GOP chief must step down from one position or another

Riverhead Republicans celebrate their victorious sweep Election night in downtown Riverhead in 2013. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)
Riverhead Republican leader Mason Haas, left, and Supervisor Sean Walter, top, in happier times,  celebrating a Republican sweep Election night  in 2013. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file photo)

Riverhead Republican leader Mason Haas will be required to step down from either his position as party chair or his position as an elected assessor under an ethics code revision approved by the Riverhead Town Board in a split vote Tuesday.

The new law bans elected officials from serving on the executive committee (chair, vice chair, treasurer or secretary) of a political committee.

Reached after Tuesday’s the meeting, Mr. Haas declined to comment on whether he would step down from his position with the Republican committee, but he did issue a statement in reaction to the Town Board vote.

“I expected nothing less then this to pass,” Mr. Haas said afterward. “The supervisor has fulfilled the threat he made to me in front of other committee members on more then one occasion .”

That threat, according to Mr. Haas, was that if any of the three incumbent Town Boards up for reelection this year — Mr. Walter or Councilmen Jim Wooten and George Gabrielsen — failed to get the support of the Republican committee, they would move forward with a resolution that would ban Mr. Haas from being Republican chairman.

The Republican committee failed to back both Mr. Walter and Mr. Wooten, and Mr. Gabrielsen had announced earlier that he wasn’t seeking re-election.

Mr. Walter and Mr. Wooten are running primaries.

The Republicans nominated Councilwoman Jodi Giglio for supervisor, and retired police officers Tim Hubbard and Bob Peeker for council.

“His attempt to ban me in 2013 by referring to the town’s own ethics board backfired,” Mr. Haas said of Mr. Walter.

In that instance, which came on the heels of Mr. Haas screening for the Republican nod for supervisor, the Town Board asked for an opinion from the ethics board on whether an elected official should be on the committee of a political party.

But the ethics board instead said they felt “policy-making positions” should be banned for being on a political party committee, and left the definition of what positions are policy makers up to the Town Board, which never followed through.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Councilman John Dunleavy both voted against the ethics code revision Tuesday night.

“I think it’s a personal vendetta and I’m going to vote no,” Ms. Giglio said.

She feels the board should overhaul the entire ethics code, and she questioned the timing of the proposed changes to it, which came right after Mr. Walter lost the Republican committee’s backing for reelection.

“I just think that this is politically motivated and it’s payback,” Mr. Dunleavy said in voting no Tuesday night.

“The timing may seem suspect but is it ever the wrong time to do the right thing,” Mr. Wooten said. “I think it’s a start and it really is about serving the people.”

Mr. Wooten had opposed the same proposal in 2013, preventing it from getting a board majority.

Councilman George Gabrielsen said he’s supported the proposed ethics code revision since 2013, and even feels it doesn’t go far enough.

He feels no elected official should be on a political committee, not just on the executive board of a political committee.

Mr. Walter did not comment in passing the deciding vote.

“The assessor’s office is not a policymaking office,” Mr. Haas said. “We only administer the laws of real property that are created by the state legislators. It is a shame that he used town resources for his own personal vendetta. It is never good when political power is used to take the rights and voice of the public away.”