Wayne Vitale, a Center Moriches school board trustee and former insurance broker, has resigned from the board following a controversy over his involvement in negotiations for district health insurance.

In resigning, Vitale cited the need to concentrate on his new $87,000-a-year job as Shelter Island's school business official.

Joseph McHeffey, president of Center Moriches' board, yesterday confirmed the contents of Vitale's resignation letter, adding there would be a special board meeting Wednesday to formally accept the decision.

McHeffey declined to speculate on what the board might do next. Under state law, board trustees can appoint a temporary replacement, schedule a special election to select a replacement or leave the position open until May's regular school elections.

Vitale did not return calls Monday. The district superintendent, Russell Stewart, recalled that Vitale two weeks ago had said he planned to leave the board, if offered the Shelter Island post.

In recent weeks, Vitale has been the focus of debate over his efforts to arrange a switch in Center Moriches' health insurance from the Empire Plan to an alternative. He estimated the move could save the district a much-needed $500,000 annually. Vitale disclosed he might have received a broker's commission of about $30,000 in a letter dated Aug. 31 and read at a Sept. 21 board meeting.

District teachers voted down the insurance proposal a few hours before the board meeting, and Vitale never received the commission. M. Craig Charvat, a teachers union building representative, said that Vitale's insurance involvement was a factor in the vote, because the trustee had clashed with teachers several months earlier over pay issues.

"Most of us older teachers wanted to stick with Empire," Charvat said. "Then when the Vitale piece came in, we said, uh-oh, we didn't want anything to do with this."

Vitale and his colleagues insist he got involved because of his insurance expertise. "He just saw a problem and saw a solution," said Thomas Hogan, another board member.

But some Vitale supporters think he erred in not rejecting a commission as soon as the possibility arose. "I'm having a little trouble understanding why Wayne would put himself in that position," said Dave Haney, a local resident and retired Suffolk County police officer.

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