02/06/15 12:00pm
02/06/2015 12:00 PM

state leadersAlbany is in need of serious reform. It’s been known for years, even decades, and is obvious to anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to our state government.

There appeared to be hope with the 2010 election of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who ran on a reform agenda. But he ended up shutting down his own highly touted investigative body, the Moreland Commission, when its members began to hone in on the root of most problems in Albany: outside money earned by lawmakers, and specifically lawyers who have long claimed they couldn’t disclose details of their work — including their clients — because that would be a breach of lawyer-client privilege. (more…)

09/10/14 3:00pm
09/10/2014 3:00 PM
Tom Schiliro, Democratic candidate for assembly. (Courtesy photo)

Tom Schiliro, Democratic candidate for assembly. (Courtesy photo)

Tom Schiliro, the Democratic candidate for the Second New York State Assembly District in the Nov. 4 election, will now also be the Independence Party candidate, if the results of Tuesday’s primary hold up.  (more…)

06/25/14 4:00pm
06/25/2014 4:00 PM
Police at the scene of the fatal hit and run on Route 58 near Woodcrest Avenue in  July 2013. (Credit: Paul Squire, file)

Police at the scene of the fatal hit and run on Route 58 near Woodcrest Avenue in July 2013. (Credit: Paul Squire, file)

Harsher punishments for those who flee the scenes of serious car accidents will have to wait another year, lawmakers say, after a pair of bills — one passed by the state Senate, another by the Assembly — failed to get enough support in the opposite house.

The legislative session in Albany ended last week with no agreement on the bills.

In May, the Senate had approved legislation — co-sponsored by state Senator Ken Lavalle — that would have increased penalties across the board for those who flee from accidents, minor or serious. That bill died in the Assembly transportation committee.

Meanwhile, the Assembly passed their own bill last Thursday night, with just hours left in the legislative session.

That legislation was co-sponsored by local Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo, and would have created a new charge for those who flee serious or fatal accidents while driving with a suspended license or a prior conviction for drunk driving or leaving the scene of an accident.

In an interview this week, Mr. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said there wasn’t enough time left to compromise on the differences between the two bills. The Assembly’s bill also lacked support in the Senate. 

06/12/14 3:38pm
06/12/2014 3:38 PM
Police at the scene of the fatal hit and run on Route 58 near Woodcrest Avenue in  July 2013. (Credit: Paul Squire, file)

Police at the scene of the fatal hit and run on Route 58 near Woodcrest Avenue in July 2013. (Credit: Paul Squire, file)

With just five days left in the New York State Assembly session, North Fork and East End lawmakers are making a last-minute push to drum up support for bills that would increase penalties for hit-and-run drivers who flee the scene of serious accidents.

Those bills — including one co-sponsored by the North Fork’s assemblyman, Anthony Palumbo — are currently stalled in committee, where they have sat since January. The legislators say they have until Tuesday to get a bill out of the committee and onto the floor for a full Assembly vote. (more…)

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


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.


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.