A group of Muttontown residents Tuesday night announced the formation of a new political party to challenge four incumbents in the June 19 election, including Mayor Julianne Wesley Beckerman, who in October was indicted on tax fraud charges.
Candidates accused the mayor of being abrasive to residents and presiding over an unwieldy permit process. Although a news release on Tuesday’s launch of Neighbors for a Better Muttontown discussed the indictment, the candidates said they didn’t view it as a campaign issue.
“She hasn’t been found guilty,” said candidate Brian Fagen, who nonetheless called the indictment “a distraction” for the mayor.
Beckerman, first elected mayor of the upscale North Shore village in 2006, has not announced whether she will run for a fourth 4-year term. She said in an interview Tuesday that although she was “a big believer in term limits,” whether self-imposed or statutory, “there are a lot of people who are asking me to run. There will be an announcement on that soon.”
Beckerman said the tax filing charges had “nothing to do with the village” and were “unfounded. I have no doubt that I will be exonerated.” She pleaded not guilty to five counts of tax fraud related to allegedly not paying state taxes from 2010 to 2014 and one count of repeated failure to file income and earnings taxes.
The 4-year terms of three trustees — Julie Albernas, Salvatore Benisatto and Carl Juul-Nielsen — also expire this year.
Albernas and Benisatto could not be reached for comment. Juul-Nielsen declined to comment, including to say whether he would run for another term.
Trustee candidates Chris Economou, an attorney, and Sudha Prasad, a pediatrician, said trustees were part of the problem, because they followed Beckerman’s lead.
“There’s a lot of head-nodding,” Prasad said.
Beckerman said the four challengers didn’t attend village board meetings until recently and “they’ve never stepped up and tried to get involved in the village in the dozen years that I’ve been mayor.” The candidates said that as outsiders they could change the way the village is run.
Mayoral candidate James Liguori, a neurologist, said the “adversarial approach” of Beckerman toward residents meant she could “be demeaning to the point of being insulting.” He said Muttontown’s reputation for red tape with permits had hurt residents’ property values, and he criticized last year’s tax increase.
Beckerman said in a November letter to residents that village building inspectors’ vigilance had halted dangerous construction practices. She said Tuesday that the 2017 tax-rate increase was the first in six years and hiked taxes on a home with an assessed value of $1 million by only $30.