10/11/12 7:44pm
10/11/2012 7:44 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Newly-elected Democratic chair Marjorie Acevedo speaks at Thursday night’s meeting in Riverhead.

Members of the Riverhead Town Democratic Committee elected a new chairperson, Marjorie Acevedo, at their meeting Thursday night in Riverhead.

Ms. Acevedo of Wading River succeeds Vinny Villella, who did not seek a second two-year term due to health reasons. Mr. Villella couldn’t make the meeting, held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall on Parkway Street, because of cancer treatment.

Mr. Villella, who served as Riverhead supervisor in 1998 and 1999, was elected party chairman in 2010, succeeding 10-year leader Butch Langhorn.

Mike Roth, a Wading River pizzeria owner, was re-elected to vice chairman, while Don Jayamaha and Pamela Miles- Weston were elected as treasurer and secretary respectively. There were no other nominations for the positions.

Ms. Acevedo has been an active committee member for the past 30 years, and became the second woman elected as town chairperson. She told the committee she would seek to end the divisiveness within the committee.

“I care about what happens at the committee meetings, I care about this party,” she told the crowd gathered at the hall. “Working together, we can accomplish what we really want to accomplish.”

Ms. Acevedo, a legislative aide for County Legis. William Lindsay, said the committee will focus on getting Rob Gottschalk elected to the open town tax receiver position this year. Mr. Gottschalk, a former assessor, is running on an independent party line due to a missed deadline.

The new committee chairperson also stressed the importance of finding candidates to run for office.

“I need each and every one of you to reach out to your community, to your [election districts] and find people,” she said.

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09/07/12 9:00am
09/07/2012 9:00 AM
Vinny Villella, Riverhead Democratic Committee, Butch Langhorn

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Vinny Villella with Butch Langhorn in 2010, the night Mr. Villella was elected to succeed the longtime Democratic Committee chairman.

While the Democratic convention in Charlotte was in full roar, Riverhead’s Democrats met this week to discuss the future of the local party, as chairman and former town supervisor Vinny Villella has said he won’t be seeking re-election to the two-year post due to health reasons.

The committee will elect a new chairperson in October.

Three people are showing interest, according to Mr. Villella. They are longtime North Fork Democrat Mike Comando,  Matt Van Glad of Calverton and active commiteeperson Marjorie Acevedo of Wading River.

Mr. Comando has ran for public office in the past. Most recently, he ran unsuccessfully for the 1st District county legislator seat against Ed Romaine in 2008. He also lost a bid for state Senate to current Senator Kenneth LaValle in 2006.

Mr. Van Glad ran unsuccessfully for a Town Council seat last year.

Mr. Villella, who served as Riverhead supervisor in 1998 and 1999, was elected party chairman in 2010, succeeding 10-year leader Butch Langhorn.

But Mr. Villella had a recurrence of prostate cancer last August, just before election season went into full swing, he said. He then had to go for intense chemotherapy treatments in Manhattan every three weeks through December.

His party got swept for three Town Board seats that election, including the supervisor seat.

“Because of what happened last year, with my health, I didn’t help out the candidates as much as I wanted to,” he said. “I couldn’t concentrate on it. And I felt bad for the candidates. That I couldn’t help them the way I should have.”

He said that though he’s regained his strength, and some weight, the stress of party leader would be too much to bear.

“I have more fun working in the background anyway,” he laughed.

Party vice chairman Mike Roth, a Wading River pizza parlor owner, has been running the meetings and serving as acting chairman through much of Mr. Villella’s recovery.

Mr. Roth said he does not have interest in pursuing the chairmanship.

As to who should take over, he said that’s “still open for debate, and that’s still an open opportunity.”

“We’re looking for someone who has experience…in politics, in running meetings,” he said. “We’re losing a lot of experience with Vinny and we need to replace that.”

Aside from his physical recovery, Mr. Villella said watching the Democratic National Convention has been a boost to his political spirits.

“It’s just been tremendous,” he said. The speeches and appearances, “and the President, it just make you feel gung-ho. It’s been great.”

He also took a swipe at national Republicans, who just wrapped up their convention, saying “You still don’t know what they stand for. It’s a mystery.”

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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.