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Renewed interest in Anti-Bias Task Force spikes after racist Facebook post

In the wake of a racist Facebook post that made headlines last week, interest in joining Riverhead Town’s Anti-Bias Task Force has spiked.

By the end of a special meeting Tuesday night, there were 16 applications to join, according to task force chairperson Connie Lassandro. She said they applications will be accepted through Friday, and can be made through the through the task force website. The website can be found through the Riverhead Town website.

Ms. Lassandro said the task force currently has 18 members.

There’s no limit as to how many members the task force can have, according to Councilman Tim Hubbard, its Town Board liaison.

“By bringing more people in it gives the task force more power, because you’re going to have a better reflection of the community and you’re going to have more voices,” Mr. Hubbard said.

“All the applications will be submitted, with our recommendations, to the Town Board,” which officially appoints task force members, Ms. Lassandro said. The group will probably break into smaller “roundtable” discussions, she said.

The application form asks if applicants would be willing to receive training on the subject of bias, prejudice and/or community relations, or if they’ve done so already.

Interest in joining the task force was triggered by several Facebook postings made by Dianne Kozakiewicz, wife of town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz, on Oct. 15, in which she used racist and obscene terms to complain about people in a pizza parlor and about athletes kneeling during the national anthem.

The task force met Oct. 16 to discuss the issue. One of the main points of dispute was whether Mr. Kozakiewicz should be asked to resign as town attorney.

That debate continued at Tuesday’s special meeting.

“We love Bob; he’s a very nice man and very informative,” said Barbara Layden of Calverton. But, she said, there appear to be at least three such racist posts from his wife.

“I honestly believe he has to step down,” she said. “I hate to see people fired but a resignation should be on the table.”

Pauline Sandmann of Riverside, who has dealt with Mr. Kozakiewicz on mobile home issues, disagreed.

She said Mr. Kozakiewicz “constantly went out of his way to help us.”

“He represents the town,” said Jacqueline Tarpey. “How can he represent the town effectively when his wife is a racist?”

Mr. Hubbard said the task force doesn’t have the authority to recommend that people be fired, but said the Town Board does.

“These sentiments that you have should be spoken at the Town Board,” he said.

Supervisor Sean Walter, who spoke at the Oct. 16 task force meeting, said he would not support requiring Mr. Kozakiewicz to step down. He was not present Tuesday.

Task force member Byron Perez, who is also a town police officer, Riverhead School Board member and 2003 Riverhead High School graduate, thanked people for coming to the meeting.

“There’s a lot of issues that have been here that are coming to light now,” he said. “When we went to school, it felt like we didn’t have any of this. We were friends with everybody. Maybe it’s the social media, where people can say what they want now.”

The task force plans to hold a seminar on gangs Sunday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. at Riverhead High School.

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Photo credit: Tim Gannon