In a move questioned by some Brookhaven civic and political leaders, Deputy Supervisor Kathleen Walsh intends to hire as an aide the son of former Suffolk County Republican chairman and felon John Powell.
Anthony Powell, 25, of Medford, will likely be hired Monday to a position that pays $45,000 to $50,000 per year, Walsh said. His father, the former town and county GOP chairman, served two years in federal prison after being convicted of taking bribes.
Walsh said the younger Powell shouldn't "have to carry other people's issues" and "his application was assessed based on his communication skills."
But Richard Johannesen, Brookhaven's Conservative Party chairman, said he thinks the appointment is a patronage move by Walsh designed to appease the local Republican party. Walsh has voted with the Democrats since her appointment as deputy supervisor by Democratic Supervisor Mark Lesko, giving the Democrats a 4-2 advantage on the town council.
Walsh thinks she can "be forgiven for turning the town over to the Democrats by hiring the scion of the Republican Party power," Johannesen said.
Attempts to reach Anthony Powell were not successful. John Powell declined to comment. Brookhaven Republican chairman Jesse Garcia said "any disparaging remarks" about Anthony Powell are "just distasteful."
Lesko, who has been critical of the town's "Crookhaven" past as exemplified by John Powell, said he has a "hands-off approach when it comes to the council staff," but added that Anthony Powell "certainly won't have any role in the supervisor's office."
His father, John, vaulted from a job on a Brookhaven highway department payloader to an upset Assembly win and later became a Brookhaven Town Board member. He then rose to be town and county GOP chairman, helping launch George Pataki's successful bid for governor.
John Powell resigned after he was indicted on charges of taking bribes and being involved in an illegal truck chop shop. Powell now owns a paving company. Over the years, he has been allied with Walsh's husband William, a CSEA union official with whom Powell once worked in the highway department.
MaryAnn Johnston, president of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Association, said the younger Powell "should have a right to be judged on his own merits" but "public impressions and perceptions do matter, and I wish they paid attention to that."
The hiring of Powell's son is the latest of a long line of Powell family appointments. John Powell's brother George, who owned the trucking business that led to Powell's federal conviction, works at the Suffolk County Water Authority. His cousin Betty Manzella works for the Suffolk Board of Elections.