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Lindenhurst’s longtime clerk-treasurer replaced, causing stir

Shawn Cullinane, Lindenhurst's clerk-treasurer for nearly three decades,

Shawn Cullinane, Lindenhurst's clerk-treasurer for nearly three decades, was replaced during a reorganization meeting earlier this month. Above, Cullinane, who was chair of the village's economic development committee, speaks during a public meeting on June 24, 2015. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The replacement of a longtime clerk-treasurer in Lindenhurst has caused a stir in the village.

At a reorganization meeting earlier this month, it was announced that Shawn Cullinane was resigning from his position after 29 years.

Mayor Mike Lavorata, who took office after former Mayor Tom Brennan stepped down last month due to health reasons, said the decision to replace Cullinane was mutual. In an interview, Cullinane disputed Lavorata’s account.

“He’s been looking for several years to move out of that position,” Lavorata said, noting Cullinane’s unsuccessful runs for local and state office. “It was kind of a mutual discussion. He wasn’t really excited about staying around, he wanted to do something different.”

Lavorata said he’d started thinking about making a change in the position when Brennan began talking about stepping down. “I figured it was probably in the best interest of the village to just kind of change things a little bit,” Lavorata said, adding that Cullinane’s expressed interest in the mayoral seat did not play a role.

“It was not personal, it was all business,” Lavorata said.

Cullinane said that on Feb. 18, he had a conversation with Lavorata about his desire to possibly seek the position of mayor and that Lavorata was noncommittal about his own interest in the role. He said he did not hear from Lavorata again until a week before this month’s reorganization meeting when Lavorata texted him to say he was replacing him. He said he asked for a reason but Lavorata did not provide one.

“There was no mutual decision for me to leave the administration,” Cullinane said. “I wanted to stay; in fact I requested to stay on.”

Cullinane said he had a good working relationship with Lavorata since the mayor first was elected trustee in 2004 and the pair have a friendship that dates back further.

“I’ve known him for 30 years,” Cullinane said. “I helped him when he first wanted to get on the village board. I had the man at my son’s wedding three months ago. The friendship that he all of a sudden decides is of no value — I was stunned.”

The board voted to replace Cullinane with deputy clerk Doug Madlon. Trustee Darrel Kost cast the only “no” vote — one of only a handful of times the board has seen a “no” vote in at least a half-dozen years.

“I saw no reason why Shawn should be replaced,” Kost said. “I can’t think of anyone more familiar with the workings of Lindenhurst than Shawn.”

Some in the community have speculated that outside sources — namely Babylon Town Supervisor and Suffolk Democratic chairman Rich Schaffer — might have been behind the move.

Cullinane — who ran unsuccessfully against Schaffer for Suffolk County legislator in 1989 and for town supervisor in 1995 — recently came into conflict with Schaffer with his run last fall for state Assembly and his work toward a referendum to create council districts in the town.

Lavorata said Schaffer played no role in his decision. Shaffer said Monday that he had “no role whatsoever” in Lavorata’s decision.

Still up in the air is what happens to Cullinane’s role as chairman of the village’s economic development committee. Lavorata said there “definitely may be a role for Mr. Cullinane.” Cullinane said he has yet to hear from Lavorata about future consulting work.

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