Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio Tuesday called on Suffolk Republican leader John Jay LaValle to resign, a day after the GOP chairman endorsed the opposition and the town party chief suggested that Vecchio is lagging behind the times.
In a letter to LaValle that was faxed to news organizations, Vecchio described LaValle's support of town Councilman Robert Creighton's campaign to unseat him as "mind-boggling."
LaValle, in an interview, said he would not quit.
The intraparty squabbling broke out the day after Creighton, 75, announced at a fundraiser for receiver of taxes Deanna Varricchio that he would seek the post held by fellow Republican Vecchio, 82, since 1978.
At the event, LaValle praised Creighton, who said Vecchio's policies have led to empty storefronts. Town GOP chairman William Ellis then echoed some of Creighton's comments about bolstering Smithtown's attempts to attract new business.
"Well, I think Bob said it all," Ellis said, following Creighton's speech. "We have to move forward. And Supervisor Vecchio . . . and I've told him directly -- that he's operating in 2003 and worse yet, on occasion, in 1993."
On Tuesday, Ellis stood by his comments, saying they were not "outrageous."
"I was very cautious in what I said," he said. "I did not endorse Councilman Creighton. I was hoping that we could get this worked out, because nobody likes to have a primary."
In his letter, Vecchio described LaValle's four-year tenure as party leader as "pathetic."
"In short, your support and endorsement of anyone is the 'kiss of death,' " Vecchio wrote.
LaValle, in an interview, said Vecchio is an "angry man who really has overstayed his welcome." In a letter to Vecchio, he condemned the supervisor's tone as "offensive and immature" and reiterated his support for Creighton.
Creighton said he was not surprised by Vecchio's call for LaValle to resign. "I'm assuming that he was not happy with some of the comments that might have been made by chairman Ellis or chairman LaValle," he said. "They seemed to be quite friendly toward me."
Vecchio declined to comment on Ellis.
Republican Councilman Thomas McCarthy, a Vecchio supporter, said Tuesday he was taken aback by Ellis' remarks. "I'm surprised he said them," McCarthy said. "He's already told the supervisor he's already supporting him."
Stanley B. Klein, a political-science professor at LIU Post, said ambitious Republicans are trying to push Vecchio out because they have tired of waiting for him to step aside and they view him as vulnerable.
"The people will decide what's going to happen," Klein said. "We'll know whether Pat will remain as king or whether he'll have to become emeritus like the pope."