Fire district election probe requested

Lilly and her husband Raymond Acevedo, of Medford,

Lilly and her husband Raymond Acevedo, of Medford, cast their vote at the Gordon Heights Fire Department. (Dec. 13, 2011) (Credit: Chris Ware)

The U.S. attorney's office and Suffolk district attorney have been asked to investigate the results of a December fire district election in Gordon Heights that an opposition candidate lost by one vote.

Officials with the Gordon Heights Fire District -- where some residents pay more than $1,500 a year for fire service -- denied the need for a probe.

But four residents who oppose the district's high tax rate sent letters dated March 1 to Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota and Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. The letters allege that four ineligible voters cast ballots in the election.

The letters do not identify the alleged bogus voters, whom the complainants identified for Newsday. They could not be reached for comment.

Commissioner Avery Dean won re-election to the board in a 271-270 victory over Joyce Bourne, who was backed by district opponents. If she had won, the opposition would have had three of the five fire commissioner posts.

Gina Previte, who sent one of the letters, said the election results should be investigated -- and elections should be subject to stricter oversight. "We should have control of that board," Previte said.

Representatives of Spota and Lynch declined to comment on the request.

James Kelly, a Gordon Heights fire commissioner who supports the district, said the opponents' request is "wasted paper" and the allegations are "untrue."

Kelly added: "The election was pretty close, and people have the right to question the fairness of the vote. The vote was legally done right."

The results of the election were certified with Brookhaven Town. Donna Lent, the town's chief deputy town clerk, said the town has received no complaints about the results.

The district serves about 900 homes in the hamlet. The taxes -- four times the Long Island average -- are so high in part because the district lacks commercial property tax revenue.

Brookhaven officials have considered remedies, such as taking over the district's finances or merging the district with a neighboring fire service. Supporters of the district have said it should remain intact to protect response times -- and because it is historically significant, as the first all-black force in Suffolk County.

"Folks are looking for some help to get some open and honest elections going forward," said Paul Sabatino, of Huntington, an attorney who represents district opponents.

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