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Smithtown supervisor challenger cites need for change in town

John Zollo, left, a former Smithtown town attorney,

John Zollo, left, a former Smithtown town attorney, is the likely Republican primary challenger to Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio, right, who is running for re-election. Photo Credit: Newsday

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio didn’t attend a town GOP screening with other party hopefuls last week, but likely primary challenger John Zollo’s feud with him continued nonetheless.

Zollo — a former town attorney who was fired after backing Republican town board member Robert Creighton in a 2013 primary — attended the Thursday night event at the Elks Lodge on Edgewood Avenue where he again questioned Vecchio’s stamina and commitment to redeveloping hamlet downtowns.

“He doesn’t have a view of expanding the town,” Zollo said of Vecchio, who is 86 and has been in office for 36 years. “He’s not going to change.”

Zollo compared the town Republican party to an “abused spouse” for continually electing Vecchio despite what Zollo said was a history of broken campaign promises.

But some in the crowd questioned what they said was Zollo’s inexperience in elected office and a 2014 ethics violation for improperly appearing before the zoning board shortly after he left office that year.

“How dare you get up here and talk for 20 minutes about what you’re going to do for the town when you’re not fit and ethically challenged,” said Conrad Chayes, the town planning board chairman and a friend of Vecchio’s who is working on his campaign. Zollo said the violation was politically motivated.

Vecchio, who told McCarthy and others ahead of time that a prior engagement prevented him from attending the screening, declined to comment on Zollo’s remarks. McCarthy, an ally of the supervisor’s, said Vecchio was “as sharp today as when I arrived here 20 years ago.”

Also speaking at Thursday night’s screening were town board incumbents Tom McCarthy and Lynne Nowick, who said they hope to keep their seats, and challengers Robert Doyle, Tom Lohmann and Kevin Malloy. Doyle is a former Suffolk homicide detective who made an abbreviated bid to run as Republican candidate for Suffolk County executive two years ago. Lohmann is a former NYPD detective and Suffolk County district attorney investigator. Malloy, a former councilman, lost a re-election bid in 2014.

The incumbents touted their experience and community roots while the challengers spoke about the need for capital improvements including sewers.

But it was McCarthy’s comment on Suffolk County police coverage that drew the most notice. “We’re better off breaking the charter and going back to the Smithtown Police Department,” he said.

He said in an interview later that the comment was “facetious” and intended to highlight the need for more police resources in the town, but Lohmann and Doyle condemned the remark.

“The best thing, and especially now with the threat of MS-13 and the heroin epidemic, is to have the Suffolk County police here,” Doyle said. Suffolk County police did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported Vecchio’s age.

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