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Brookhaven committee member resigns hours after flap over Facebook posts of Confederate flag

The Town of Brookhaven landfill, located off of

The Town of Brookhaven landfill, located off of Horseblock Road, on Feb. 28, 2019. Martha Gillette was one of 11 members of the solid waste committee, which acts as a liaison between the town and residents on landfill and trash disposal issues. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

A member of the Brookhaven Town solid waste committee resigned Friday, less than a day after being appointed to the post, after questions were raised about her views on the Confederate flag.

Martha Gillette, a resident of the East Patchogue-Bellport area and a former South Country library board trustee, submitted her resignation from the committee for solid waste disposal, hours after being appointed Thursday night, Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine wrote in an email to Brookhaven NAACP president Georgette Grier-Key.

Grier-Key had objected to Gillette’s appointment, citing social media posts in August that appeared to have been written by Gillette.

In a Facebook post, Gillette wrote that the Confederate flag is a "Southern thing made to be a race thing but it’s not."

"I do not agree with her Facebook posts," Romaine said in his email to Grier-Key. "You should know that Ms. Gillette resigned from the Ad-Hoc Committee on Solid Waste this morning."

Brookhaven spokesman Kevin Molloy said town officials would have no additional comment.

Attempts to reach Gillette were unsuccessful.

In an interview, Grier-Key said Gillette’s resignation was insufficient, adding she questioned the way committee appointees had been selected.

"That’s still not good enough," she said, referring to the resignation, "because it doesn’t answer the [questions] about the process."

Grier-Key said residents who defend the Confederate flag have "no place in public office."

Gillette was one of 11 members of the solid waste committee, which acts as a liaison between the town and residents on landfill and trash disposal issues.

Her appointment had been approved in a 7-0 vote of the town board during a meeting Thursday night. Other committee members include civic leaders, elected officials, environmental activists, waste industry officials and academics.

In emails to town board members before Gillette resigned, Grier-Key said Brookhaven should disband the committee and select new members, including some who live near the town landfill in Brookhaven hamlet.

Grier-Key said she and the NAACP were not consulted by town officials before the appointments were announced.

"We question the due diligence and validity of responsibly screening ... committee members, their qualifications and the composition of diversity," Grier-Key wrote. "We are also concerned with the balance of members’ affiliations and integrity to act equitably for a community in which they don’t live or are a part of intricately."

Molloy said town officials have no plans to disband the committee.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, the town board’s only Black member, wrote in an email that the committee should include people of color and residents who live near the landfill.

"It is well known that the Confederate flag, displayed outside of historical context, has been widely used as a symbol of hatred and white supremacy," Cartright said. "Throughout U.S. history, the Confederate flag has served as a tool to intimidate and terrorize African-Americans."

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