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04/24/14 10:03am
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Words in next month's spelling bee at Jamesport Meeting House will range from middle-school difficulty through adult level. Above are winning words from the National Spelling Bee. (Credit: Danielle Doll)

Words in next month’s spelling bee at Jamesport Meeting House will range from middle-school difficulty through adult level. Above are winning words from the National Spelling Bee. (Credit: Danielle Doll)

Blame it on the alcohol.

Phil Cardinale, an attorney and former Riverhead Town supervisor, was eating spaghetti and drinking merlot at Grana in Jamesport two weeks ago when his friends and fellow diners, Steve and Ellen Berger, told him they were hosting a first-ever community spelling bee May 23 to benefit the upkeep and restoration of the historic Jamesport Meeting House.  (more…)

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

03/18/13 1:08pm
03/18/2013 1:08 PM
Phil Cardinale eyes Assembly seat

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Former Riverhead supervisor Phil Cardinale still has more than $20,000 left in his campaign fund from his Town Board races.

Riverhead Councilman George Gabrielsen — who on Friday expressed interest in running for the state Assembly seat recently vacated by Dan Losquadro — said Monday that he has decided not to run.

Meanwhile, former Riverhead supervisor Phil Cardinale, a Democrat, said he has interest in running for the post.

But Mr. Cardinale plans to wait until the governor decides if there will be a special election before making any decision, he told the News-Review Monday.

“I have some interest in state office,” said Mr. Cardinale, a real estate attorney who lives in Jamesport. “I’m going to consider whether I have enough interest to throw my hat into the ring by talking with town leaders and others, but I haven’t done so yet.”

So far, it’s not known if Governor Andrew Cuomo will declare a special election to fill the Assembly seat or leave the seat open until the November general elections.

A spokesperson for the governor has yet to return a call from the News-Review on that question.

“There may be no special election,” Mr. Cardinale said. “Once it is clear if there will be a special election, I will make a decision. However, if the governor decided to wait until November, I will have time to consider my options.

“I don’t know if I have enough interest, and you need to have great interest to toss your hat into the rink.”

Mr. Cardinale, who served three two-year terms as Riverhead supervisor from 2004 to 2009, said he still has about $20,000 in unspent campaigns funds left over from his last race for town supervisor in 2009.

The Suffolk County Board of Elections indicates he had exactly $18,524 as of January.

Mr. Cardinale says that’s still not enough for an Assembly run, and he would also want to be sure if he has solid financial and party backing.

“I would want considerably more in that the bank than that,” he said of the figures.

The former town supervisor said he is intrigued by the possibility of  state office, because there are certain issues, like pension reform for government employees and mandate relief, where a state official can be more effective than a town official.

He also believes a Democratic Assembly member can work effectively with the Democratic governor and Democratically controlled Assembly.

The enrollment breakdown in the first Assembly District is just about even between Republicans and Democrats, he said.

Board of Elections statistics from November show 29,762 registered Republicans, 28,273 registered Democrats and 24,643 blanks (not registered with a party) in the district.

“On the other hand, I’m enjoying life,” Mr. Cardinale said. “I know first hand that when you’re in office, you’re on duty all the time. You really are a servant of the people.”

As for Mr. Gabrielsen, the councilman said he “went over the whole thing” in his head over the weekend.

“The bottom line is, I just got elected and I’ve still got  almost three years to serve in this term,” Mr. Gabrielsen said. “I have an obligation to the taxpayers. They elected me to serve four years. I feel I’ve got to do the job I was elected to do.”

He said he will not screen for the Assembly nomination, as he believes the Enterprise Park at Calverton subdivision is so close to completion, and he wants to remain on the Town Board to see that process through.

“There’s still unfinished business I feel has to be done,” Mr. Gabrielsen said.

[email protected]

03/02/12 12:00pm
03/02/2012 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | With $20,000 in his campaign fund, former supervisor Phil Cardinale isn't ruling out a run for state office.

Despite being outspent by more than $55,000 in his latest race, former Riverhead supervisor Phil Cardinale still has more than $20,000 in his campaign coffers.

And he’s not ruling out spending that money on a future run for office.

While he says his days in Riverhead Town Hall are behind him, Mr. Cardinale said he might set his sights on Albany in the future.

“I’m not satisfied with our representation at the state level,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Mr. Cardinale, a Democrat, said he has no plans to screen with committees for a shot against Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) or Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) this year. But he said one of those two offices might be the next logical step for a return to public office.

“I’m going to take a cycle off,” he said. “But it’s possible I’d look to run again. I will not run for local office though.”

Mr. Cardinale spent just over $37,000 in a losing 2011 campaign against current Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter. That’s virtually the same amount he spent when he was unseated by Mr. Walter in 2009.

Mr. Walter outspent Mr. Cardinale in both contests, dropping more than $94,000 on his re-election after spending about $38,000 in 2009.

While Mr. Walter left his campaign committee with a balance of just $32, according to his January filing with the New York State Board of Elections, Mr. Cardinale reported a campaign balance of nearly $21,000 last month.

“I spent what I thought was necessary to win,” Mr. Cardinale said. “I end every campaign with some money.”

In January 2010, the month he left office, Mr. Cardinale’s campaign committee reported a balance of more than $37,000, meaning he had spent only about half of what he had in a campaign that saw him come up just 249 votes short.

“I don’t spend for the sake of spending,” he said. “That’s just how I am. I always have money in my savings at home, as well as with my political finance committee.”

He said one reason he had so much money left over this time around was that his campaign had opted not to spend on television advertising or polling.

Should he consider a future run for state office, $21,000 would be a fairly lofty starting point. The two Democrats to lose a bid for state office in Mr. Cardinale’s district in 2010, Marc Alessi and Jennifer Maertz, each reported having less than $2,500 in their final campaign finance filings for that year’s election.

Ms. Maertz has already announced her candidacy to run against Mr. LaValle again this year.

[email protected]

10/31/11 9:09pm
10/31/2011 9:09 PM


Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter has earned the support of Long Island’s only daily newspaper in his bid for re-election.

In an editorial endorsement published online Monday night, Newsday wrote that Mr. Walter has “successfully continued and expanded the downtown renaissance, working closely with business and cheerleading at every opportunity.”

The editorial concludes by saying Riverhead “needs continuity.”

Click here to read the endorsement on Newsday.com.

04/28/11 6:58am
04/28/2011 6:58 AM

Former Riverhead supervisor Phil Cardinale said this week that he will screen for the Democratic nomination for his old job. But whether he runs or not will depend on the strength of the candidates running with him — and the strength of the backing the party can provide for him.

“While they’re screening me, I will be, in essence, screening them,” Mr. Cardinale said in an interview.

The Democrats held some candidate screenings Monday night but Marge Acevedo, chair of the party’s screening committee, refused to disclose who was screened or even how many people were screening for each position.

Mr. Cardinale, who submitted his résumé but has yet to be screened, served three terms as supervisor, from 2004 to 2009, before losing to incumbent Republican Sean Walter in December 2009, an election in which Republicans claimed all five Town Board seats.

The Republicans, meanwhile, have an internal battle this year, as Councilman Jim Wooten has screened for the party’s nomination for supervisor against Mr. Walter, while three other candidates have screened for his council seat.

Mr. Cardinale said he disagrees with his party’s policy of not publicly disclosing who is screening for council seats because that information will help him make his decision.

“It’s a screening, and part of the screening is for them to find out what I think is important about the present administration’s weaknesses. And part of it is for me to make certain that, if I am selected to run, that I’m comfortable that we have good candidates, we have a united party and we’re ready to put in a good organizational effort,” Mr. Cardinale said.

He said if the party has good candidates and a strong organization, he’d be happy to accept the nomination.

“Right now, we have a Town Board with five members of a single party, so in order to make a difference, it’s important we have three real alternatives,” Mr. Cardinale said.

Democratic chairman Vinny Villella said he also doesn’t know who the Democrats’ screening committee is screening, and that’s the way he wants it.

“I don’t want it to seem like the committee is being forced to pick someone by the leadership,” he said. The five-member screening committee will make recommendations to the full committee, which will make the formal nominations.

Mr. Villella said Mr. Cardinale’s nomination for supervisor is not a sure thing, if he wants it, as had been reported elsewhere.

“He’s no shoo-in,” Mr. Villella said. “He has to go through the process just like anyone else.”

Ms. Acevedo said there are other prospective candidates still to be screened.

“There’s so many rumors out there, I’d rather not comment until the process is completed, and I’m a strong advocate of the process,” she said.

Ms. Acevedo explained the reason for the committee’s evasiveness.

She said the committee doesn’t want people who screen and aren’t selected to get “hurt,” and also that some people may screen and then change their minds about running.

The Republicans held this year’s screenings in front of their entire committee, rather than just a screening committee, and made public the names of those who screened.

“But their entire slate is elected,” Ms. Acevedo said, although there are some uncertainties with Mr. Wooten now running for supervisor.

She said the Democrats’ screening committee only makes recommendations and the full party committee votes on the nominations. She said someone from the full committee can still nominate someone who has not been recommended by the screening committee.

Mr. Cardinale said he would prefer to have the screening done before the full committee.

The Democrats have yet to schedule their nominating convention. The Republican convention is scheduled for May 11.

[email protected]

02/15/11 1:19pm
02/15/2011 1:19 PM

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter receives a salary of more than $115,000; family medical, dental and optical benefits worth about $18,000; annual state pension contribution of about $10,000; deferred compensation of about $7,000; and a town car. Riverhead taxpayers pay for a full-time supervisor.

After his election, Mr. Walter announced he would continue to practice law at his Wading River law office while continuing to accept full-time compensation.
Mr. Walter finds this arrangement acceptable despite the fact that his budget laid off more than a dozen town employees and our town is in 2011 enduring the highest tax increase of any Long Island town. The question of greed I leave to your contemplation, but not before pointing out that Mr. Walter’s predecessor, Phil Cardinale, worked full-time for the town and returned to the town nearly $20,000 of his salary.

While Mr. Walter may be pleased by his post-election announcement that he is continuing law work in Wading River, many Riverhead residents may not be — especially after a review of Mr. Walter’s Annual Financial Disclosure and Conflict Statement for 2010.

Asked to list the names of clients “who have applications currently pending before any of the elected or appointed Boards or Committees within the Town of Riverhead, or who have had applications pending within the last twelve months,” Supervisor Walter answered: “This information for clients is covered by attorney/client privilege.”

Five months later, on June 23, 2010, Mr. Walter acknowledged receipt of a letter from the Town Ethics Board advising that the above answer was “not complete and needs to be amended.” Supervisor Walter then submitted what he termed “information which should satisfy its completion.” He listed 15 appearances he has made before the Town Board, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Justice Court, Conservation Advisory Committee, Board of Assessors and Town Attorney on behalf of clients during his supervisor term.

These 15 appearances by him were on behalf of clients whose names were redacted, or blacked out, from the 2010 Annual Financial Disclosure and Conflicts Statement document delivered in response to my recent Freedom of Information Law request.

When a town supervisor practices law a dangerous potential for conflict of interest results. To avoid this conflict, lawyers who previously served as supervisor did not simultaneously practice law.

Mr. Walter put his own personal interest over the public interest when he announced after his election that he will continue to practice law. He adds insult to injury by refusing to disclose the identity of his clients. By hiding from the public the identity of the clients he represented before Riverhead town boards and committees, Mr. Walter spits in the face of the law and good public policy.

As Riverhead residents we are left with these questions: Considering the compensation paid, aren’t we entitled to a full-time supervisor? Shouldn’t Mr. Walter have stated prior to his election his intention to continue his law practice? What possible value does Mr. Walter’s Conflict and Financial Disclosure Statement have if critical information is kept secret and hidden from the public?

When Mr. Walter proposes to change the town’s master plan or zoning laws, how can we know if it is for the benefit of his paying clients or for the benefit of town residents? How can Mr. Walter simultaneously serve two masters?

Mr. Villella is a former Riverhead supervisor and chairman of the Riverhead Democratic Committee.