A rift in the Island Park Chamber of Commerce is at the center of a fight for control of the South Shore village's government.
Local attorney Glenn Ingoglia, president of the chamber, has formed his own political party and is running for mayor, an office that will become vacant in March when eight-year Mayor James Ruzicka retires. Ruzicka's Unity Party has controlled village politics for more than 20 years.
Ingoglia said he and his Voice Party slate -- which includes trustee candidates Laura Hassett and Columbia Ciccimarro -- will provide a more responsive government than the current administration, which he said functions like a clubhouse and is beholden to the Nassau County Republican Party.
"We started a party because not everyone's voice was being represented," said Ingoglia, a Democrat.
Ingoglia's candidacy has fostered dissension in the Chamber of Commerce, a 66-year mainstay in the community.
A handful of members and other businesses struck out on their own and created the rival Island Park Business & Residential Chamber, which they said is gathering membership in advance of the March 18 election.
Some of Ingoglia's opponents said they believe he is using the chamber presidency has held since 2010 to promote his campaign.
"He's using the chamber as his jumping stone," said Mark Tannenbaum, a local financial adviser who is also the executive vice president of the nearby Long Beach Chamber of Commerce.
"He's trying to expand his power base to become mayor."
Ingoglia denied the accusations. He said the allegation that he is using the Chamber of Commerce for political purposes stems in part from a May email he accidentally sent in support of the Voice Party while logged into his Chamber of Commerce account. He described the email as "a mistake" and his chamber as "apolitical."
One of Ingoglia's opponents, print shop owner Frank Naudus, unsuccessfully ran against him for chamber president in December. Naudus and his supporters, some of whom are now in the new group, said Ingoglia prevented Naudus' backers from voting in the election, which Ingoglia also denied.
Ingoglia and his slate do not yet have opponents, as the Unity party has yet to pick nominees for the mayor and two trustee positions. Trustees Henry Hastava and Joseph Annarella, who are both Unity party members, are up for re-election. Hastava is retiring, and Annarella has not decided if he will seek re-election, party members said.
Hastava and Annarella both declined to comment. The Unity party will likely choose a slate this month, members said.
Ruzicka, the outgoing mayor, said he hopes the controversy about the chamber subsides.
"It's an important part of what Island Park is," he said.