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Islip Community Development Agency split on hiring director

Islip Town Community Development Agency board members Timothy

Islip Town Community Development Agency board members Timothy Morris, left, and Jarett Gandolfo during a meeting on Thursday. Credit: Rachelle Blidner

Two Islip Town Community Development Agency board members voted against hiring an executive director, saying they want to interview two other candidates, including the vice chairman of the Islip Town Republican Party who already holds two town jobs.

The board Thursday voted 2-2 on hiring Keith Johnathan, a candidate selected out of nearly 100 applicants, to lead the multimillion-dollar agency that oversees affordable housing and public service programs. With new member Ryan T. Kelly absent, the board postponed a decision until next month’s meeting.

The vote split the board between two incumbent members and two new members who were appointed in a surprise shake-up last month. Incumbents Debra Cavanagh and Manuel Troche supported hiring Johnathan, whom Cavanagh called “the most qualified candidate,” citing that he previously worked for the CDA.

New member Jarett Gandolfo said he and Timothy Morris wanted to interview two candidates who did not originally apply for the job: James H. Bowers and Jonathan Bloom.

Bowers, 78, of West Islip is the vice chairman of the Islip Republican Party and is also a town legislative aide and chairman of the town’s zoning board of appeals. Bloom, 51, of Great River is an attorney and registered Republican.

Gandolfo, 27, of West Islip, said he and Morris did not have a chance to review the 92 job applications before the vote. He said Bowers is “not just a political hack,” citing his job and community experience.

“No decision is made yet. They deserve their interviews,” Gandolfo said.

The CDA is an independent agency that is overseen by a five-member, unpaid board.

The agency’s chief financial officer, Sal Matera, has filled in as interim executive director since previous executive director Alison Karppi left in June 2017 to become the commissioner of housing and human services in Brookhaven Town. She was paid about $103,000 a year, payroll records show.

Bowers said he did not realize the position was open until recently and that, if appointed, he would resign from his position in the town Republican Party and as a legislative aide to town Councilman James O’Connor.

“I think my resume stands for itself,” he said when asked if politics played a role in his application.

Gandolfo is chief of staff to state Assemb. Andrew Garbarino. Garbarino is the son of the chairman of the Islip Town Republican Party, William Garbarino, who is also an assistant Islip Town attorney.

Central Islip residents expressed concern about the vote, noting the importance of the CDA in underserved hamlets and that it has not typically been a politicized agency.

“The communities that need the CDA need a good executive director,” said Nancy Manfredonia, of the Central Islip Civic Council.

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