FILE PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio during a disagreement in 2012.
Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio — who is locked in a heated Republican primary for a Town Council nomination — only recently got part of her Baiting Hollow home up to code after several alterations were made over the course of years that improved the property, according to RiverheadLOCAL.com.
The house had an ingr0und swimming pool and other backyard amenities installed in 1999, and later a finished basement and second-story addition, according to a report published Thursday by the online news outlet.
A certificate of occupancy for the pool wasn’t issued until June 20 of this year. A certificate of occupancy for the finished basement was also issued in June of this year, and a CO for the addition is still outstanding, according to the report.
The RiverheadLOCAL story also detailed how Ms. Giglio’s property value had not been reassessed to reflect the work done in the basement or the second-floor addition, though the assessed value of the home was raised after the pool was installed.
“I was stunned that these permits were still open,” Supervisor Sean Walter said in an interview with the News-Review Thursday. “This was an issue in 2009 and I was assured when we ran as a team that this was resolved, and then after we got elected, I found out it wasn’t resolved.
“I spoke to her on multiple occasions about getting it resolved and I was assured by both her and by Republican party leadership that all these issues were resolved on multiple occasions. It’s unfortunate. She’s got to get it resolved immediately. I think elected officials have to be held to a higher standard than what residents are when it comes to things like getting town permits.”
Reached Thursday afternoon, Ms. Giglio said there was “no wrongdoing on my part,” and that she and her husband had been trying to finalize permit issues with the town ever since they tried to refinance the house in 2009.
“Despite what the supervisor alluded to [in the RiverheadLOCAL report], I did not receive any favors,” she said. “We applied for all the permits, and that information is supposed to be automatically transferred over to the assessor’s office.”
She also denied having any conversations about her house with Supervisor Sean Walter, a fellow Republican but political rival.
“That’s a bunch of crock,” she said. “Sean and I had never had a discussion about my house. Not once, ever.”
The first-term councilwoman is being challenged for the Republican nomination by a former Walter adviser, Anthony Coates, who has repeatedly publicly criticized Ms. Giglio.
“It just goes to show the type of character you get, when those resort to mudslinging on personal issues rather than the voting record of the candidate they’re opposing,” Ms. Giglio said. “Because I’ve always been a steward for the taxpayers and watched their money as if it were my own.”
She said her $12,000 a year taxes would likely rise by about $1,000 annually after the property tax assessment is adjusted to reflect the improvements, and she would be willing to repay any back taxes for what she described as an internal oversight.
Ms. Giglio added that she didn’t live in the Baiting Hollow home in 1999, but in Wading River. Her husband’s company, Structural Technologies, owned the property and was renting it to a sales manager at the time.
She said the basement was also finished before she and her husband moved in, and the couple had the addition built in late 2004, months after their twins were born and she was caring for three small children.
“I didn’t even take title to the property or have my name on the deed until 2004,” she said. “And we’ve been trying to get the permits ever since. My house has been inspected on more than three occasions for the pool and the addition.”
Mr. Coates said he had inquired about the matter himself with the building department about the time of the May 23 Republican Convention and confirmed what he said had been rumors for years about work at the Giglio property and expired permits.
“This is exactly what I’ve been talking about in the campaign,” said Mr. Coates. “There’s an attitude of entitlement and a real disregard for the process that seems to pervade out of elected officials.”
“This really came to a head with the cavalier attitude about the waiving of the building permits for Athens Grill and the Rendezvous,” he said in reference to a recent vote of the Town Board to waive fees for two fire-damaged restaurants downtown, of which Ms. Giglio abstained, saying she believed insurance would cover the fees and wanting to find out out more information.
“It’s a complete double standard for an elected official versus the stand for the public,” he continued. “Anyone who has filed a permit for a deck or pool or a minor repair knows the hoops they have to go through. Jodi Giglio is an expediter. Did she not do her job as an expediter? Or is she not doing her job as a Town Board member? Either way, it’s a real indictment.”
“I feel vindicated that what I’ve been talking about is accurate,” he added. “The town needs a shaking up.”
Republican vice chairman Mason Haas, who is also a town tax assessor and had flirted with the idea of challenging Mr. Walter for the Republican supervisor nod, told the News-Review Thursday that Ms. Giglio’s CO issues are not unique.
“I’m not speaking because I’m vice chair, I’m speaking because it’s wrong to imply anyone is covering anything up,” said Mr. Haas, who was elected assessor in 2007 and started working on residential grievances in 2009, when he said he started to notice flaws in the town’s system of communication between the building department and assessors.
“I was a little shocked at what Sean said about the permit thing,” he said. “I’ve been screaming for two years about the system [in town], because as a businessman who comes from the private sector, the system is broken in the building department.”
“When they issue a permit they’re supposed to forward them to the assessor’s office,” he continued. “It is not uncommon that we don’t get the building permit. What I implemented last year, was that when permits get issued they automatically get emailed. I’m not here to say Jodi’s right or wrong, but what I will say is it’s a very common problem that I’m trying to fix as we go.”
He said the town’s computer systems are too outdated to implement new software and there’s no money for upgrades.
Mr. Haas and other Republican leaders have also been outwardly criticized by Mr. Coates during the Coates campaign, first announced last fall.
“When I met with party leadership and they tried to talk me out of the race,” Mr. Coates said. “I said there were three things they needed to provide to me as a condition of my withdrawal.” Among them were “the permits on Jodi Giglio’s home, which I had heard for years and years didn’t exist. This is a decade, for a woman who was an expediter,” he said.
“I was rejected flatly,” he continued, adding that he looked into the permit matter himself. “I never filed a [Freedom of Information Law request]. I called an inquired about one for her building permits. [Party leaders] knew I was coming and they knew I was serious because I raised the question at the convention. Mason told me they existed. Then June 20, they miraculously show up.
“After 10 years of non-compliance, Jodi decided to finally comply after I rang the warning bell.”