03/18/14 6:00am
03/18/2014 6:00 AM

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Since the moment I was sworn in as your assemblyman, the one topic that seems to come up in just about every conversation is the implementation of Common Core. I have listened to parents, educators, students and taxpayers about the myriad Common Core issues and problems that plague our children and schools. The Common Core mandate provides for a series of new national education standards administered at the state level through a series of federal mandates and grants. Though well-intentioned, the rollout and implementation of Common Core has been acutely fl awed, raising the ire of most parents and stakeholders in the education system. (more…)

08/30/13 7:00am
08/30/2013 7:00 AM

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Friends set up a memorial on Route 58 for hit-and-run victim Kristina Tfelt a few days after her death.

It should go without saying that tough drunk driving laws have prevented countless deaths here and across the United States. But there are also the laws of unintended consequences.

Local and state law enforcement officers and prosecutors have come to notice a loophole in state penal law when it comes to prosecuting drivers in fatal hit-and-run accidents. It’s a hole that lets real criminals off on lighter sentences, creating another set of victims in the form of surviving family members left to cope not only with the loss of a loved one but also with the feeling that justice had never been served.

As things stand, there’s actually an incentive for drivers who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol to flee serious accidents rather than stay on scene and, say, call 911 for immediate help. That’s because standing by could lead to much harsher charges. Heading home — or hiding out — gives a driver time to sober up. And self-preservation can be a powerful emotion in an emergency.

The state Senate has supported legislation that would impose harsher penalties for leaving the scene of a fatal crash. These penalties can be just as harsh as the same vehicular manslaughter laws someone could face if he or she were found to have been driving drunk during such a crash. But the bill stalled in the state Assembly in the last legislative session.

It’s being said that Albany lawmakers are concerned that some people, who may or may not be drunk, could end up being punished too severely for panicking and fleeing the scene of an accident. And safeguards to prevent decent people from serving long prison sentences should be addressed in any changes to the law. But such concerns are no excuse to do nothing.

Certainly, lawmakers could agree that rewarding drunken people for fleeing crash scenes — even in non-serious accidents, which can be quite pricey for victims — is a problem that must be dealt with. While stiffer penalties may not deter such incidents, there are real issues of justice at hand.

07/12/13 5:00pm
07/12/2013 5:00 PM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Jennifer Maertz says she won’t run for Assembly this year, but plans to seek a state legislative seat in 2014.

There will be no Democratic primary in the fall to determine who will face Republican Tony Palumbo in the race to fill the North Fork’s vacant State Assembly seat.

Rocky Point attorney Jennifer Maertz, who after failing to receive the Democratic nomination that instead went to John McManmon, an Aquebogue attorney, had vowed to force a primary. But on Friday Ms. Maertz announced that she instead has her sights set on running for either State Senate or Assembly in 2014.

She said she did not submit the required nominating petitions to the Suffolk County Board of Elections by the July 11 deadline because she expected a challenge to her petitions from the McManmon camp. Mr. McManmon is the son of deputy Democratic Board of Elections commissioner Jeanne O’Rourke.

Ms. Maertz said she raised what she believes is a conflict of interest, but neither the state nor the county BOE took the matter further.

“It’s not worth the time and expense of litigation, particularly where there are conflict of interest issues that have not been addressed,” she said.

It’s unclear whether Ms. Maertz, who in challenging the leadership’s choice, could have filed the requisite 500 petition signatures in time. Southold Democratic chairman Art Tillman said his committee gathered 230 signatures for Mr. McManmon, but only 26 for Ms. Maertz.

Mr. McManmon called Ms. Maertz’s decision to drop out “really great news for our campaign. It allows us to move on and concentrate on the general election.”

He and Mr. Palumbo, a New Suffolk attorney, are seeking to serve out months remaining term of former Assemblyman Dan Losquadro, who left the office in March following his victory in a special election for Brookhaven town highway superintendent. A third candidate, Joan Sele of Rocky Point, filed petitions this week to run on the Independence line, according to the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

tkelly@timesreview.com

06/18/13 10:10am
06/18/2013 10:10 AM

BETH YOUNG FILE PHOTO | Assemblyman Fred Thiele (left) alongside Congrssman Tim Bishop in October 2012.

Who needs Albany?

Riverhead will soon have its own mini-State Legislature right on Second Street. State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) has joined as a partner in the Riverhead-based law firm of Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin and Quartararo.

State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) joined the same law firm as counsel in 2003.

Mr. Thiele will join the firm effective July 1.

He has been the South Fork’s representative in the assembly for the past 18 years, and this year, he’s even been called upon informally to represent the North Fork on a fill-in basis. The North Fork’s assembly seat remains vacant after former assemblyman Dan Losquardo was elected Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent earlier this year.

Prior to being an assemblyman, Mr. Thiele served as Southampton Town supervisor, as a county legislator on the South Fork and as Southampton Town attorney.

He also is currently the chairman of the Southampton Town Independence Party.

At the law firm, Mr. Thiele will be engaged in a general practice, including real estate, estate planning, litigation, municipal and environmental law, and will work primarily in the law firm’s Riverhead office, according to a press release from the law firm.

The firm was founded in 1973 and has offices in Riverhead, East Hampton, Southampton, Southold and Hauppauge. It has 26 lawyers and a professional staff of more than 30.

Founding partner Tom Twomey has some experience with state politics himself. His wife, Judith Hope, is a former chairperson of the state Democratic Committee, as well as a former East Hampton Town Supervisor.

tgannon@timesreview.com

06/14/13 8:00am
06/14/2013 8:00 AM
COURTESY PHOTO | John McManmon outside his family’s home in Aquebogue.

COURTESY PHOTO | John McManmon outside his family’s home in Aquebogue.

In politics, there is an old axiom about news coverage: It doesn’t matter what they say about you as long as they spell your name right.

Even so, I want to set the record straight. Last week, without bothering to call me for comment prior to publication, Times/Review executive editor Grant Parpan published an op-ed regarding my residency as a candidate for the New York State Assembly. It presented only half of the facts and a half-baked version of the law.

Here’s my side of the story.

I have been a resident of the North Fork since my family moved here and I was enrolled in kindergarten at St. John the Evangelist Grammar School in Riverhead. My first job was at Atlantis Marine World in Riverhead. I went to Riverhead Middle School and then Riverhead High School, where I played varsity baseball. I also represented Riverhead High School on News12’s Long Island Challenge quiz show.

After graduating from Riverhead High School, I went to Tulane University in New Orleans on an academic scholarship. When Hurricane Katrina struck, this very paper covered my experience. I returned to school in New Orleans. And I pitched in. I’m very proud of the disaster relief work I did in the years after the terrible storm. After I graduated from Tulane, I returned to my home, Riverhead. My next stop was Columbia Law School. When I graduated from Columbia, I returned to my home, Riverhead.

In 2011, I began a job at one of the country’s leading law firms, located in lower Manhattan. My practice there varies from representing some of the country’s best-known companies to, on a pro bono basis, being an advocate for families of children with autism. It’s a job infamous for 12- and 14-hour workdays and so, because it would be impossible to make a daily commute from my home, I spend weeknights at a modest apartment in Brooklyn.

I am now leaving my job to devote myself to our district and this campaign. I am doing so for several reasons. I think public service is a noble calling. I think politics should be a conversation about policy, and not a forum for personal invective. I want to do what I can to make sure that my community is a place where my friends and neighbors can find decent jobs, afford homes and build their lives.

Of course, I’m certain my political opponents don’t care about any of that. They have fixated on the apartment I maintain in Brooklyn. This is a red herring, but it appears Mr. Parpan has taken the bait. There is nothing wrong with someone maintaining a second residence, whether for convenience or necessity. If you know me well, you know that I am diligent and careful. I would not pursue this opportunity to serve unless I knew I was well within both the spirit and the letter of the law. Mr. Parpan and I may disagree about what the law should be, but he has no reason to suggest that I have been dishonest. My primary and legal residence has always been squarely in the middle of this Assembly District. It’s the center of my family life and social life. It’s the center of my political life. It always will be.

I’m running for New York State Assembly because my neighbors deserve a strong voice in Albany. If you’re considering my candidacy, I hope you won’t make the same mistake that Mr. Parpan did. If you still have questions about me or about my residency (or, heck, even about the very important issues facing the North Fork) please reach out to me at McManmonForAssembly@gmail.com. I’ll respond personally.

The author is the Democratic nominee for the 2nd Assembly District seat.

06/07/13 8:00am
06/07/2013 8:00 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | John McManmon outside his family’s home in Aquebogue.

The residency requirement to run for New York State Assembly is defined very briefly on the NYS Board of Elections website. In fact, the definition is only one sentence long.

It says: “You must be a resident of the state for five years and a resident of the district for 12 months immediately preceding the election.”

That one sentence is why I believe the Democratic nominee for the 2nd Assembly District special election should not be permitted to run for that office.

John McManmon does not dispute that he spends most nights in an apartment on Dean Street in Brooklyn, more than 90 minutes away from the district he wants to represent.

However, the 28-year-old attorney believes he is eligible — and many local Democrats agree — because his parents live here in Aquebogue. That’s the address on his driver’s license and he votes out here using that address.

He only stays in Brooklyn to ease the commute to his job at the Manhattan law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy, his supporters argue. He visits home frequently, they say.

It’s my opinion that Mr. McManmon is a resident of Aquebogue on a technicality at best. In the true spirit of the seat, and in the best interests of the people who live here, he should not be running for this office at this time.

But area Democrats are acting as if nobody has a right to question this. They seem offended anyone would have a problem with a man who spends his nights in Brooklyn and his days in Manhattan representing the North Fork in Albany.

In one of the great foot-in-mouth quotes of the year, Riverhead Town Democratic Committee chairwoman Marge Acevedo said, “His job is in New York City and he travels back and forth. His residency should not be in question at all. There are no real jobs out here and people should take that into consideration.”

Now let’s dissect that spin:

• His residency should not be in question? At all? He freely admits he doesn’t live here.

• No real jobs? For lawyers? A Google search for “Attorney Riverhead,” one of the few American communities with more courthouses than McDonald’s restaurants, returned the maximum 25 pages of search results.

Speaking of questions, does Mr. McManmon pay New York City’s income tax on residents? If so, how can he be a resident both here and there?

It’s a particularly sad display that given several months to find a candidate in a special election for a seat that will be vacant for eight months before the newly elected takes office, Democrats couldn’t even settle on someone who actually lives here. As Democrats continue to control the majority in Albany’s lower house, basic logic says a local Democrat might be able to accomplish more than a Republican.

And the GOP nominee hasn’t exactly hit the ground running for the office. So far, all Anthony Palumbo of New Suffolk and party leaders have offered in the early stages of his campaign is a few sound bites on cleaning up corruption in Albany that sound like they were written by state Republican officials. It’s nice to think a local Republican could use his minority seat to clean up the capitol. It’s nice to think about unicorns and magical wizards, too.

Word on the street is that some unhappy Democrats might take legal action in an attempt to challenge Mr. McManmon’s candidacy. They should. His right to vote in Riverhead Town should be questioned as well. While they’re at it, how about looking into the city income tax he could avoid by using his parents’ address?

I live literally a few blocks outside of the 2nd Assembly District, less than 10 minutes from the house where my parents have lived for 35 years, which is inside the district. I work on the North Fork and spend more time here than anywhere else.

That said, I don’t feel I have the right to vote in this district, let alone run for office here. Neither should John McManmon.

 Grant Parpan is the executive editor for Times/Review Newsgroup. He can be reached at gparpan@timesreview.com or (631) 354-8046.

04/22/13 8:00am
04/22/2013 8:00 AM

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Local political leaders say its unlikely Governor Andrew Cuomo will set the special election for the North Fork Assembly seat for a date sooner than Election Day in November.

There have already been two special elections this year involving the North Fork, but apparently a third isn’t on the horizon.

Political leaders on both sides of the aisle believe Gov. Andrew Cuomo will not call for a pre-November vote to fill the Assembly seat that opened up when Republican Assemblyman Dan Losquadro won the Brookhaven highway superintendent’s office in a March special election.

In January, former Southold councilman Al Krupski beat Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter to win the county Legislature post previously held by Ed Romaine, who was elected Brookhaven supervisor in November.

The most likely date for a special Assembly election seemed to be May 21, when local school board and budget elections take place statewide, but with those votes little more than a month away, that’s no longer possible.

“No one knows what the governor is thinking,” said state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). “It’s really a shame. I can’t tell you how many people are calling here. As the clock ticks, what is he going to do? People are going without representation.”

Scott Martella, Mr. Cuomo’s representative in Suffolk, directed a reporter’s inquiry to the governor’s press office, which did not return a call for comment this week.

Although he favors a special election, Mr. LaValle did not support holding it at the same time as the school votes.

“That’s not really viable and I can’t remember it ever happening,” said Mr. LaValle, a senator since 1977. “You’d be mixing educational and non-educational issues.”

County Democratic leader Rich Schaffer said there’s no compelling reason to hold an election before November.

“Even if there were a special election, the person elected would not participate in this year’s legislative session, which ends June 19,” he said.

Southold GOP leader Peter McGreevy disagreed.

“Obviously, securing representation for the citizens of the 2nd Assembly District is simply not a priority for the governor,” he said. “As a result, our district and our voters go unrepresented in Albany.

The 2nd Assembly District covers all of Southold, Riverhead and a broad swath of northeastern Brookhaven.

With a special election apparently off the table, both parties continue the search for candidates to run in the fall.

The Democrats have interviewed a number of potential candidates. They include Jim Waters of Waters Crest Winery in Cutchogue; Riverhead attorney John McManmon; Jennifer Maertz of Rocky Point, a former state Senate candidate; Aquebogue businessman Ron Hariri; and Thomas Schiliro of Manorville, a county parks police sergeant.

Southold Democratic leader Art Tillman favors Mr. Waters, and while Brookhaven party chairman Anthony Parlatore described him as “a very strong candidate,” he said no one has a lock on the nomination and the party is still screening potential candidates.

The Democratic county convention will take place May 18.

The GOP is also still talking to Assembly hopefuls, said Riverhead leader John Galla. The party previously screened Raymond Negron, a Mount Sinai attorney and Purple Heart recipient; John Kreutz, deputy receiver of taxes in Brookhaven Town; Mattituck attorney Stephen Kiely; Southold Town Trustee Bob Ghosio; attorney Anthony Palumbo of New Suffolk; Bill Faulk of Manorville, a former Ed Romaine aide; and Southold Town Board member Chris Talbot.

tkelly@timesreview.com

04/01/13 8:35am
04/01/2013 8:35 AM
COURTESY PHOTO | Assemblyman Dan Losquadro in November 2011.

COURTESY PHOTO | Assemblyman Dan Losquadro in November 2011.

To the editor:

The absence of a state assemblyman representing our district is a very poor reflection on the state of New York government.

Former assemblyman Dan Losquadro, who was elected in good faith to represent us in Albany, abdicated his post after only 2 1/2 years to run for a totally unrelated position, that of Brookhaven Town highway superintendent, leaving a vacancy that may be filled by a special election.

I find it disturbing that Mr. Losquadro did not even serve out his term, a reflection of either lack of interest in his constituents, or personal ambitions fulfilled by becoming highway chief for an adjoining town that is, for the most part, out of the Assembly district in which he served. At the very least, one has to be cynical about his motives.

Now Phil Cardinale, a former Democratic supervisor in Riverhead, says he has to assess whether or not he has “enough interest” to run for the position vacated by Mr. Losquadro, balancing his desire to maintain an enjoyable retirement with the responsibility of being a public servant.

While his candor is commendable, this isn’t a position approached with wishy-washy indecision.

The North Fork needs an assemblyman with the passion and commitment of Fred Thiele of Sag Harbor or Senator John Flanagan of Smithtown, a person who will represent his constituency with all the energy he or she can muster.

In particular, someone has to step to the plate and be a voice for our senior citizens, business people, property owners and taxpayers who are underrepresented in state government. After all, those already in the public sector have strong unions and the government behind them. But the rest of us out here have no voice or authority, especially with the abdication of our assemblyman.

Harry Katz, Southold