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Brookhaven highway chief to resign; supervisor returning

Ed Romaine, now the supervisor of Brookhaven Town,

Ed Romaine, now the supervisor of Brookhaven Town, speaks during a meeting of the Suffolk Legislature in Hauppauge. (May 3, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, amid mounting public criticism for being on vacation during the recent devastating snowstorm, is to fly back from Jamaica Wednesday.

Romaine, who town officials said was originally scheduled to return from the Caribbean Thursday night, will instead hold a news conference that day.

Meanwhile, highway department acting superintendent Michael Murphy, who missed four days of work beginning Friday, the day the storm struck, because of what town officials said was a toothache, is expected to step down Wednesday, according to Republican Town Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico.

Murphy returned to work Tuesday after also being criticized. Panico said he spoke to Murphy and "he accepts responsibility and will be resigning." Neither Romaine nor Murphy returned calls for comment Tuesday.

Romaine said Monday he had not been on vacation in two years and would not have left last Wednesday had he known the severity of the coming storm. Predictions that day called for up to 12 inches of snow. His return did not impress some town officials.

"There's very little left to be done," said Brookhaven Democratic Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, who criticized Romaine, a Republican, for not leading during the blizzard. "He's a day late and a dollar short."

Romaine said Monday he has no authority over the highway department, which has its own elected superintendent and struggled to clear as much as 30 inches of snow from town roads.

"But the buck still stops with him," Laura Geraci of Sayville said.

She drove her son to the Ronkonkoma train station Monday night, she said, and was horrified at the condition of Railroad Avenue, on the Brookhaven side of the station.

"I know they have interim people in there" at Town Hall, Geraci said of Romaine's absence. "But if the boss isn't there, the company should still be able to run."

The situation "showed there was a lack of leadership somewhere," Brookhaven Councilwoman Kathy Walsh said.

Walsh, who recently switched party affiliation from Republican to Independence and is running on the Democratic line for highway superintendent in a March special election, declined to comment on Romaine's absence.

"I would have canceled my plans, but I don't want to get into the blame game," she said.

Several Brookhaven residents expressed frustration over the absences of Romaine and Murphy.

"I want a change in town government and leadership, someone who can actually do the job -- and I voted for Ed Romaine and was happy to see him get in there," Farmingville resident Andrew Verdile said about Romaine's November election win.

Verdile, 40, created a "Recall Ed Romaine & Fire Dan Panico" Facebook page, referring to the supervisor and his deputy. The site had 224 "friends" as of Tuesday night.

Mark Luterek of Stony Brook said his street, Hargrove Drive, was finally plowed Tuesday. "All the bosses are vacationing in the Caribbean and us poor people are stuck here," he said.

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