Islip board's discord may be election issue
The Islip Town Board had already killed the power grab proposal, chalked up the political brouhaha to miscommunication and appeared eager to move on with its agenda.
But dozens of opponents of the proposal to transfer Republican Supervisor Tom Croci's control of hiring, firing and union contract negotiations to the town board still wanted to voice their disdain at Town Hall Tuesday night.
"Right now, Islip is pretty famous . . . for disharmony on the board," said Holbrook resident Mary Calamia. "I would respectfully request that we keep our dirty laundry in the hamper."
The scathing comments from town residents -- punctuated by loud boos, shouts and cheers -- capped the public end of a political battle that has captured attention across Long Island.
But with two of the four Republicans on the five-member town board -- Trish Bergin Weichbrodt and Steven J. Flotteron -- seeking re-election in November, political observers say the episode could keep rearing its head.
"An intraparty fight never helps the party," said Stanley B. Klein, a political-science professor at LIU Post campus and a Huntington Republican committeeman. "We'll see in November. The party can have internal fights which become public, then heal. But the public has its own mind."
Rich Schaffer, chairman of the Suffolk Democrats, said the imbroglio is a "very legitimate" campaign issue. "We'll have a team that will make the case that personality clashes should be left for eighth-grade student council -- not the town board," said Schaffer, who said he's talked to four candidates interested in running for the board.
After the proposal died, Bergin Weichbrodt said the dispute, which town sources blamed on Croci's resistance to town GOP chairman Frank A. Tantone's push for patronage hires, was due to management issues.
"I don't think of it as a flip-flop," she said. "It was a different approach."
Bergin Weichbrodt, whom Croci stripped of her title as deputy supervisor after the board moved against him, said a system that designated board members as liaisons to departments was "sort of being ignored."
Croci said the liaisons would continue as they had. "The matter has been resolved," he said. "I look forward to working with the board to tackle the tough problems in this town."
Flotteron, who is seeking a third term, said the situation was overblown. "We're just plowing forward," he said, predicting the infighting will have little effect on the campaign. "The community groups know who I am. People know they call my office, I get back and resolve things."
Michael Dawidziak, a Long Island political consultant, said the incident wasn't pretty for the party, but it will likely have minimal long-term impact.
"Chances are, the voters aren't going to remember it," he said. "Voters care about the same things -- jobs, taxes. If the town board wants to do something to make them really forget this episode, try doing something about those quality-of-life issues."
Tantone, who denied demanding appointments, said he was "satisfied and happy" the public infighting had ended.
"People just wanted it to be resolved," said Tantone, who said he's "always worried" about campaigns. "I think both Trish and Steve have records they can run on in November. People want their government to work and not bicker. I think everybody's sort of come to that conclusion now. They shouldn't be arguing again."