Tag Archive | "Andrea Schiavoni"

Wedding Belles

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By Claire Walla

Nearly 75 people dug their toes, or the soles of their dressy shoes, into the sandy shore in the middle of Long Beach last Thursday, August 4. They came from as far away as Florida and from as close by as a beach blanket no more than 30 feet away from the white chuppah, a square-shaped canopy made with four poles and a sheer piece of fabric used in the Jewish tradition to perform a wedding ceremony.

Against a late-day, periwinkle sky pierced by a deep, tangerine-colored sun, Rena Rosenfeld and Marilyn Mercogliano stepped out of their car and faced the crowd. Holding hands, in addition to a leash belonging to their dog Shayna Maydala (which means “pretty girl” in Yiddish), they approached their chuppah.

“After 28 years, there is not much I can tell you that you don’t know already,” Justice Andrea Schiavoni said aloud to the couple, and to the cluster of smiling faces gathered around them. “But I can say that marriage does make a difference. Vows do make a difference. And rings do make a difference.”

Before the couple said I do, they faced one another.

“Marilyn, you have my heart,” Rosenfeld began. “I love you, as the Jews say, 120 years.”

Her spouse, Marilyn, responded with a smile: “I am the luckiest person, because I get to live the dream.”

There was hardly a dry eye on the beach as the two brides kissed. And with that, the first gay marriage was performed by the Sag Harbor Village Justice.

Rosenfeld and Mercogliano never thought they’d be married. Even though the two have been together for 28 years, built a home together in Sag Harbor and have a legally recognized domestic partnership, marriage was never an option.

“We wouldn’t even dream about it,” Mercogliano said in an interview after the ceremony. “We wouldn’t let ourselves. It’s hurtful to think that someone doesn’t think you should have rights.”

Even though gay marriage was legal in five U.S. states, as well as Canada, it remained illegal in New York, even after former Governor David Paterson introduced legislation to legalize same-sex unions in 2009. (It was defeated by the Senate.) Even though, theoretically, the couple could have been wed elsewhere, Rosenfeld noted that she and Mercogliano didn’t even consider going out of state to tie the knot.

“I said to Marilyn, no. Sag Harbor is our home,’” Rosenfeld recalled. If she and her partner were going to wed, they decided, it was going to be here.

Though they said they didn’t expect that day to ever come, much to their surprise it finally did. On the night of Friday, June 24, Rosenfeld and Mercogliano were glued to their television set. After several long, grueling hours of discussions, filled with positive comments and sharp criticisms, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Marriage Equality Act into law. They were overjoyed.

“We’re just so proud of Andrew Cuomo,” Mercogliano exclaimed this week, still noticeably excited by the fact that same-sex marriage is now legal in her home state. “He did such a wonderful thing for us.”

On Mercogliano’s birthday, July 4, as she and Rosenfeld celebrated with Mercogliano’s family at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor, Rosenfeld presented her with a cake — but, it didn’t say “Happy Birthday.” Instead, Rosenfeld had written: “It’s Time to Get Married.”

“We thought we’d do it quietly,” Mercogliano began. While the couple certainly didn’t overlook the importance of confirming their commitment to one another, this legal union had much broader implications not only for them, but for the gay community as a whole. With marriage came over 1,000 rights that had not been in the realm of possibilities before, including hospital visitation rights and inheritance rights, among others. (The couple said that especially as they begin to age — both women are in their 60s — these issues have become more pronounced.)

Initially, they figured they’d go to town hall for a basic service.

“But then we told our friends, and they said, you can’t do that! I want to be there,” Mercogliano recalled with a grin. “For our community, this is a very big deal.”

It’s proven to be significant for the larger Sag Harbor community, as well. Mercogliano said the couple’s mail girl “was jumping out of her skin!” with excitement when she found out the two were getting married. And their fed-ex man was equally enthused: “He said ‘Mazel Tov’ and he kissed me!” Rosenfeld grinned. She added that she even got free bagels from Bagel Buoy when an employee heard the good news. “It’s an awesome community here,” Rosenfeld continued. “We’re very lucky.”

They planned their wedding in just two weeks’ time, and ended up with what both women have called the wedding of their dreams.

Rosenfeld said their wedding ceremony has been a big step for the gay community as a whole. As they were the first couple in their group of friends to get married on the East End, she said their wedding has already empowered some of their friends to take steps toward marriage. (She added that some of them are already planning to request Justice Schiavoni.) “I think we gave them a bit of the impetus to go out and do it.”

Unopposed Incumbents Keep Their Seats, As Sag Harbor Elects its First Village Justice in Decades

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East Hampton Town Supervisor candidate for the Independence and Democratic Parties, Zachary Cohen, talks with Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, Trustee Bruce Stafford and Sag Harbor Justice Andrea Schiavoni shortly before Gilbride and Schiavoni were re-elected to their positions in an uncontested village election Tuesday night.

It may have been an uncontested election Tuesday night in the Village of Sag Harbor, but what residents may not have realized while casting their ballots was it was also a historic vote.


Andrea Harum Schiavoni became the first elected Justice for the Village of Sag Harbor since the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees debuted the village’s own justice court last December. Schiavoni, who was appointed as the village justice by Mayor Brian Gilbride last fall, is the first Sag Harbor justice elected in the village in decades.

Schiavoni earned 58 votes in Tuesday’s election. Including four absentee ballots, a total of 63 votes was cast in uncontested race for village justice, as well as village mayor and for two trustee seats.

Prior to the polls closing at the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department on Brick Kiln Road, Schiavoni – who also serves as a Southampton Town Justice and practices out of the Sag Harbor branch of her deceased father’s firm, Harum & Harum – was reluctant to even discuss possible victory, despite a lack of contenders for her position.

“I have never been unopposed before, so let’s just see,” she said. “I won’t quite believe it until it happens.”

After the votes we tallied, she admitted she is simply pleased to continue to be a part of the court, and its development, as it moves out of its infancy.

“It has been working so well, I am just so happy to be able to continue what we have started here, to make sure we get to the point where it moves like clockwork,” said Schiavoni.

Six months after the creation of the court, Schiavoni said she is prepping for the busiest time of the year, but that opening the court in December was done intentionally, so everyone could get their feet wet before the summer season, which naturally comes with more court cases.

“The more we do it, the easier it flows,” she said.

Schiavoni was not alone on the Sag Harbor Party banner, of course. Mayor Brian Gilbride, Deputy Mayor Tim Culver and Trustee Ed Gregory easily retained their seats on the board.

Gregory received the most votes, earning 59 in his favor. Gregory was followed by Gilbride who earned 55 votes and Culver, who nabbed 55.

“It was what I expected,” said Gilbride after the results were announced. “I never expected to get all 63 votes and I shouldn’t. I remember in the 1970s, (former Southampton Town Supervisor) Marty Lang said, ‘In this job, you make enemies and you lose friends.’ When all is said and done, I work for the village and I am happy to do it.”

Three Will Run Uncontested in Sag Harbor

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Barring an aggressive write-in campaign, mayor Brian Gilbride, deputy mayor Tim Culver and trustee Ed Gregory will continue to serve on the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees after village elections on June 21, as no one handed in petitions to run against the incumbents by the May 17 deadline.

Sag Harbor Village Justice Andrea Schiavoni and acting justice Lisa Rana will also continue their positions in the newly created village justice court with no one vying to unseat the justices, who were appointed last year after the court was created.

The full slate of incumbents announced earlier this year that they would run together under the Sag Harbor Party banner, which has dominated village government throughout several administrations.

“I would have been happy to defend what we have done in the last two years,” said mayor Gilbride on Wednesday morning. “I think no one running against us shows that maybe we have made a lot of right decisions for the village over the last couple years.”

Mayor Gilbride praised trustee Gregory and said that as a member of the board with over 20 years of service behind him, the trustee brings a lot to the table in terms of institutional knowledge. He added that Culver, an attorney who worked with several members of the business community during the re-write of the village zoning code, has also been an asset for the board of trustees and someone he looks forward to working with for the next two years.

“I think this also points to the fact that we made an excellent choice for our appointed village justice in Andrea Schiavoni as well as our associate justice Lisa Rana,” he added. “The village justice court is working out well for everyone.”

Mayor Gilbride said he is looking forward to beginning to tackle stormwater runoff pollution at Havens Beach this year, as well as erosion on West Water Street after several storms last winter ate away most of the embankment next to West Water Street and threatened the roadway.

The village’s planning consultant Richard Warren has been working with engineers to develop a plan for dealing with the West Water Street erosion, said mayor Gilbride, and he hopes to have plans finalized before the fall.

While the Suffolk County Legislature is waffling over whether to give Long Wharf — technically a county road — to the village after months of saying the village needed to take ownership and financial responsibility for the wharf, mayor Gilbride said he would like to see that issue settled “one way or the other” in the next month.

“We have a few things moving along, but otherwise it will continue to be business as usual for us,” he said. “We will just keep plugging along, providing services, but trying to hold the line on expenses.”

Crimes And Misdemeanors: Justice Court Has Its Debut

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The second-floor conference room of the Sag Harbor Municipal Building is typically used as a gathering space where governmental issues are discussed and public comments invited. But on Tuesday, it was no ordinary village board meeting. Attendees were scanned by a metal detector and told to leave their cell phones in their cars. Three policemen and a collection of men in suits stood by an empty table in the middle of the room.

“All rise,” the bailiff said.

Everyone stood as Justice Andrea Schiavoni entered the room.

“Welcome to Sag Harbor Justice Court,” she said with a smile.

Tuesday, December 14 was the first session of the justice court under Schiavoni, who was appointed by Southampton Town in September. She will serve as the court’s sole judge until village elections in June, at which point she will have to be formally voted into office if she wants to stay in the position.

The docket on Tuesday included 11 cases ranging from traffic violations and a civil dispute to one felony case. Though felonies are always tried at the county level, Schiavoni said all defendants will be arraigned in Sag Harbor within 24 hours, including those issued felony charges. Schiavoni will be on-call at all times for arraignments.

Felony cases will also be heard at the village level until the charges are either brought before a grand jury and the defendant is indicted (at which point the case will move on to the county level), or the Assistant District Attorney (A.D.A.) decides to “knock it down” and prosecute for a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony.

In the case of Joseph S. Hoeler, who was charged with burglary in the second degree on December 13, a felony, his hearing has been rescheduled for a later date at the village justice court. Hoeler was unable to attend his hearing Tuesday and because he has not yet been indicted by a grand jury he will return to the Sag Harbor court in January.

As this was the first day of court, composed entirely of conferences rather than trials, only four cases were disposed — all traffic violations — and three defendants were no-shows. In the future, as more cases are ready to go to trial, Schiavoni said she will hold conferences in the morning and trials in the afternoon. The court day begins at 9 a.m.

All civil cases initially stemming from Sag Harbor with claims less than $3,000 will be heard at the justice court. Tuesday’s only civil case was a landlord/tenant dispute, which Schiavoni mentioned she could try that afternoon, as her schedule was clear. However, as some of the parties involved are not local, the attorneys instead asked to bring the case before the judge at the next justice court date, December 28.

Sag Harbor Justice Court will meet two days each month and the schedule is based on an estimate generated from the number of arrests recorded last year. According to clerk Leslie Murray, the number of cases in January 2009 was 162. As Schiavoni currently sees over 100 cases in a given day at Southampton Town, She noted this number is quite manageable.

Schiavoni added that the Sag Harbor Justice Court will operate the same way all justice courts in Suffolk County do. At least one A.D.A. and one legal aid attorney will be on hand for any defendants without private representation.

There is also an interpreter available for Spanish-speaking defendants. Schiavoni called on the interpreter on Tuesday when she wanted to make certain the defendant knew exactly what he was pleading guilty to (a traffic fine).

As a judge in a small town, Schiavoni said she tries to keep a low profile as it is, so she doesn’t foresee encountering too many conflicts of interest.

However, she added, “I disclose everything [at the beginning].”

During Tuesday’s civil case conference she told the court, for the record, that she knew of the defendant, but did not socialize or have any business negotiations with her, which was acceptable to all parties.

“It’s not enough to be impartial, you have to be beyond the appearance of impartiality,” she said. “If someone thinks you are not impartial, then they’ll think justice is not being served.”

Southampton Town Swears in a Pair of Ladies

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On Friday, between light snowfall at Southampton Town Hall Supervisor Linda Kabot honored two democratic women as they took their oaths of office. Andrea Schiavoni, a North Haven resident, and Sally Pope from Remsenburg were sworn in as town justice and town councilwoman, respectively.
“Andrea and Sally really know how to pack a house,” Supervisor Kabot said to the brimming meeting room of over 70 guests.
Firstly, the supervisor acknowledged Schiavoni for her hard work and dedication along the campaign trail as she competed for the fourth seat on the town justice.
“Schiavoni’s professional skills as an attorney, mediator and arbitrator will aid her seamless transition into the role of Town Justice,” the supervisor said.
Schiavoni worked in Miami and represented more than 1,000 clients. In 1997, she took over her father’s business when he passed away, and became president of the firm, then renamed, Harum & Harum.
“I always hoped I would follow in my father’s footsteps,” she said on Friday holding back tears.
In 2001, Schiavoni changed the focus of that business to mediation and moved back to Sag Harbor, a place where she spent many summers as a child.

During the 2008 campaign trail, Schiavoni won the endorsements of the Working Families Party, the Independence Party and the Conservative Party. Republican Incumbent Tomas Demayo later challenged her to a primary election where he was able to win back his Conservative Party endorsement, which in the end, did not help him to maintain his seat.
On Friday, Schiavoni thanked her friends, family and colleagues alongside her husband and campaign manager, Tom Schiavoni and two children and said she will take all the “blessings she has been given with her to the bench.”
“We appreciate her gift of service to our judicial system and the people of Southampton Town,” Supervisor Kabot said.
“We also thank Sally Pope for her desire to make a difference on the local political landscape and contribute to the town’s governance,” Kabot said as she acknowledged Pope for her civic interests and executive experience with not for profit organizations.
Pope worked as a corporate attorney on Wall Street and in the publishing business. Later, Pope started her own private practice as an attorney and mediator. Pope mediated controversies for a wide variety of people, including school board members and teachers, governmental employees, workplace teams, business owners, families with estate problems, parents and children, divorcing couples and arguing neighbors.
“She’s also a mother and a grandmother – and wow – look at all the woman in public service these days,” Kabot said. With the addition of Pope there is now four women on the five seat town board.
After acknowledging Pope for her successes in her career, Kabot asked Schiavoni to perform her first duty as a town justice and swear-in the new town councilwoman. After taking her oath, Pope thanked friends, family and colleagues and said to her audience, “By simply electing me, my job is not done, I have a job to do and I hope you can help me do it.”
Pope also announced that she will be looking at producing round table meetings among members of the community.“We will publicize open doors and round tables and that’s the start we are looking forward to.”
Kabot welcomed Pope and joked that the town could use “lots of mediation and conflict resolution.”
Pope narrowly defeated republican incumbent Dan Russo by 832 votes in the 2008 election. Russo was appointed to the seat left vacant by Kabot when she was appointed town supervisor.
“As we look to Andrea Schiavoni and Sally Pope today,” said Supervisor Kabot, “we acknowledge their own commitment to the public’s welfare and the betterment of our community.”

Southampton Town races confirmed

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The results are in, and it’s now official — Sally Pope and Andrea Schiavoni, Democrats both — have won their seats as Southampton Town councilperson and town justice, respectively.

A mandatory machine recount was ordered after election night results left Pope in the lead over Republican incumbent Dan Russo by just 740 votes. Late Friday afternoon, the official results of that recount — which gave Pope an 832 vote margin — were sent to new Southampton Town board member, Sally Pope. Pope said Russo’s lawyer decided not to challenge the results and Pope was declared the winner.

After Election Day, the two candidates also had to await results from town absentee ballots. The official numbers came in on Friday — 12,582 votes for Remsenburg resident Pope and 11,750 for Russo, who resides in East Quogue. Pope earned 11,025 votes from registered Democrats and 1,009 from Independence party voters while Russo had 10,269 votes from Republicans and 1,481 from registered Conservatives. Another 548 votes came in for Pope from The Working Families Party, who endorsed her.

Russo was appointed to the town board earlier this year and replaced the seat vacated by councilwoman Linda Kabot when she was elected supervisor.

Now that she has won, Pope said she is looking forward to the experience of being part of the Southampton Town Board.

“As one of my first tasks, I want to look at how we perform and how we manage with scarcer resources,” Pope said.

As her first duty as an elected official, Pope said she will attend a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new store in Hampton Bays this Saturday, called Geek Hampton.

January 5 will be the first organizational meeting for Pope who says she is busy collecting information for that date.

Schiavoni, a Sag Harbor resident, ran against Westhampton incumbent Republican Tom DeMayo for the town justice position. Earlier this fall, DeMayo challenged Schiavoni to primary races for the Working Families, Independence and Conservative parties endorsement. DeMayo won the Conservative party line, which had previously been given to Schiavoni while Schiavoni took the other two endorsements.

By last Friday, with all the absentee votes counted, Schiavoni led DeMayo by 3,257 votes totaling 13,974 to DeMayo’s 10,717. Of those votes for Schiavoni, 11,733 came from registered Democrats, 1,462 came from Independence voters and 599 from the Working Families party. DeMayo gained 9,392 votes from registered Republicans and 1,325 from Conservative Party voters.

Schiavoni will take her seat on January 1.


Thiele Stands Alone; Russo, Pope Debate Finances At Debate

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. stood alone at the podium at a League of Women Voter’s sponsored debate in Bridgehampton on Thursday, October 23.

“If I put up a wild card and start debating myself, stop me,” he joked to the crowd of roughly 40 people.

Thiele’s dilemma was that his opponent W. Michael Pitcher did not attend the debate, to the surprise of league members and Southampton Press executive editor and debate moderator Joseph Shaw. According to published reports, Pitcher was detained at a family emergency and planned on attending a second debate at the Hampton Bays Senior Center on Thursday, October 30 at 7 p.m.

Despite Pitcher’s absence, Thiele was given an opportunity to address the audience and field a handful of questions by league members.

Thiele, a Sag Harbor native, has served on the New York State Assembly for 15 years. He is running on the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Working Families line in his bid to keep that seat following Election Day next Tuesday.

Pitcher is the Democratic challenger, a former reporter and newspaper editor on the East End and now legislative aide to Suffolk County Presiding Officer William J. Lindsay.

On Thursday night, Thiele said the State of New York was looking down the barrel of “one of the most serious financial crisises since the Great Depression” – a national crisis he said will hit New York particularly hard due to our reliance on Wall Street revenues. Governor David Paterson, a Democrat who was praised by Thiele, has already said the state is looking at a budget deficit as much as $2 billion as a result.

“And what that means is we are going to have to spend less, tax less and we are going to have to borrow less,” said Thiele.

One issue that is front and center for Thiele, especially in light of the hard financial times to come, is his quest to reduce real property taxes for New Yorkers.

“We need to reduce our reliance on the property tax to fund education,” said Thiele. “People should not have to decide between a college education for their children and whether or not they can keep their homes because of property taxes. New York needs to be fair and more equitable in how we fund education.”

“I can’t control OPEC, I can’t control international politics, but when I notice that gasoline out here is 20 cents higher I do want to do something about that,” said Thiele, referring to the recent legislation he spearheaded that outlawed zone pricing of gasoline in the state.

Thiele also touched on recent revisions to the Community Preservation Fund, a two percent real estate transfer tax that allows for the purchase and preservation of open space, farmland, recreational space and historic buildings, as well as his work to ensure the Southampton College campus remains a viable center for higher learning. This year, Thiele said he helped to secure funding for a new marine science center at the university, which is now a part of the State University of New York system.

Thiele said he would also continue to strive for mass transit on the East End.

Southampton Town Council Debate

While the Thiele-Pitcher debate may have proved anticlimactic, the debate between current Southampton Town Councilman Dan Russo, and Democratic challenger Sally Pope proved more eventful, with the two sparring primarily over fiscal issues.

Russo, the Republican incumbent, was appointed last winter to finish the council term of newly elected Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot. He and Pope, the Democratic challenger, are vying for the last year of that term.

A Remsenburg attorney, Pope opened the debate stating Republican rule in Southampton has left a municipality in both a financial and environmental crisis. In her opening statement, Pope called for control over development in the town, and said workforce housing, a Noyac community center, implementing the Sag Harbor Gateway Study and ensuring the protection of historic buildings in Bridgehampton should be priorities in the town.

Russo, also an attorney who hails from East Quogue, countered that had Pope attended town board meetings regularly, she would not see a Republican-dominated town board. Curbing development, he said, is being addressed in a multitude of ways, including through moratoriums the board has enacted in Hampton Bays, East Quogue and on County Road 39 in Southampton.

The Southampton Town Board passed a green energy building code this year – a code that mandates environmental initiatives in new building projects or large renovations. While Pope said she supported the green energy codes, she criticized the board for going back and making revisions to the code that pushed back the dates of compliance and reduced requirements for the biggest homes in the town.

 “We scaled it back for certain sized homes, but in the spring we hope to bring them back,” said Russo, noting the town’s adoption of the green building codes and creation of a green advisory committee are both initiatives the board is proud to have accomplished in the last year.   

The Sag Harbor Gateway Study is a town planning department study that recommends re-zoning over half a dozen parcels on the Sag Harbor Turnpike from highway business to hamlet office, which would mandate less intensive businesses for new developments in the area.

Russo said he was “looking forward to enacting the zoning changes” and was “ready, willing and able to enact those codes.”

“The residents of Sag Harbor do not want it to become another County Road 39,” explained Pope to the crowd. “I know the residents of Sag Harbor do want this enacted … to really make sure Sag Harbor has the kind of entrance it deserves rather than a commercial strip leading into town.”

The $82.5 million dollar proposed budget presented by Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot will result in a five percent tax increase. The town is prevented, by law, to raise taxes more than five percent.

Russo said he supports a hiring freeze and said there are cuts that still need to be made to the spending plan. He added he has asked department heads to cut their budgets by 15 percent.

“This is the single most important issue the town board is going to face,” he said.

Pope said she believed it was the town’s one-party Republican rule that has resulted in financial mismanagement, specifically in the police and waste management departments.

Town Justice Race

Prior to the town board candidates squaring off incumbent Southampton Town Justice Tom DeMayo and challenger Andrea Schiavoni were invited to give five-minute presentations on why voters should select them for office next Tuesday.

DeMayo, who lives in Westhampton, opened by detailing his decades of experience in law and on the bench, which included time as a Suffolk County District Attorney assigned specifically to the East End courts.

“I am the only judicial candidate in this race who has been certified by the Suffolk County Bar Association as qualified to serve as justice for the Town of Southampton,” said DeMayo, adding he has been told that the justice court in Southampton is currently one of the busiest in the state, earning $2.3 million. 

DeMayo said he also wanted to clear up some “misstatements that have been made throughout the campaign.”

He said the addition of the fourth justice was made possible by the town board after Assemblyman Thiele passed legislation making it possible, and was not a decision made by the justices themselves.

DeMayo said while Schiavoni would like to see the hours of justice court extended, he was able to bring night court to the town on Wednesdays, although night court only looks at town code violations currently.

DeMayo also criticized Schiavoni’s experience.

“We deal with every day problems,” he said. “I am the candidate uniquely qualified to serve and I will stand by my reputation.”

Schiavoni, a Sag Harbor resident, has a career that spans 19 years in law, where she practiced civil litigation against large corporations carrying what she admitted was a hefty caseload.

“That brings someone up to speed in terms of court procedure,” she said, adding she learned to be a great litigator “from judges who demanded I be a great litigator.”

Currently working as a private mediator, she said she is honored to have varied legal experience.

“I believe justice can be served if all involved are committed to protecting it,” said Schiavoni.

Schiavoni said she would like to see hours expanded at justice court and night court made into a revenue producing entity. She would also like to make use of satellite courts, see justices work longer hours, implement an e-filing system and make use of video arraignments.

“Most importantly we need to being transparency to the administration of town court,” said Schiavoni. 

Top photo: Southampton Town Council candidates, Democrat Sally Pope and Republican incumbent Dan Russo, prepare for battle before last Thursday night’s League of Women Voters sponsored debate in Bridgehampton.

Middle photo: Incumbent New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. addresses the crowd of roughly 40 people on issues like the financial crisis, the use of Community Preservation Funds and mass transit on the East End.               photos by k. menu