Southold supervisor takes leave after domestic disturbance

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Southold Supervisor Scott Russell

Following a domestic disturbance with police intervention at his Cutchogue home last Thursday, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell has temporarily turned over his town responsibilities to the town’s deputy supervisor, Phillip Beltz.

“Town government will continue to function as usual,” Mr. Beltz said on Friday. Regarding Mr. Russell, he added, “We hope that everyone respects the family’s privacy.”

A separate statement attributed in a release to the other five Southold Town Board members said, “Supervisor Russell will be taking some time off to address personal and private matters.”

Police were called to the Russell home last Thursday morning, but no charges were filed, according to Southold Police Captain Martin Flatley. Mr. Russell is married and has two children.

The department has released no additional details on what occurred, which is routine in the case of domestic calls, the captain added.
Town Board members are offering no comment beyond the prepared statement.

Ruthanne Woodhull, Mr. Russell’s secretary, said only that the supervisor “is home and taking care of himself.”

No word has been given as to when Mr. Russell might return. Also unknown is how, or if, his absence might affect his re-election campaign.

A former town assessor, Mr. Russell has served in Southold’s top elected post since 2005. In 2007 he became the town’s first supervisor to win the just-expanded four-year term, taking 83 percent of the vote.

Southold’s Republicans, who during last month’s party convention nominated the supervisor to run for a third term, still expect Mr. Russell to be on the ballot in the fall, said town GOP chairman Denis Noncarrow.

“We have no reason to believe that Scott won’t be at the top of the ticket,” Mr. Noncarrow said. He added that he has not spoken with the supervisor since last week,

“I feel for the guy,” Mr. Noncarrow added. “It’s a stressful job and it gets to you. We’ve all had problems in our lives and we’re all there to support him.”

As to what took place at the Russell home last week, the chairman added, “There are all sorts of rumors out there. But people should not jump to conclusions. We have to give him time to regroup.”

Southold Democratic leader Art Tillman said his party is still screening potential candidates. He also declined to comment on Mr. Russell’s situation.

When the Town Board next meets on Tuesday, Mr. Beltz will run the meeting. However, because the position is appointed, not elected, the deputy supervisor  cannot vote on board resolutions.

Councilman Al Krupski, the board’s lone Democrat, said there’s no reason to fear having a non-elected staffer running Town Hall.

Mr. Beltz, the councilman said, “has been part of town government for years. He’s very familiar with the workings of Town Hall and that makes him very valuable.”

Mr. Krupski met Wednesday with councilmen Vinny Orlando and Bill Ruland to set the board’s meeting agenda, a job usually completed by the supervisor. The councilmen also sat down with Town Hall department heads.

“We asked that everyone just keep doing their job,” said Mr. Krupski. “We have a competent and capable workforce here so nobody’s worried about the functioning of town government. We’re going to plod along.”

Mr. Beltz, who has served as deputy supervisor since 2009, became a town employee in June 2003. He was hired as a part-time senior citizen aide at the town Human Resources Center in Mattituck, assigned to visiting homebound elderly residents to evaluate their need for services.

The Town Board appointed him full-time special projects coordinator in January 2004. His duties in that job were varied, including coordinating he town’s affordable housing program, particularly the development of the The Cottages at Mattituck, a 22-unit project built by the Long Island Housing Partnership.

Mr. Beltz was also heavily involved in youth activities and was responsible for guiding the nine separate hamlet stakeholder groups established by the town to provide input on local long-range planning goals.

Prior to working for the town, Mr. Beltz, of Peconic, was development director of a nonprofit agency assisting homeless, runaway and at-risk youths. He was also employed by Horizon House in Philadelphia as director of its homeless services division.

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