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Long IslandPolitics

A Conservative gets a rare Democratic patronage job in Suffolk

Babylon Town Hall is shown in October 2007.

Babylon Town Hall is shown in October 2007. Photo Credit: Google

It’s not often that a Conservative Party member gets a job at the Suffolk Board of Elections from the Democrats. It’s so rare no one can remember if such a thing ever happened before.

But Jennifer DiSomma, daughter of Babylon’s Conservative Tax Receiver Corrine DiSomma, started last Tuesday as an assistant elections clerk, at $45,994 a year.

The job came after Conservative Tom Gargiulo, who is running for State Assembly in the 9th District, in late January created a minor furor by showing up at Corrine DiSomma’s Town Hall office indicating he was about to become the new town tax receiver. This was jarring to DiSomma, who was out of town helping an ailing relative.

Gargiulo, who also has GOP backing for the Assembly, is vice chairman of the Babylon Conservative Party. He also works part time at a town youth center for Babylon Supervisor Richard Schaffer. Schaffer, the Suffolk Democratic chairman, also controls half the 123 county elections board jobs.

In Jan. 26 emails obtained by Newsday, Corrine DiSomma said she had “no intention” of stepping down and thanked Schaffer for his “effort to correct the actions of some very stupid people . . . Allowing anyone to walk into a government office and declare he is now taking over as an elected official . . . is not only an act of anarchy, but also probably criminal.” She also fired her $80,000-a-year deputy, Carol Epifane — who is Gargiulo’s sister.

Schaffer could not say what caused the misunderstanding, but he moved Epifane to head the town’s Spangler Drive Senior Citizen Center. It’s the same job Schaffer earlier had wanted to give Tracey Bellone, wife of County Executive Steve Bellone. Mrs. Bellone resigned as deputy town parks commissioner rather than move.

The elections board job for Jennifer DiSomma surfaced after Schaffer declared himself neutral in the 9th Assembly race. He said he could not become involved because New York State United Teachers is backing Democrat Christine Pellegrino, and Schaffer may be a witness in a possible lawsuit by the state elections board. Two years ago. Schaffer refused a $40,000 donation from the union because it wanted the money earmarked for one state senate race, which is not allowed under state law.

Schaffer also has made no secret he would like Conservative backing for the Democrats’ eventual Suffolk district attorney candidate. Gargiulo as a town employee attended the recent town Democratic fundraiser, where Schaffer introduced him and Pellegrino. In a teacher union screening, Gargiulo also indicated he had Schaffer’s support, but later backtracked.

Bill Lipton, New York State director of the Working Families Party, said Jennifer DiSomma’s hiring shows that Schaffer is not as neutral in the Assembly race as he says he is.

“At a time when millions of New Yorkers are fearful of losing their health insurance as well as worker and women’s rights, the Democratic chair is busy arranging a patronage job to ensure Republicans win this Assembly seat,” Lipton said.

Schaffer said his decision to hire DiSomma was “personal, not political,” and had nothing to do with Gargiulo’s Assembly candidacy.

Schaffer said he made the recommendation so DiSomma also can pursue a master’s degree in social work. “I’ve known Jennifer since she was 5 years old, watched her grow up and knew she would be responsible in the job,” he said. Schaffer said DiSomma did not want to comment.

Suffolk County Legis. Kevin McCaffrey, the GOP caucus leader, said Schaffer has long pursued ongoing ties with minor political parties.

“Richie is the best at this,” said McCaffrey, of Lindenhurst. “He makes friends with everyone and keeps them all close.”

With Michael Gormley and David M. Schwartz

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