Rick Brand is a longtime Newsday reporter who writes about politics and government on Long Island.
Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter, citing the need for party stability, says she “cannot support” the election of acting town GOP leader William Garbarino as the next chairman because he represents clients as an attorney before the town.
“We need a chairman who does not bring business before the board, thereby creating the appearance of a conflict of interest,” said Carpenter in a letter to the town’s nearly 300 committee members. “There is no place in the 21st century government for even a hint of impropriety, especially in these troubled times.”
Carpenter was joined in signing the letter by her GOP town board majority, John Cochrane Jr. and Steve Flotteron.
Carpenter said it was “no secret” she and former GOP chair Frank Tantone “did not agree on the direction Islip government should take,” but she emphasized that committee members have “an opportunity to make a difference” by picking a new chair who will “serve with dignity, who is fair and evenhanded, and treats everyone with respect.”
Garbarino could not be reached for comment. He has 60 days to call a town convention to pick a new leader, but has said the party must first complete the petition process for GOP candidates by mid-July, before setting a convention date.
In an interview, Carpenter said she sent the letter because it is important for the next chairman ‘to bring people together, not be combative and be a consensus builder. Quite frankly, people are tired of the acrimony and want peace in the valley.”
She said she wants to return to the era when Peter Fox Cohalan, Michael LoGrande and Frank Jones were supervisors and worked cooperatively with late Islip GOP chairman Anthony Pace to keep politics and government largely separate.
Instead of Garbarino, Carpenter said she could support Joseph Stassi, who was just deposed as the party’s second vice chair “for no reason,” as well as former Suffolk GOP chairman John Cochrane Sr., who has “instant credibility with other town leaders.” She also cited committee members Vinnie Sepe, Dom Letteri and Chris Giambrone, or Bill Mannix, the town industrial development agency head, as potential contenders who have the “right temperament and experience” to head the GOP committee.
“I am appalled by the hypocrisy of that letter,” said Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, a town board member and GOP zone leader often at odds with Carpenter. “Angie is right to call for separation between government and politics, but it is disingenuous to draft such a letter and have fellow Islip town board member sign it and encourage committee people to appoint a town employee as our party leader,” referring to Mannix.