Tag Archive | "Ben Zwirn"

GOP Sweeps East Hampton Race

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Republican, Conservative and Independence candidate Bill Wilkinson handily defeated Democratic and Working Families Party candidate Ben Zwirn Tuesday night in a GOP sweep of East Hampton’s town board race.

According to unofficial results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Wilkinson earned 67 percent of the votes cast in East Hampton, with 4,587. Zwirn captured just 2,286 votes, or 33 percent of the vote, giving Wilkinson a clear mandate of support with a 2-to-1 margin of victory.

In the supervisor’s race alone, 6,873 ballots were cast of 15,894 registered voters. That represents the highest percentage of ballots in any of the town races, with 43 percent of East Hampton residents turning out to have their voices heard in the supervisor’s contest.

In Sag Harbor, voters preferred Democratic challenger Zwirn, although by a small margin. Zwirn captured 165 votes in Sag Harbor’s lone East Hampton voting district to Wilkinson’s 144.

It was just before 10 p.m. that Zwirn conceded to Wilkinson, with just two election districts in the town reporting results at that time. By that point, Wilkinson already held a 2-to-1 lead over Zwirn.

After his concession, Zwirn stopped by Republican headquarters at Indian Wells Tavern in Amagansett to shake Wilkinson’s hand in congratulations.

Republicans were also victorious in the race for town council. Similar to the supervisor’s contest, no candidate in the town council race was an incumbent with current board member Pat Mansir choosing not to run for re-election and board member Brad Loewen failing to get support from the Democratic Party to seek another term.

Wilkinson’s running mates, Theresa Quigley and Dominick Stanzione bested Democratic opponents John Whelan and Patti Leber, with Quigley earning the most votes – 4,057 or 31 percent of the vote. Stanzione followed with 3,590 or 28 percent of the vote to earn a seat on the town board, with Whelan earning just 2,834 or 22 percent of the vote and Leber garnering 19 percent of the vote with 2,481.

Similar to the supervisor race, voters on the East Hampton side of Sag Harbor preferred the Democratic candidates to the Republican victors. Whelan scored the most votes in Sag Harbor with 179, followed by Leber who earned 149. Quigley gathered 137 votes out of the district with Stanzione earning 121.

Results for Prudence Carabine, a candidate who pursued a vigorous write-in campaign for town board, will be unavailable until the Suffolk County Board of Elections certifies its results.

“I was hopeful we would be successful because we ran, I thought, such an above the board campaign and in no way responded to what I thought was an unattractive campaign ran by our opponents,” said Wilkinson on Wednesday morning. “This is an outstanding endorsement from the residents of our town.”

Wilkinson said his first plans include setting up a transition team. The Republicans will walk onto the town board in January with an instant majority, which Wilkinson said was a priority moving through the election season.

With a deficit he predicts will reach as high as $28 million by the close of the fiscal year, a supervisor that has resigned under the cloud of fiscal mismanagement and a budget process seemingly stalled by disagreements within the current town board, Wilkinson said the priority will be to hit the ground running with a plan on how to deal specifically with the growing deficit. He said he plans to tap people like Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and state assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and state senator Kenneth P. LaValle, to aid in the transition and offer the new team guidance moving forward.

“They are the two who will have to shepherd any potentially new deficit financing plan coming out the state,” said Wilkinson of Thiele and LaValle. The state has already provided the town with $15 million in deficit financing, but Wilkinson predicts much more will be needed to get through the town’s fiscal crisis and added going back to the state a third time will be out of the question, so it is tantamount the new board gets a handle on how deep this deficit will ultimately run.

“If we can get the deficit financing straight, we can then start working on the things necessary to support the kind of payments we will need to make on such a loan,” said Wilkinson.

On his first day in office, Wilkinson said his first priority will be to meet with department heads in order to fully assess the town’s needs.

Republican’s also swept the town trustee race with John Gosman, Jr. – who was endorsed by both parties – earning the most votes at 5,386. Stephanie Talmage, Timothy Bock, Kayla Talmage, Diane McNally, William Mott, Edward Norman, Jr., Joseph Bloecker and Lynn Mendelman were also elected to trustee seats.

Closer races were waged between superintendent of highway candidates and in the town justice race. Democrat Scott King squeaked out a victory against Republican Tom Talmage earning 53 percent of the vote to keep his job as highway superintendent. Democrat Catherine Cahill also kept her seat as a town justice, besting Republican Andy Hammer by also earning just 53 percent of the vote.

Town clerk Fred Overton, who was running unopposed, was also re-elected to his post as was town assessor Eugene De Pasquale.

LWV Debate: East Hampton Supervisor Candidates Focus on Finance

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Which supervisor candidate in the Town of East Hampton is best equipped to handle the town’s financial crisis was at the root of a majority of the questions posed during a League of Women Voters-sponsored debate between the town supervisor candidates on Thursday night at the East Hampton Firehouse and Emergency Services Building.

Republican and Independence Party candidate Bill Wilkinson opened the forum by noting he predicted the financial mismanagement of the town during a failed supervisor race against Bill McGintee in 2007.

Two weeks ago, McGintee resigned from his post as supervisor of the town. The resignation came amid criticisms from the state comptroller about the financial health of East Hampton, a multi-million budget deficit and in the wake of the arrest of budget officer Ted Hults who faces felony charges related to the financial mismanagement of the town.

“For three years I have spoken about the corrective actions necessary,” said Wilkinson. He said during the same period, Democrats were looking to their party leadership for answers – answers they did not receive. While noting Ben Zwirn, the Democratic and Working Families candidate for town supervisor, had nothing to do with the financial crisis, Wilkinson added he also did not take his party to task for the situation.

“Instead the East Hampton Democratic committee and my opponent stood silent,” he said.

“We have gone through one of the most traumatic periods in this town’s history,” replied Zwirn. “We are rudderless.”

Zwirn said Wilkinson would like residents to believe it was the Democratic Party at fault for the town’s budget crisis.

“It wasn’t a party that caused this problem, it was people,” he said, noting both McGintee and town council member Pat Mansir were once Republicans, and that state Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and county legislator Jay Schneiderman have both left the Republican Party.

“Does that make them anything less,” asked Zwirn. “Of course not.”

“For three years Bill Wilkinson has been going around town pointing fingers,” said Zwirn. “That is not a plan.”

The question on everyone’s mind was asked first by East Hampton Star editor David Rattray, who wondered what the candidate’s budget plans entailed and how they differed.

Wilkinson noted his slate came out with their plan on September 25, waiting late in the race because “we didn’t want to politicize it.”

“We are the only group that has recognized the 800-pound gorilla in the room and that is a $28 million deficit,” said Wilkinson. Wilkinson said his team’s financial plan aims to prevent a one time tax increase by increasing the amount of deficit financing currently provided to the town by the State of New York.

“I am tired of the poor people of East Hampton bearing the burden of financial malfeasance by the town board,” said Wilkinson, adding both Assemblyman Thiele and state senator Ken LaValle have endorsed this plan

Zwirn criticized the Republican’s plan, first noting that a $28 million deficit has yet to be confirmed with the books in 2009 still open.

“That number is not real until it is certified by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli,” said Zwirn, adding whether to bond over a long or short term period to cover the deficit will be contingent on the final figure.

Zwirn said the major difference between the two plans, is while the Republican plan focuses on the deficit, Zwirn believes over-spending is also key.

“If you keep spending more money than you have we will have deficit financing forever,” he said, questioning where the Republicans plan to cut an estimated $10 million in 2011 with costs predicted to rise across the board..

“They don’t tell you what jobs, what programs, will be affected,” said Zwirn.

Zwirn said whoever is elected should take office immediately following the election, and his first order of business would be to go after the town’s independent auditors, Albrecht, Viggiano and Zureck, for half a million dollars for budget software they recommended, and sold, to the town that has never worked.

Continuing to maintain that spending needs to be cut in the town, Zwirn said, “The reason we survived without any problems is because the real estate market was booming.” Now, with a downturn in the housing market nationally, Zwirn said the town has been left with an unsustainable budget.

While Zwirn said he believed educating the public on the benefits of a town-wide reassessment, which would benefit homeowners in Springs and on the Sag Harbor side of East Hampton, he added safety measures, such as a four-percent cap, would need to be put in place to ensure elderly homeowners were not negatively affected.

Wilkinson said after building his own home two years ago, and suffering through reassessment, he views it as a dramatic adjustment and not one to be made with such a large deficit to contend with.

“I think it will cost us $3 million to do an assessment of the Town of East Hampton,” saying the town’s focus should be on reducing the deficit.

The hiring of a professional town manager, similar to a system of government used in East Hampton Village, has been posed at several town board meetings. While Wilkinson said he would wait a few quarters to decide on that issue, he believed it was important enough to ask the town’s comptroller Janet Verneuille to budget in the expense.

“It is a form of government that has worked well in other municipalities,” said Zwirn, who said ultimately he believes such a shift in government should be approved by voters in a referendum.

Wilkinson said referendum rules could be avoided in the job description of a town manager, making the decision one for the town board.

“I think that is a good distinction between you and I,” said Zwirn. “I think it should be [the people’s] choice, not three or four people sitting on a board.”

Dems Pick Zwirn to Face Wilkinson

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On Tuesday night, the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee held its nominating convention for the next November’s town elections, selecting deputy county executive Ben Zwirn to lead their ticket, pitting the deputy county executive against Republican businessman Bill Wilkinson in the race for town supervisor.

Incumbent supervisor Bill McGintee announced in March he would not seek reelection amid revelations of a multi-million dollar town deficit that led to an over 20-percent tax increase town-wide.

The Democratic Committee also selected former Merrill Lynch employee and the vice president of the Montauk School Board Patti Leber and East Hampton architect John Whelan to run for the two board seats currently held by Brad Loewen and Pat Mansir. Mansir had already announced she would not seek another term. According to Democratic Committee Chairman Bill Taylor, the consensus of the committee was it would likely be easier to run a new slate of candidates in the wake of the town’s fiscal crisis rather than run incumbent board members.

Zwirn, 57, has served Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy for the last six years and was a two-term supervisor in the town of North Hempstead. According to Taylor, Zwirn has been a resident of the town since the 1970s when he bought his first home in East Hampton. The biggest battle in getting Zwirn to run for the position, said Taylor, was convincing Levy, who ultimately gave his blessing last week.

“He was the most attractive candidate in our view because he has the most relevant experience to deal with a town like East Hampton,” said Taylor on Wednesday. “He is an attorney, he is a businessman, he has lived here for ages and he has government experience.”

Running on a platform of wanting to steer the town out of fiscal mismanagement, the East Hampton Republican Party decided over a year ago it would run candidate Bill Wilkinson once again for supervisor, after he narrowly lost election to McGintee in 2007 by just over 100 votes.

Wilkinson, a regular town board attendee, is a Montauk resident and businessman. Founder of W.J. Wilkinson and Associates, a consulting firm focused on management and executive search, Wilkinson has worked with a number of large corporations in his career including Disney, ABC Radio Networks and Viacom. He also served as senior vice president of human resources for the Walt Disney Company. Locally, he has served as a member of the Montauk Lions and the Montauk Historical Society.

Running with Wilkinson for town board seats will be East Hampton attorney Theresa Quigley and financial advisor Dominick Stanzione, of Amagansett.