the only ones who benefit from the Republican infighting are the Democrats.

“It should never have gotten to this stage,” he said.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter at his 'State of the Town' address last week in Calverton.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter at his ‘State of the Town’ address last week in Calverton.

Mr. Galla said all potential candidates for town office deserve credit.

“I salute anybody who puts their name forward,” Mr. Galla said. “I still think elected office is a high calling and I salute the people that have stepped forward. It’s not an east thing to do, to have your whole life scrutinized.”

In addition to the supervisor’s seat, there will be a challenge to the Town Council incumbents as well, Mr. Galla said.

Incumbents Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy are each seeking re-election, and downtown resident Anthony Coates also had made no secret of his plans to run for a council seat on the Republican line. Mr. Coates, who has been a political adviser to Mr. Walter, changed his registration from Democrat to Republican last year in anticipation of running for council as a Republican this year.

Mr. Galla said that this year, the Republicans will have candidates screen before the entire committee, whereas in past years, the committee appointed a screening committee with about 10 people who screened the candidates and then made a recommendation to the full committee.

The committee will likely announce its candidates sometime next month, but that date hasn’t been set yet, Mr. Galla said.

There was one other candidate who expressed interest in seeking a Town Board seat, according to Mr. Galla, who said he was unable to reach that person to see if he or she was still interested in screening or if they wanted it made public that they were screening.

tgannon@timesreview.com

01/30/13 10:32pm
01/30/2013 10:32 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | About 50 people attended a community forum on the county’s homeless sex offender trailers in Riverside and Westhampton Wednesday night at the county center, where speakers criticized the county for not removing the trailers after seven years.

Suffolk County’s new plan for dealing with sex offenders will be presented to the county Legislature’s public safety committee at 9:30 a.m. Thursday and it could be approved as early as next week, according to South Fork Legislator Jay Schneiderman.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone directed the county police department to develop “a comprehensive approach to better protect our communities from sex offenders” on Jan. 2, after failing to meet his own goal of eliminating the two homeless sex offender trailers in Westhampton and Riverside by the end of 2012.

Those trailers continue to draw concern from East End residents and officials, who say the county’s entire homeless sex offender population is being dumped on one town.

That was evident at a community forum hosted by Mr. Schneiderman (I-Montauk) at the county center Thursday night, where about 50 people gathered and vented their frustration at the county’s failure to remove the two trailers after seven years.

Mr. Schneiderman said he had spoken to Mr. Bellone the day before the meeting and had gotten some snippets of the new sex offender plan, which will be presented at Thursday’s committee meeting by Suffolk Police Chief James Burke and Laura Ahearn, Executive Director of Parents for Megan’s Law.

Mr. Schneiderman said he had hoped the new plan would have been ready before Wednesday’s forum, but it wasn’t. Mr. Bellone was not present, sending a member of his staff instead.

“The county executive said this new proposal would have the most intense monitoring of sex offenders anywhere in the country,” Mr. Schneiderman said. Mr. Bellone had originally planned to enact a plan the county legislature created in 2011, calling for the creation of six mini-shelters throughout the county, to replace the two trailers on the East End, which house about 40 homeless sex offenders, most of whom are not from the East End, Mr. Schneiderman said.

But Mr. Bellone felt it would take time to build these mini-shelters and each one would be met with intense opposition from neighbors, Mr. Schneiderman said.

So instead, he asked the police department to come up with a new plan that addresses not only the 40 or so homeless sex offenders but also the approximately 1,000 sex offenders who aren’t homeless in Suffolk County.

Mr. Schneiderman said the new plan could be voted on by the full Legislature Tuesday.

“The county executive said that if it doesn’t pass, he is willing to do the mini-shelters, but it is going to take time to build them,” he said.

Bill O’Leary, a forensic psychologist who worked with sex offenders and other criminals in conjunction with the police, said at Wednesday’s meeting that the average cost of putting a homeless sex offender in one of the trailers is $3,000 per person per month, whereas the average cost to house an ordinary homeless person is $309 per person per month.

“This is because of all the residency restrictions [placed on sex offenders],” he said. Living in the trailer hinders attempts to reduce recidivism in the sex offenders, he said.

“The better I do my job, the better chance someone won’t get hurt later,” Mr. O’Leary said. “I fought against the trailers because it compromises my ability to do my job. Instead of being able to get what they’re supposed to get from treatment, most of the ones sent back to jail are from the trailers, and are homeless. They are not getting anything from therapy, because they are worried about where they are going to sleep that night or where they are going to get food.”

Amy Davidson, who lives in downtown Riverhead, said she has two kids and worries about the proximity of the trailer at the jail parking lot to downtown Riverhead.

“I would like my kids to be able to ride their bikes to Ralph’s Italian Ices and know they are safe,” she said.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said it will be difficult to get the 18-member county Legislature to give up the trailers, because only two of the 18 represent the East End.

“The Town of Riverhead did a $104,000 budget transfer to increase patrols on Main Street,” Mr. Walter said. “Main Street is by far the heaviest patrolled area in the town, and that is in no small part because of this sex offender trailer.”

Mason Haas of Jamesport said the county is paying about $1.4 million a year to house the sex offenders in the trailers.

“This program is not working,” he said. “It needs to be fixed.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

12/07/12 9:26pm
12/07/2012 9:26 PM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Supevisor Sean Walter (left) and Councilman George Gabrielsen during a recent Town Board meeting.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Supevisor Sean Walter (left) and Councilman George Gabrielsen during a recent Town Board meeting.

So Riverhead Councilmen Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy have already said they’d be interested in running for supervisor if incumbent Sean Walter gets elected to the county SLegislature on Jan. 15.

And Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she isn’t interested in running for supervisor — unless she was asked to.

But what about Councilman George Gabrielsen?

He’s not ruling it out either.

He said in an interview that if he doesn’t feel the right person is running, he would seek the position himself.

“The biggest thing facing the town right now is that the supervisor has to be someone who is fiscally conservative,” Mr. Gabrielsen said. “Because by the year 2015 or 2016, we’re going to be out of reserve funds.”

Mr. Gabrielsen said he thinks Mr. Walter is fiscally conservative and has the town on the right path financially, having shrunk the size of government and concentrated on getting the Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL) redeveloped.

But if Mr. Walter wins the Legislature seat, the town needs someone to follow the same path, Mr. Gabrielsen said.

“The EPCAL subdivision must be finished, and we may have to downsize government,” he said.

Mr. Gabrielsen said he is very busy right now, with the town position, his farm, and land he owns upstate.

“I’m working 10-12 hours a day,” he said. “But there comes a point where you see where the town is going, and if I feel that person (running for supervisor) wasn’t going to get the job done, then you have to sacrifice your lifestyle to save the Republic, so to speak.”

The councilman said the town supervisor must come from a business background.

“I know I could do it, it’s just the commitment needed at this point in my life,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll find that candidate.”

Town assessor and outspoken opponent of the county’s homeless sex offender trailer parked outside the Suffolk County jail said Thursday night he wouldn’t rule out a run either — given the right circumstances.

He said many people have brought it up to him.

“But right now, Sean hasn’t even won,” Mr. Haas said. “So it’s really too early.”

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio also left open a possibility that she might run for supervisor if Mr. Walter is elected to the county seat.

“I have no intentions of running for supervisor at all, but if the party came to me and say we want you to run, then I might consider it,” she said in an interview.

“But as of now, I have no intentions of running. I love my job as councilwoman and I love my private sector work.”

Ms. Giglio had sought to be the Republican party’s candidate for town supervisor in 2009, when it appeared she and Mr. Walter might be headed for a primary.  But in a last minute agrement at the Republican committee’s nominating convention, she agreed to run for council, while letting Mr. Walter run for for supervisor.

The current all-Republican board has had a number of public disagreements since then, many of them involving disputes between Ms. Giglio and Mr. Walter.

tgannon@timesreview.com

Additional reporting by Michael White