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Huntington Town Board approves term limits for elected officials

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, seen here on Jan.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, seen here on Jan. 2, 2018, says voters expressed interest in term limits during the 2017 election cycle. Credit: Newsday / Deborah Morris

The Huntington Town Board voted to limit elected officials to three consecutive four-year terms, making it the only town government on Long Island limiting length of service in one job.

Term limits for the town board has been considered several times over the years. At Tuesday night’s board meeting, a resolution to implement the limits passed in a 4-1 vote.

Board member Gene Cook sponsored the resolution that the town supervisor, board members, clerk, receiver of taxes and highway superintendent not serve more than three consecutive four-year terms in the same elective office.

Cook said the legislation should have been implemented long ago.

“I think the town is going to be much better off,” Cook said after the meeting. “It’s the right thing. Elected officials have an upper hand and they can be there forever, so now we sort of evened the field today.”

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, who made implementing term limits a campaign promise, said after the meeting he is proud to lead the way on Long Island as the first town with term limits.

“This shows we’re cutting-edge here in Huntington,” Lupinacci said. “It’s something voters expressed a lot of confidence in and interest this past election cycle, and I’m glad we’re able to institute them in the first month.” Lupinacci took office Jan. 1, replacing former Supervisor Frank Petrone, who retired after 24 years in office.

Town Clerk Jo Ann Raia, elected in November 1981 to a term starting January 1982, opposed including her position and that of the tax receiver in the legislation.

“This is going to bounce back at you again and I can’t wait,” she said after the legislation passed.

“Both of those positions are not policymaking, they are purely administrative,” Raia said after the meeting.

Lupinacci said he believes the law should include the clerk and tax receiver. “I’ve always felt that if you’re instituting term limits at a certain level of government, they should apply to all elected officials,” Lupinacci said.

Questions remain about some details of the resolution, including the definition of a term — such as whether it includes appointments to fill a vacancy — and when the law becomes effective. The law was considered during the previous administration and uses a 2017 date, making the law retroactive. Lupinacci said the new law may be amended.

Joan Cergol, who was appointed to the town board in December, voted against the resolution, citing concerns about including the clerk and tax receiver.

“I didn’t oppose term limits for policy makers, I’m fine with that,” Cergol said. “I do oppose them for the nonpolicy makers, administrators.”

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