07/31/13 12:00pm
07/31/2013 12:00 PM

The Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLOCAL.com are partnering with the Suffolk Theater to host a pair of Riverhead Town debates this election season.

The first event will be held Monday, Aug. 26, in advance of the Sept. 10 Republican primary for town council and the Democratic primary for town supervisor. All five candidates vying for the two posts have accepted an invitation to participate in the debate. The second debate will be held Thursday, Oct. 24, before the Nov. 5 general election.

“We’re very excited to be working together to bring these debates to the public,” said Times/Review Newsgroup executive editor Grant Parpan. “Given the current political climate in this town, there’s no doubt these events will be good shows worthy of the theater’s grand stage.”

Both debates will be moderated by Mr. Parpan, RiverheadLOCAL editor and publisher Denise Civiletti and News-Review editor Michael White.

“Riverhead is at a crossroads,” Ms. Civiletti said. “The next town board will be making crucial decisions that will affect our future for generations to come. Voters need to know where the candidates stand on important local issues.”

The Aug. 26 debate will feature Democratic supervisor candidates Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela Devito, followed by Republican town council candidates Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio,

All questions for the debates will be written in advance by the three moderators and the candidates will be given time to make closing statements. Readers can submit questions in advance to denise@riverheadlocal.com or mwhite@timesreview.com.

The events are scheduled for 7 p.m. and the theater will offer beverage service before and after the debates. The bar will open at 5 p.m.

Admission to the debates will be $5; all proceeds will be donated to a local charity.

07/30/13 12:08pm
07/30/2013 12:08 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Just two petitions have been challenged in Riverhead Town this election season.

Only Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, who is running a Democratic primary for Riverhead Town supervisor, and Mike Panchak, the Riverhead Republican Committee’s candidate for highway superintendent, have had specific objections filed against their nominating petitions for this fall’s town elections.

Since the deadline for filing objections has passed, that means there will be a Republican primary for Town Council in September, with Anthony Coates challenging committee nominees John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

The challenge against Mr. Panchak came from Keisha Washington Dean, who is a member of the Riverhead Town Democratic Committee.

Ms. Dean claimed that since Mr. Panchak is not a registered Republican, he requires a certificate of authorization from the Republican leadership, and failed to get that certificate, sometimes called a “Wilson Pakula,” by the July 15 deadline.

“It’s still in the hands of the Board of Elections,” Mr. Panchak said.

He said he plans to run whether he’s on the Republican line or not because he’s still going to be on the Conservative line and no challenges were filed on his position there.

Mr. Panchak, who is challenging incumbent Democrat George ‘Gio’ Woodson, is not registered with a political party, and is listed as a “blank” by the Board of Elections.

“We missed the filing period to give him a Wilson Pakula,” said Republican vice chairman Mason Haas of Mr. Panchak. “Normally we would have caught this mistake. However, the distractions of late has unfortunately caused us to have missed the filing deadline for the Wilson Pakula and Mr. Panchak may be a casualty of that.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, whose name appears on the ballot as Ellen A. Cotten-DeGrasse, filed 429 signatures, and three different people filed objections to them, including Ms. Washington Dean. Maxine Kleedorfer of Baiting Hollow also challenged all of Ms. Cotten’s petitions on the grounds that she listed her address incorrectly.  Jeanne Luboja of South Jamesport is the third person to file petitions against Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, who is challenging Democratic party nominee for Angela DeVito for supervisor, listed her address as 8 Legend Lane in Jamesport, although the town changed her address to 37 Legend Lane for the e-911 emergency phone system. In addition, since she gets mail delivered to a mailbox, her mailing address should be Legend Lane in Riverhead, since the Jamesport Post Office doesn’t deliver to mailboxes in front of homes.

The Board of Elections will rule on both cases in the coming weeks.

Mr. Coates said he filed general objections to the Republican petitions, through his girlfriend, Cleo Beletsis, but decided not to file specific objections because it would be too much of a distraction.

tgannon@timesreview.com

07/24/13 12:48pm
07/24/2013 12:48 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Town supervisor hopeful Ann Cotten-Degrasse at a Riverhead Board of Education meeting in May.

Three challenges have been filed to the nominating petitions of Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, who is opposing party nominee Angela DeVito for the Riverhead Democratic party’s supervisor nomination in a Sept. 10 primary.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse filed petitions with 429 signatures, and said she received a package in the mail on Tuesday notifying her that one person had challenged 186 of those signatures for various reasons, while two other people challenged all of her petitions on a residency issue.

The Board of Elections will rule on the challenges in the coming weeks, said Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, who added that she has to respond to the challenges by Thursday.

“It appears to me that I am being denied my right to run for election by petty actions which restrict, if not confound, the Democratic process,” Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said. “Why does my opponent fear a primary election, which would allow the registered Democratic voters to decide on their candidate?”

One of the objections was filed by Keisha Washington Dean,  a member of the Demcoratic committee working on Ms. DeVito’s campaign.

Ms. DeVito said she did not initiate the challenges to her opponent’s petitions, but she supports people’s rights to do so.

“I think that just the same as every individual has the right to carry petitions for a candidate, citizens retain the right to file objections to those petitions,” Ms. DeVito said Wednesday.

She said Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse should have been aware of the rules.

“Whoever’s giving her advice is giving her advice that’s not correct,” she said.

Ms. Cotten DeGrasse listed her address as 8 Legend Lane in Jamesport, an address she’s used for 30 years.

But she said the town changed her house address to 37 Legend Lane for the e911 program several years ago, and since she has a mailbox, her mailing address is from the Riverhead 11901 zip code, rather than the Jamesport 11947 zip code.

That’s because Jamesport doesn’t do mail delivery to mailboxes, and only has post office boxes. People in Jamesport who get their mail delivered to a mail box, such as Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, get their mail from the Riverhead Post Office.

She said she uses the 37 Legend Lane address on bills and credit cards because it became a problem with deliveries, but she never thought to change the address on her voter registration.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said it’s ironic that the package from the Board of Elections was mailed to her home and got there with no problem.

She said hers is the only home on Legend Lane with a mailbox.

tgannon@timesreview.com

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

07/12/13 2:30pm

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTOS | Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio (left) is currently engaged in a bitter primary battle with Anthony Coates.

Hours after her primary opponent called for her resignation over online reports that she made alterations to her house without town approvals, Republican Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said there’s “not a chance” she will.

“Let my record stand for itself and the taxpayers of the Town of Riverhead decide my fate as an elected official,” Ms. Giglio said in an email to the News-Review Thursday evening. “Resign? Not a chance.”

Ms. Giglio only recently got part of her Baiting Hollow home up to code, according to a story first reported on 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 the report.

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.

When contacted by the News-Review about the report Thursday, Town Board hopeful Anthony Coates, who is challenging Ms. Giglio in a Sept. 10 Republican primary election, said he believes the councilwoman should step down from her elected office.

“The hand is caught in the cookie jar and frankly, I think she should resign,” Mr. Coates said. “This is a big thumbing your nose at every citizen of Riverhead who does pay their fees.”

Ms. Giglio said the call for resignation, and the Coates campaign in general, is all part of a “personal crusade” following her voting against his appointment to a town legislative secretary job, a position that would have had him working on getting a proposed commission to fast-track development in Albany approved.

Mr. Coates said that’s not why he’s running.

“When they didn’t give me that job I did it anyway,” Mr. Coates said, pointing to trips he made to Albany along with Supervisor Sean Walter and the recent approval of fast-track legislation by the state Legislature. “If there’s anything called a vendetta here it’s really on her. She’s the one who banned me from riding in town vehicles. She’s the one who tried to ban me from Town Hall.”

Still, Mr. Coates was quick to admit there’s no love lost on either side of what is becoming a fierce primary battle.

“There’s definitely no Christmas cards being exchanged [between us],” Mr. Coates said. “But I do think it’s important for people to know this isn’t about [a personal crusade.]

“I didn’t start off my [campaign because of] a problem with Jodi Giglio,” he said. “It’s the facts and the lies that have made me have an issue with Jodi. My campaign is about real questions of ethics with her and her conflicts of interests.”

Ms. Giglio said Friday she “never banned Mr. Coates from Town Hall or from town vehicles.”

“This is just some rhetoric from him that makes me look like someone I’m not,” she said. “It’s just him spewing lies.”

Both candidates said they don’t believe their opponent is “fit to hold office.”

gparpan@timesreview.com

07/11/13 6:33pm
Jodi Giglio and Sean Walter

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.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

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.

06/04/13 5:31pm
06/04/2013 5:31 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Councilwoman Jodi Giglio (right) and the rest of the Riverhead Republican nominees, from left, Mike Panchak, Laverne Tennenberg, John Dunleavy, Sean Walter, Anthony Palumbo at the committee’s nominating convention last month.

Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio learned today she is the only local Republican who will not be appearing on the Conservative Party line in this November’s elections.

Ms. Giglio, who has feuded publicly with Supervisor Sean Walter, a former town Conservative chairman, said she was taken aback by being left out, but wasn’t completely surprised.

She pointed to a stance she took over a $22,000 emergency mold remediation contract awarded to Servpro of Northeast Queens, owned by Joseph Sclafani, brother of Charles Sclafani, a member of the town Conservative Committee, in March 2010.

“It’s been said repeatedly that I wouldn’t get Conservative support ever since the no-bid mold contract issue,” she said. “It’s unfortunate, but I consider myself to be one of the most fiscally Conservative people on the Town Board.”

She said she was left out over policy, not politics.

“You would hope the people in a party would pick the candidate who best represents their values and principles,” she said, “And I certainly feel I fit the Conservative mold, both when it comes to policy, and value-wise.”

She said she was never asked to screen with party leaders.

The Conservatives will be backing the rest of the slate for town posts, and the Republican candidates for Assembly and county Legislature.

County Conservative Party chairman Ed Walsh, who also leads the East End Conservative groups, said the choice had nothing to do with any mold contracts.

“But everything in life has to do with politics,” he said. “There’s Anthony Coates running a primary. Some in my committee liked him. Others liked Jodi Giglio, so we left it off. Whoever wins that primary is going to win the race, so we’re not the fly in the ointment there.”

He said Ms. Giglio had been screened in the past, adding “trust me, we judge everybody on their behavior all the time. It’s an open book.”

When asked if her feuding with Mr. Walter had to do with the committee’s decision, Mr. Walsh said, “We like Sean; there’s no ifs, ands or butts.”

“But like I said, my committee is split [between Mr. Coates and Ms. Giglio].”

Mr. Coates also did not get the Conservative nod.

“As far as I’m concerned, Jodi, like the rest of the board, is very Conservative.,” said Riverhead GOP chairman John Galla. “In my book, I think Jodi is fiscally conservative. She’s voted for more than a million dollars in savings and she opposed her own salary increase.”

Mr. Galla said he had not yet spoken to Conservative Party leadership.

“I would welcome the opportunity to speak with Chairman Walsh to espouse those conservative principals that Jodi has and, hopefully, change things around,” he said.

with Tim Gannon

mwhite@timesreview.com