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Manorhaven appointment stirs controversy

Two appointees plus one village trustee seat equals a likely court battle.

That's the situation in the village of Manorhaven, where an 11th-hour lame-duck trustee appointment by the outgoing mayor on Friday was rejected by the newly elected mayor, who three days later moved to appoint her own pick.

As one of his last acts in office, outgoing Mayor John M. Di Leo Jr., who lost in the June 19 election, appointed James M. Avena on Friday to a seat Di Leo vacated when he became mayor April 26.

Avena, who was originally appointed a trustee in February, lost his seat along with Di Leo in last month's election.

At an organizational meeting Monday night, newly elected Mayor Giovanna Giunta announced her appointments to village positions, including Lucretia Steele, a retired New York City schoolteacher, to the vacant trustee seat.

The announcement prompted a protest from Avena's attorney, Leonard Kirsch of Jericho.

"He was duly appointed," Kirsch said of his client, threatening to sue. "This is unheard of. It is a violation of law."

Newly appointed village attorney Charles J. Casolaro said that under New York State village law, any appointment by an outgoing mayor to a seat that has been vacant 75 days or fewer before the election has to be reappointed by the new mayor, who has the option to appoint her own choice.

"I think they're going to have a hard time getting him on the board," Casolaro said. "He would have needed a second appointment by the duly elected mayor."

Casolaro cited an informal opinion issued by the New York State attorney general's office in 1992 that said the state's village law in such a case allows for the incoming mayor to make his or her own appointment to the position.

Avena said he disagreed, and added he hoped the matter would be settled before the next meeting later this month.

"It was valid for the mayor to do that, to make an appointment before his term of office expires," he said. "He doesn't need any approval from anyone."

Also on Friday, Di Leo appointed former Mayor Michael Meehan and former trustees Brendan Fahey and Patrick Gibson to the board of zoning appeals. The new administration is not contesting those appointments.

Di Leo did not return a call seeking comment.

But Giunta called the appointments a "slap in the face" from Di Leo.

"I feel like Manorhaven residents spoke. They chose who they wanted," she said. "I felt it disenfranchised the voters."

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