The Islip Town Board dropped a controversial proposal last night to strip power from Supervisor Tom Croci in a dramatic reversal that was met with a standing ovation by some town residents.
Councilman Anthony S. Senft Jr., the board's only Conservative, said the Republican-dominated board met individually with one another in the last few weeks and worked on communication issues, which he said were at the center of the dispute.
"As a result of those meetings, I am confident some of those communication issues that we thought were in existence, were eliminated," Senft said. "Through these meetings we have gained a greater understanding of how to work as a board."
Croci, who opposed the changes, thanked his colleagues for killing the proposal.
"I was always confident that the good judgment, prudence and integrity of my fellow board members would see us through this difficult time," said Croci, a Republican. "Every resident should know . . . your vote will never be taken away by any kind of outside influence in this town."
In a unanimous vote, the board "adjourned" the public hearing on the pair of resolutions, which would have transferred control from the supervisor to the town board of several departments, including personnel, purchasing and communications. Town Attorney Robert L. Cicale said the adjournment would effectively "eliminate" the proposal.
Town sources said the dispute resulted from Croci's unwillingness to comply with Islip Republican Committee chairman Frank Tantone's demands for patronage jobs. Tantone has denied the allegation.
Despite its dismissal, about 25 residents spoke in sharp language about the proposal. One man shouted to Croci, "We got your back!"
Rosaria Broeslee, an Oakdale resident who said she was representing 11 of her neighbors, commended the board for dropping the proposal.
"In the face of a budget deficit, a natural disaster, this is not the time for us to witness ridiculous political discord," said Broeslee, 55, a registered Republican.
Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, who along with her colleagues had touted the proposal as a "good government" measure, said she agreed with her colleagues and was met by loud booing. "I think with superstorm Sandy, this recent blizzard that we had, working in better alignment will certainly serve the public," said Bergin Weichbrodt, who is running for re-election along with Councilman Steven J. Flotteron. She was stripped of her title as deputy supervisor amid the board infighting.
Charles M. Trupia, a government teacher at Connetquot High School who remembered both Croci and Bergin Weichbrodt as students there, said the proposal was a "distracting political spectacle."
"Mrs. Bergin Weichbrodt, you couldn't see Mr. Croci being opposed to it, you really couldn't?" said Trupia, of Ronkonkoma. "That's disingenuous at best."