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Trustee election in Amityville could determine board control

Joseph G. Morin, left, shown March 9, 2018,

Joseph G. Morin, left, shown March 9, 2018, is challenging incumbent Amityville Village trustee Thomas Whalen, shown Nov. 13, 2017. Credit: composite; Monica Nadreau and Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

A special election for Amityville Village trustee will pit incumbent Thomas “Tom” M. Whalen against Joseph G. Morin in a race that could determine control of the village board.

Mayor Dennis Siry appointed Whalen to serve as trustee after Siry won a 2017 mayoral race over Trustee Nicholas LaLota.

The winner of the March election will serve the remaining year of Siry’s term as trustee, providing a potentially decisive vote on issues such as a new police contract for a village board that often sets Siry and Deputy Mayor Kevin Smith against LaLota and Trustee Jessica Bernius.

Voting is March 20 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

On Friday, Siry endorsed Whalen and LaLota endorsed Morin, but each candidate said he would follow his own conscience on matters before the board.

“I vote the way I feel comfortable,” with the “best interests” of the village in mind, said Whalen, 49, a project manager for an architectural woodworking company in the village. Formerly, he was village building inspector, a job he left in 2016.

Morin, 61, a house painter who ran unsuccessfully for trustee in 2013 and serves on the planning board, also claimed the mantle of independent: “You put me in the middle, with two guys to the left, two to the right, I’m the level-headed, calm guy who’s going to make decisions on behalf of the residents,” he said.

Both men are registered Republicans, though Amityville elections typically do not use major party labels.

Whalen’s vote was decisive on a number of contentious issues over the past year, including elimination of the police commissioner position, easing rules for two-family rental homes and the reinstatement of automotive licensing policies that were less costly for some larger businesses.

He said he was acquainted with several police officers but that criticism from Morin that he is too close to police union officials to bargain effectively was baseless. “I’m going to act in the best interest of the residents of our village and to keep the police department properly manned at the most reasonable cost that I can,” he said. Hiring new officers would cut down on overtime and cut total spending over the long term, he said.

Police spending accounts for close to half of the village budget. The contract expires this year.

Morin said he would look for savings in police spending without jeopardizing security, such as lower salaries for new officers or increased medical insurance contributions from officers. He said he would have left the village’s automotive licensing rules unchanged, and that the change helped “reduce the leverage and reduce the income” of the village. If elected, he said, he would pursue tougher enforcement against Security Dodge, a major village business whose Merrick Road headquarters has generated quality of life complaints from neighbors. “You start enforcing the code,” he said. “Hit ’em where it hurts.”

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