Candidates for two open trustee seats in Poquott say they hope to restore civility to the small North Shore village, which has been divided in recent years by controversial spending plans and a lawsuit involving elected officials and civic leaders.
Incumbent trustees Harold Berry and Jeff Koppelson are facing challenges from three opponents — John Richardson, Debbie Stevens and Angie Parlatore — in the June 20 election. Each seat carries a two-year term.
Berry, 69, a supervisor at a Ronkonkoma hardware business, and Koppelson, 69, a retired psychiatric program director, are running on the Continuity Party line.
Stevens, 58, who owns a medical spa, and Richardson 42, a New York City firefighter, are running on the Peace Party line. Attempts to reach Parlatore were unsuccessful.
Some Poquott residents have questioned village board spending on projects such as parks improvements. Divisions on the village board were highlighted by a federal lawsuit in which Mayor Dolores Parrish accused former trustee John Pesek and Poquott Civic Association leaders of hacking her email. That lawsuit was settled out of court last year. Parrish said she expected to receive a $58,990 settlement from insurance companies representing the defendants.
Richardson and Stevens said they hope to resolve tensions in the village. They said the village board has failed to seek public input before making decisions.
“We really want to bring more communication to the village,” Stevens said. “We don’t feel that the incumbents are doing that right now. They’re kind of making decisions on their own without holding public hearings.”
Richardson said Poquott “is very polarized right now,” adding village board members “don’t take in public opinion as much as they should.”
Koppelson and Berry said the board has held open meetings and surveyed residents before taking major votes.
“We have been working for two years to get the village back in shape and get the people back together, but there’s a lot of resistance, between all the lawsuits we’ve had the last couple of years,” Berry said, adding most residents “have gotten behind what we have done.”
Koppelson said he was proud of helping broker a deal in which the village took over a private street that needed drainage improvements. “We did the right thing for the village,” he said.
But he said his effort to heal divisions in the community, such as by trying to mediate differences between the village board and the civic association, “was a disaster. It didn’t work.” Among the disputes was whether the civic group could meet at Village Hall. The group now meets elsewhere.
Koppelson said the lawsuit that Parrish had filed against Pesek and the civic group proved to be a “stumbling block” that prevented the two sides from settling their differences. He said things have not improved since the suit was settled late last year.
Koppelson and Berry defended the village board’s plan for a $150,000 bond to build a village dock. They said a survey showed most residents support the plan.
Richardson and Stevens said the board is ignoring public sentiment on the dock issue. Both said they were neither for nor against the dock.
“It’s not what I want, it’s what the people of the village want,” Richardson said. “If the community wants it, that’s great.”
Voting is from noon to 9 p.m. at Village Hall, 45 Birchwood Ave.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that Harold Berry was 59. He is 69.