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Town Republican committee kicks out Supervisor Walter supporters

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTOThe Riverhead Republicans celebrate their victorious sweep Tuesday nignt (from left) chairman Mason Haas, Jodi Giglio, Sean Walter and John Dunleavy.

Six Riverhead Republican committee members who supported incumbent Supervisor Sean Walter in the May 26 nominating convention have since been removed from the committee, a move some see as retribution from party chairman Mason Haas, who supported Councilwoman Jodi Giglio in the convention.

Mr. Haas said that of the 44 members of the committee, only six were removed; in fact, 15 of the supervisor’s supporters remain with the GOP committee. However, he acknowledged that none of the committee members who supported Ms. Giglio on May 26 were let go.

Ms. Giglio won the Republican supervisor nomination by a very slim margin over Mr. Walter, who has since vowed to run a primary against her.

Mr. Haas said the dismissals, which took place around July 6, had nothing to do with the convention votes.

“They were let go because they didn’t do anything for the last several years,” Mr. Haas said. “They were inactive committee members.”

Some of the booted committee members don’t see it that way.

“When I went to pick up a petition, they told me that they no longer wanted me back on the committee,” said Kyle Conklin, one of the six committee members removed.

“They say it was about work, but I worked harder than 50 percent of the people on that committee,” he added. “It’s not about work, it’s about who you voted for. There’s no question about that. You can look and see who was bounced off.”

News of the committee dismissals came as the Town Board approved in a 3-2 split vote a ban on all party leadership serving as elected officials, department heads and executive directors. The ban — which didn’t have enough support previously — had been revived after the party nomination and will affect Mr. Haas, who is also a town tax assessor.

Mr. Walter — who led the charge to institute the new rule — said he was “not surprised” by the committee’s actions.

“This is the sort of dictatorial stance Mr. Haas has taken with the committee and with the Town Board,” Mr. Walter said. This is the reason why you can’t have somebody with two hats in Town Hall.” 

Asked if he will step down Thursday, Mr. Haas said he’s still considering his options, saying it’s a “constitutional rights issue.”

The Republican committee members are up for reelection every two years in September, and must collect signatures representing at least five percent of the registered voters in their district.

If no one challenges a committee person, the petition and the election are not needed, he said. Technically, the committee members who were removed had a chance to contest it, Mr. Haas said.

Mr. Haas said that while he told the people he didn’t want on the committee that he would not give them a petition, they could still have got one from the Board of Elections if they wanted to run.

Mr. Conklin said he initially planned to run a primary, but there were mistakes in the paperwork that invalidated a number of his petitions. It’s now too late to challenge the party choices, he said.

“I don’t know how they got to toss us off when we’re elected.” said Carole Brush, another one of the removed committee members. “But they just do what they want. There are no rules.”

In addition to Ms. Brush and Mr. Conklin, committee members Ed Powers, Vic Clausen, Trisha Burton and Bob Leech were also removed.

Mr. Haas said the six replacement members were all given their new petitions by the party.

Mr. Haas couldn’t name the people when asked Friday, but said they are all either existing committee people being moved to other districts or alternates moving up to the committee.

“They are hard workers,” he said.

Mr. Walter told the News-Review that he wouldn’t need the committee’s help anyway.

“I still have the Conservative line, so I’ll be on the November ballot no matter what,” he said. 

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Photo: Mason Haas applauds on election night in 2013 as both Sean Walter and Jodi Giglio posted wins. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)