Monday Briefing: How will the town handle ‘probing’ questions?

05/23/2011 10:02 AM |

MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Hall's main entrance on Howell Avenue.

Phew. The News-Review staff was running a reporting marathon last week with the local GOP and Democratic political party conventions, school budget voting and the Riverhead schools infrastructure improvement bond presentation.

That, on top of all the regular breaking news. At this point even adding all these hyperlinks is getting tiring.

But enough about the past, let’s look to the future.

• There’s some trouble in Town Hall, with more than one internal investigation going on into employee conduct. Supervisor Sean Walter told the paper it’s been a busy year for the ethics committee; there have already been some notes added to personnel files and harsher penalties are likely coming, he said.

Details on the probes are scant due to legitimate privacy concerns, but like Councilman George Gabrielsen told us, “Sooner or later, somebody has to say something.”

If I could make a suggestion to our elected leaders, when it’s clear the bulk of these issues has been resolved, write up a long press release offering enough explanation as to not leave taxpayers questioning what is or isn’t going on with workers they pay, while also protecting personnel privacy. It can be done! The NYPD seems to get this type of information out every week. Perhaps the town attorney could call the city police department’s public information apparatus for advice.

As a side note, and as I explained in a very cordial conversation with a town official last week, the newspaper’s goal is not to disgrace or publicly embarrass a town employee through these articles, but we have a duty to report ongoing investigations when we hear of them. And also when they’ve wrapped up.

Our elected leaders should work with us on this, and not attempt to completely shut down the flow of information.

• Bob Olson, Riverhead resident and retired State Police investigator, won’t be running a Democratic primary for a town council nomination this summer, the News-Review learned Monday morning.  I sent him a Facebook message asking why.

Here was his response:

“My wife and I talked it over and decided it was not a really good time for us to undertake such a massive effort. I would have been willing to run an aggressive campaign and think that I would have had a great deal of success if I had been the nominee. However, having a pretty fair amount of experience in politics, I know just how difficult it would be to mount both a primary challenge for the nomination and also compete in the general election. At this time, I am not prepared to put myself and my family through that ordeal.”

We’re breaking news here in the Briefing people!

• So, it appears the Town Board slates are finalized for this year’s local elections, with Sean Walter taking on former supervisor Phil Cardinale in a rematch of 2009’s bout. Then for town council seats, we’ll have incumbents Jim Wooten and George Gabrielsen taking on Democrats Marlando Williams and Matt Van Glad.

It will be interesting to see how each campaign takes shape, no doubt the focus will be on downtown, EPCAL (as usual) the town’s finances and squabbling on the current, all-Republican Town Board. This internal probe business may also find its ways into the campaigns.

• Supervisor Sean Walter on Friday told me The Riverhead Project restaurant on East Main Street will likely open this weekend, and that Cody’s Barbecue and Grill, which is housed in the former Casa Rica bar, should be open in the next two or three weeks. Look for a story.

• Memorial Day is this weekend, and there are big events planned in Riverhead, including Monday’s Memorial Day parade and Sunday’s street painting festival. Check out our calendar.

• Speaking of big events, yesterday was Duck Pond Day and News-Review contributing photographer John Griffin was there.

The ponds are such an iconic part of Wading River, and they shouldn’t be taken for granted. The ponds are always in need of maintenance and will need continued support from both Riverhead and Brookhaven towns.

Duck Pond Day shouldn’t be taken for granted either. The event — which was founded by Desiré Passantino and Eileen Drower in 1995 —is particularly difficult to organize because it stretches into two townships and has required a ton of work from both the Wading River-Shoreham Chamber of Commerce and the Wading River Civic Association since its inception.

In the years that have followed, proceeds from Duck Pond Day have been used not only for pond maintenance, but for planting around the pond, a new bench, and a tree in the parking lot opposite the pond. Additional revenues have been used to aid various local needs, including the lighting of Wading River’s hamlet center during the holidays.

• The Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League is in great need of host family housing for its players, and we’ve been asked to help spread the word.

Interested in housing a player? Click here for information. Opening Day is June 4.