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Islip Town Board seeks to trim supervisor's powers

Four members of the Republican-dominated Islip Town Board

Four members of the Republican-dominated Islip Town Board have moved to strip Town Supervisor Tom Croci of a raft of his powers. (Jan. 2, 2012) Credit: James Carbone

Four members of the Republican-dominated Islip Town Board have moved to strip Town Supervisor Tom Croci of a raft of his powers.

The proposal, which Croci denounced, is backed by the majority of the town board and would transfer, from the supervisor to the town board, control of several key departments, including communications, personnel, labor relations and purchasing.

In a phone interview late Friday, Croci, a first-term Republican, said he was "stunned and disappointed. . . . This appears to be an attempt by a political arm to make puppets out of the honorable people who serve on our board."

Asked if he was referring to Islip Republican Committee chairman Frank Tantone, Croci said the statement speaks for itself. Tantone, who hand-selected Croci to run for supervisor, did not respond to messages seeking comment about the tumult among the board, which consists of four Republicans and one conservative. All but Croci support the measures.

Town board members plan to introduce a pair of resolutions and to set a date for a public hearing on the measures at Tuesday's town board meeting. The resolutions would amend the town code to allow the entire town board to oversee hiring, firing, and contract negotiations, among other responsibilities.

Supervisors serve on the town board but are granted certain "executive powers" in the town code. The proposals would strip Croci of many responsibilities. Similar power moves have occurred in Huntington and Brookhaven.

"It's particularly stunning because they're all the same party," said Michael Dawidziak, a Long Island political consultant. "The first thing that comes to mind is: Is this government or is this politics?"

In a news release announcing the proposals late Friday, board members heralded the changes as a way to better serve Islip residents.

In interviews, board members said they were not dissatisfied with Croci's performance as supervisor and said there is no turmoil among them. None said they had spoken to Croci about the proposal.

Councilman Steven J. Flotteron said he was unsure who broached the idea.

"We all have skin in the game," he said. "I work wonderfully with Tom; he's a gentleman. It's not personal . . . "

In the release, Councilman John Cochrane said the move is for constituents. "We are restoring our Town government to a time when the Board acted more in concert with one another. This is a win-win for residents."

Councilman Anthony Senft, the board's lone conservative, said the move would not strip Croci of power.

"This is merely an attempt to improve accountability in government," he said. "This is not a measure of the supervisor's performance."

Deputy Supervisor Trish Bergin Weichbrodt said the move was a "reorganization of government. It's always better to have 10 eyes than two . . . I can't see him [Croci] being opposed to it -- I really can't."

Croci said he was unsure how he would counteract the measures.

"Every resident of Islip and every person who feels they have a stake in their government should take note at this attempt to usurp the legitimate will of the residents," he said.

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