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Board Disputes Escalate On Organizational Night

Trustees adopt budget; majority votes down mayoral appointments

After residents watched several board of trustees take the oath of office last week, many were stunned to also observe the growing public rift that played out between Mayor Donald Brudie and five members of the Garden City Board of Trustees during the 2012 annual organizational meeting at Village Hall.

The tension surfaced on several issues but the true catalyst was the announcement of the mayor’s annual appointments. Brudie read off the list of trustees appointed to various committees: fire commissioner, John Watras; commissioner of public works, Nicholas Episcopia; commissioner of finance, Andrew Cavanaugh; commissioner of building and planning, Brian Daughney; and chairman of the environmental advisory board, Laurence Quinn.

Subsequently, Trustee Episcopia asked to make a statement explaining why the majority of the board would not be voting to approve the appointments, which is extremely unusual. Epsicopia noted that reviewing the appointments is something that’s traditionally done in conjunction with the people who are being appointed.

“An attempt was made to start a dialogue, to have some sort of discussion about spreading out the positions of chair of the various committees, when last year, this is nothing against that individual, there was one trustee who held every single position,” Episcopia explained.

He further stated that in Garden City’s system of government, there is a rotation of mayors and of various jobs. “If this is not the case, no one is given the opportunity to be able to have it, except in this case now there’s two people. For those reasons I believe there will not be voting, a majority of the board of trustees will not be voting for this,” added Episcopia.

“Last year was last year, this year is this year. These are the mayor’s appointments. This is just a sordid attempt by these five members of this board to take over the village,” Brudie said after a loud gasp from audience members filled the room.

“I told this audience last year in May, there was an attempt to take over this village by the Estates and the East POA. People didn’t believe me; that’s fine and Mr. Quinn has joined them. I don’t know why. They are in lockstep. This is their attempt to run your village,” Brudie said referring to trustees Daughney, Donnelly, DeMaro, Quinn and Epsicopia.

Brudie also appointed the following liaison officers: Board of Commissioners of Cultural & Recreational Affairs, Trustee John DeMaro; Garden City Library Board of Trustees, Trustee Quinn; Planning Commission and Architectural Design Review Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, Board of Education, Trustee Daughney; business community, Trustee Dennis Donnelly; Garden City Historical Society and senior citizen liaison, Deputy Mayor Watras; and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Third Track Committee, Trustee Quinn.

A motion to ratify the mayor’s appointments was voted down 5-2. Trustees Watras and Cavanaugh approved the motion and trustees Episcopia, Donnelly, Quinn, Daughney and DeMaro opposed. Mayor Brudie abstained from the vote.

Trustee Brian Daughney, who represents the Estates noted that none of the major posts were appointed to trustees in the Estates or Eastern section.

“So I would question who is trying to take over the village and I don’t intend on voting for any of these committees,” he said.

It was pointed out by Trustee Donnelly that the majority of the board voted down the appointments. “I think Andrew Cavanaugh is a very capable guy...don’t get me wrong, but to have him to be the head of every committee is I think, ludicrous and I’ll be voting against it.”

Trustee DeMaro pointed out that there are certain issues that the board does not agree on. “If we look at the overall voting of this board, more than 90 percent of the time, we are all in agreement. There are only certain things we disagree agree on. To make the comment that certain people are trying to take over this board, that’s not the case at all,” DeMaro said.

According to Village Clerk Brian Ridgway, the new appointments will be determined in the coming weeks. However, the board did approve the members of the board of ethics: Allen S. Mathers (chairman), Charles P. Menges, Jr. and Maureen E. Clancy.

After the board adopted its 2012-2013 budget, a period of public comment followed. Several residents vocalized their disproval with the infighting.

Resident Jerie Newman commented: “I’ve been coming to these meetings for well over 20 years…and the trustees have always rotated between the different commissions so if they become the mayor, they are fully knowledgeable about all the commissions. This is a really good tradition,” she said.

Newman also asked why Trustee Episcopia was not appointed as a second deputy mayor as he was in the previous year. The mayor responded that the law does not call for or require a second deputy mayor position to be appointed.

Brudie clarified that former mayor Robert Rothschild gave him only one assignment in his last term. “Mr. Episcopia came to me last year and begged me for certain jobs because he didn’t get any from Mayor Rothschild and Mayor Rothschild overlooked him,” he said.

Trustee Episcopia said over the course of the year, there has been a lot of discourse between trustees and other people about what jobs they were going to have.

Episcopia said, “I didn’t beg you for anything... I said I would like to do these things. I have not done these things. I’ve done certain things twice...I’ve said I’d like to do something else. That is all I said.”

“I have your emails,” the mayor retorted.

Rothschild said the village is not going in a good direction, but he stands behind the men on the board who are leading the village.

“You are the lead manager of this village,” Rothschild said to the mayor.

“No one will deny that St. Paul’s is the problem…unfortunately, it has been the problem. And your job for the next year is to manage these gentlemen and put them in positions where they are trained, ready to move around that table and sit in the middle chair. How you do that is that you do assign them to different jobs,” Rothschild added.

Resident Brian Pinnola, former president of the Garden City Historical Society, said Mayor Rothschild’s comments were a little bit idealistic and empathized with Mayor Brudie.

“The reality of it here in the village, unfortunately, was most recently displayed when we tried to get repairs done to St. Paul’s after Hurricane Irene. It took almost six months to perform a very simple repair to one of the village’s most treasured assets.”

Pinnola concurred that understanding the issues is simply a process of arithmetic. “You have eight board members up there…no matter what the mayor does, no matter how much he tries to manage, if he doesn’t have the votes, you can’t get anything done.”