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Jousting over health board appointment in Suffolk

The Suffolk County Legislature seal in the lobby

The Suffolk County Legislature seal in the lobby of the legislature building in Hauppauge is seen on Aug. 14, 2012. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Tracy Trypuc, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in public health and business, for the past decade has sat on Suffolk County’s Board of Health, where she’s been a leading advocate for a county measure to bar sales of energy drinks to youngsters.

But Trypuc, now board vice president, faces an uphill battle to keep her unpaid county post.

Although Trypuc is a Democrat, lawmakers in her own party have filed resolutions leaving her out of contention for the two seats that are up. East Hampton doctor Erin McGintee and Trypuc’s fellow board member Patricia Bishop-Kelly of Huntington Station, a retired county health educator, are under consideration for the spots.

Meanwhile, Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) has put forward a resolution for Trypuc’s reappointment to give her a chance to stay on the board for another six-year term.

Trypuc, 55, of Stony Brook, said she was interviewed last month by the Democratic members of the legislature’s health committee who were screening contenders.

She said that when she appeared before the committee, Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport), a physician and fellow board of health member, praised her work and research on his energy drinks bill, including a trip with him to Washington to testify before Congress.

“He said all kinds of wonderful things about me, it was like getting a bouquet of roses,” Trypuc said.

Trypuc said her predicament is, “I don’t have the support of the legislator in my district” — Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). Trypuc was outspoken during the heated debate on the 2013 energy drink bill, criticizing Hahn’s husband, Christopher, a lobbyist for energy drink maker Red Bull.

Spencer originally had proposed a ban on energy drink sales to those younger than 19. But to get the votes for passage, Spencer later limited the measure to bar only sales at county parks and beaches, and create an education program. Hahn recused herself on the measures.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said Hahn was neither on the selection committee nor did anything to lobby against Trypuc. But Gregory said he was a “personally offended” by Trypuc’s past attacks against Hahn and even Spencer, saying “many people were rubbed the wrong way. It’s one thing to take stands based on science and research, but she certainly went over the line.”

While praising Trypuc, Spencer raised concerns that the law requires the seven-member Board of Health to include three doctors, a rule the county only meets now because he, as the health committee chairman, is on the board. Should Spencer lose election or his committee chair, the county would be out of compliance.

Spencer also said Bishop-Kelly, who filled an unexpired term, deserves one of her own “as a matter of fairness.”

Hahn said Trypuc never reached out to her about reappointment. Hahn said she will give “significant weight” to the health committee’s recommendation since it is headed by Spencer, “the legislature’s only doctor, whose opinion I deeply respect.”

Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyack), meanwhile, said she supports McGintee because she is an expert on tick-borne diseases and hopes her appointment will sharpen the county’s focus on that public health crisis on the East End and bring more resources to the battle.

But Kennedy said Trypuc is facing retaliation because “she rocked the boat” of her own party.

“Tracy has knowledge, a tremendous work ethic, and she’s a fighter,” said Kennedy. “I’m a Republican and she’s a Democrat, but that doesn’t matter to me.” She has a proven record “and she’ll have a shot,” she said.


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