Smithtown Democratic Committee chairman Ed Maher is calling for town highway superintendent Glenn Jorgensen's resignation, citing his arrest last week on four felony charges and a misdemeanor, and a December notice of claim alleging sexual harassment.
Maher said in a statement that the recent allegations offer an opportunity for officials to consider appointing a director of public works, rather than an elected highway superintendent. State law says that elected officials may remain in office until they resign or are convicted of a felony.
"The fact that Smithtown taxpayers are still paying his salary is an outrage!" Maher wrote. ". . . It has become increasingly clear to every resident of Smithtown that Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen is incompetent and needs to go. Are the rest of the elected Republicans in Smithtown government competent enough to see that . . . ?"
Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said Tuesday that Jorgensen is entitled to his day in court and that the board's hands are tied.
"The highway superintendent is . . . elected by the people of Smithtown," Vecchio said. "The town board has no control over him as an elected official."
Jorgensen pleaded not guilty April 1 to charges brought by the Suffolk County district attorney's office for allegedly directing a town highway worker to falsify documents related to a November paving project by Medford-based Suffolk Asphalt Corp. and submitting those records to the town.
Vecchio said Deputy Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy has been running the department. The supervisor added that to his knowledge, Jorgensen has reported for work about "an hour or so" since pleading not guilty to the charges.
Smithtown Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski said the town could create a Department of Public Works. "It would have to be voted upon by the public at a referendum, but it wouldn't bar the highway superintendent from completing the remainder of his elected term," Jakubowski said, declining to comment on whether officials are considering such a measure.
Jorgensen was elected in November 2013 to a four-year term.
Vecchio said he put forth a proposal last year to make the town clerk, tax receiver and highway superintendent appointed positions. Councilman Robert Creighton put forth a proposal last month to restructure town government by appointing commissioners to oversee town departments.
Councilman Edward Wehrheim said he supported the formation of a Public Works department. "I think it absolutely would be more economical," he said, adding that town departments could consolidate manpower and equipment.