By Connor Beach
What was the first Huntington Town Board meeting to be streamed live over the internet and on television did not lack drama.
Audiences at home and at Huntington Town Hall witnessed a verbal battle Tuesday afternoon between Democrats and Republicans on the board.
The contentious debate erupted during the proposal of two Republican-sponsored resolutions, the first calling for one appointment each to both the planning and zoning boards, and the second appointing nine directors or deputy directors to various town departments.
The resolutions, both sponsored by Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and seconded Councilman Ed Smyth, were ultimately approved in a party-line vote, 3-2, with the deciding votes coming from Independence Party Councilman Eugene Cook.
Democrats Councilwoman Joan Cergol and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson both opposed the resolutions, and made it known why.
Cergol claimed she was only presented credentials of one candidate for each of the positions. She asked, “How wide a net did we cast to fill these jobs? Were there efforts to seek diversity in the hiring process?”
Cuthbertson similarly condemned what he called a lack of diversity among the selected appointees. “We are appointing all white males to these positions,” Cuthbertson said.
He also pointed out that several of those chosen for the positions previously ran on the Republican ticket in local elections. “One of the recurring themes I see is, if you run for office as a Republican, you have a chance to be a department head.
“It really lends itself to cynicism about the process.”
In response to the criticisms, Lupinacci said he made himself available over the last two weeks for suggestions from other members of the board.
Cuthbertson fired back, “Two weeks ago you presented final resumes for appointments without saying what the final process was.”
After Tuesday’s meeting, Lupinacci said in an interview that the hiring process included a review of backgrounds and qualifications of a “totality of candidates.” He claimed both Cergol and Cuthbertson had ample time to review those candidates.
“Advertising for the positions was done on various websites, including the transition website,” Lupinacci added. That website, Chad2017.com, is accessible to the public.
Smyth similarly said candidates for the positions were screened “in the ordinary course of business.”
All nine of the appointees are scheduled to begin their new roles effective Feb. 26, according to the resolution.
Meet The New Appointees
The two resolutions approved at Tuesday’s meeting made a total of 11 appointments.
The first resolution names former Huntington Public Library trustee Paul Ehrlich to the town’s planning board for a term beginning Feb. 14 and continuing through 2024.
Ehrlich replaces Marilyn Healy, whose term expired at the end of last year. He will also, for at least the remainder of this year, serve as vice chairman of the board, replacing Jane Devine, who will remain on the board.
Richard McGrath, a former longtime Huntington school board trustee, is its newest member of the zoning board with a term beginning Feb. 15 and also running through 2024.
McGrath fills the vacant seat of Jeffrey Naness, whose term also expired last year.
Three current town employees were among the nine appointed to various directors and deputy directors by Lupinacci’s second resolution
The legislation was originally proposed at the Jan. 23 meeting, but Lupinacci opted to postpone a vote on it, he said, in order to give councilmembers Joan Cergol and Mark Cuthbertson more time to review the appointees.
John Clark has been named the director of department of environmental waste management. Clark ran in last year’s election for Huntington highway superintendent, but was defeated by Kevin Orelli. He’s set to make $120,000 per year in the role.
Matthew Laux will serve as deputy director of department of environmental waste management. He previously served as acting director of department. He’s set to make $118,000 per year in the role.
William Musto, the new deputy director of department of parks and recreation, previously worked for the town in refuse. He’s set to make $100,000 per year in the role.
Joseph Rose, former acting director of the public safety department, will now be the department’s deputy director. He’s set to make an annual stipend of $27,880.
Peter Sammis will serve as director of the town’s department of public safety. He’s set to make $115,000 per year in the role.
Andre Sorrentino, owner of Huntington-based PAS Professional Automotive Services, has been tapped as director of department of general services. He’s set to make $120,000 per year in the role.
Dom Spada will serve as deputy director of department of maritime services. Spada is a Village of Huntington Bay trustee and Halesite fire chief. He also ran in last year’s elections on the Republican ticket, but was defeated for the seat in Suffolk’s 18th Legislative District by incumbent William Spencer. He’s set to make $60,000 per year in the role.
Greg Wagner will serve as director of department of parks and recreation. He’s set to make $115,000 per year in the role.
Nick Wieland, president of The Huntingtonian newspaper, will serve as deputy director of department of information technology. He’s set to make $100,000 per year in the role.