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Council members in spat over name placement on signs

The original sign for Smithtown's concert series, top,

The original sign for Smithtown's concert series, top, and the revised sign, below. Photo Credit: Tom McCarthy

Who got top billing at Smithtown’s free concert series this summer?

It wasn’t the bands.

Two Smithtown Town Council members are in a spat over the arrangement of council members’ names on signs used to advertise the two concert series.

Councilman Ed Wehrheim said he told town staff about a month ago to replace the signs because they listed his name in the second row — a placement that Wehrheim said violated long-standing town protocol to list senior council members first.

“This isn’t all about him,” said Councilman Tom McCarthy, adding he was bothered to learn Wehrheim had moved unilaterally to replace the signs, something he said should have been done only with the consent of at least three council members.

McCarthy said he also was concerned about the use of taxpayer dollars on a replacement.

“How much did it cost to change the freaking sign?” he asked.

The answer is roughly $500 — $350 to print new signs, plus paying two laborers from the Parks, Buildings and Grounds Department to repost them, according to Town Comptroller Donald Musgnug, who performed an estimate in response to a Newsday information request. The cost of the original signs also was about $500, he said.

McCarthy said three signs were changed for the concerts at Long Beach and Hoyt Farm.

Wehrheim’s campaign manager, Nicole Garguilo, said Thursday night that she believed the printer redid the sign for free. McCarthy said that would have been reflected in the town board meeting minutes as a donation. A search of the minutes from July through this month did not reveal any such donation.

Wehrheim said he initially became concerned about the signs after being alerted to a photograph of one of them on Councilwoman Lynne Nowick’s Facebook page. There, the sign appeared to have been manipulated to shrink both his name and Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo’s.

Nowick said the photograph was a cellphone shot of the sign that had not been manipulated, and was removed after about 90 minutes when she realized all council members’ names were not clearly visible. “I don’t even know how to Photoshop,” she said, referring to the popular graphics editing program.

But the order of the names on the original signs also violated custom, Wehrheim said.

“The signs should have been put up exactly the same way all signs are,” he said. “Supervisor [Patrick] Vecchio in bigger letters, after that McCarthy, to the right of that, Wehrheim, Nowick, and to the right of that, Inzerillo.”

That arrangement puts the names in order of seniority, he said. “That’s how all the signs in Smithtown read,” from town council offices to dozens of municipal projects around town, he said.

Official documents like the town budget and the webpage for the town’s elected officials observe that order, although the practice is not universal, as McCarthy noted this week when he forwarded Newsday a photograph of a sign alerting passers-by that the Bellemeade parking area revitalization program is “Coming Soon!”

That sign lists Wehrheim, who was elected after McCarthy, first among the council members.

All of the council members except Inzerillo are running this year and face a critical Republican primary Tuesday.

Wehrheim, in the middle of his council term, is challenging Vecchio for his job; Nowick and McCarthy, a Vecchio confidant, are fighting for their seats against challengers Robert Doyle and Tom Lohmann, who are running with Wehrheim.

Town officials are polite toward each other at board meetings, but the race has been bitter almost from the start, when town Republican Party leaders dropped Vecchio and threw their support to Wehrheim’s team.

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