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Huntington Planning Board leadership shake-up

Appointments to the chair and vice-chair posts have drawn accusations of patronage. The town supervisor defended the moves.

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci in November.

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci in November. Photo Credit: Danielle Silverman

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci has appointed a new chair and vice chair of the town’s planning board, over the protests of two board members who say these appointments are patronage positions.

The town board passed Lupinacci’s resolution to appoint Paul Ehrlich the planning board chair and Mara Manin Amendola the vice chair in a 3-2 vote at the Feb. 13 board meeting. Ehrlich is the current vice chair of the planning board and replaces Paul Mandelik as chair. Mandelik will remain on the board and his term runs through 2023.

Council members Eugene Cook and Ed Smyth voted along with Lupinacci in favor of the appointments. Council members Mark Cuthbertson and Joan Cergol voted against the resolution. Lupinacci and Smyth are Republicans and Cook an Independent. Cuthbertson and Cergol are Democrats.

The appointments were a move to reward Republicans who have been loyal to Lupinacci, Cuthbertson said. “When it comes to appointments and hiring, the Town of Huntington now is just on a political partisan basis and it’s a shame,” he said.

Lupinacci defended the appointees as experienced public servants.

“Paul Ehrlich served as Vice Chair of the Planning Board prior to his appointment as Chair; Mara Manin Amendola, Esq., also an existing member of the Planning Board, is a real estate attorney, the Village Attorney of Huntington Bay, and formerly an alternate member of the Zoning Board before she was appointed Vice Chair. Ms. Manin Amendola’s appointment adds a breadth of relevant experience and diversity to the leadership of the Planning Board,” Lupinacci said in an emailed statement.

Cergol said the decision to replace the leadership of the planning board was “driven by politics.”

“Once again I was asked to vote on two positions driven by politics and not people and job performance,” Cergol said in an emailed statement.

The two Democrats had scrapped with Lupinacci at the Dec. 18 board meeting when he first appointed Amendola to the planning board; Cuthbertson had complained about “a lack of transparency” and called the appointment “textbook Republican politics.” He and Cergol abstained from the vote to appoint Amendola to the planning board.

The planning board chair and vice chair terms run through Dec. 31, 2019.

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