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Town Board split on whether to appoint Bebon successor: Resignations become trend

In the wake of five resignations in three weeks from boards and committees, the Town Board was poised to interview candidates and select one who had expressed interest in taking over former Councilman Mike Bebon’s seat, which has two years to run. If the Board appointed a candidate, that person would serve only until Dec. 31, 2021. Then, if that person wanted to fill the remaining two years of Mr. Bebon’s term, he or she would have to stand for election in November of this year.

Mr. Bebon resigned from the Town Board citing a desire to be near his family in South Carolina.

But Tuesday, the four remaining Town Board members split on the replacement process. Supervisor Gerry Siller and Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams favored an appointment; Councilmen Jim Colligan and Albert Dickson preferred operating with only four members until the end of the year when voters can decide who will fill Mr. Bebon’s remaining term.

Mr. Colligan said some in the community have questioned the Town Board’s “credibility,” which is why he thinks making an appointment is unwise and the choice should be up to the voters in November. Vacancies, because of resignations on the Water Advisory Committee and on the Community Housing Board, can be appointed, he said. If the chaos around the Comprehensive Plan continues due to resignations, it can be postponed until there’s a full Town Board in January, the councilman said.

On most issues before the town, the four current members are “in lockstep,” Mr. Colligan added, and can move forward without a fifth member.

Ms. Brach-Williams is seeking re-election. Mr. Dickson announced several weeks ago he would conclude his term at the end of the year and not seek re-election. Mr. Siller is running unopposed for another term in November.

To date, one Democrat, Brett Surerus, and two Republicans, the aforementioned Ms. Brach-Williams, and Meg Larsen, have been nominated by their parties to run for four-year terms. If no one else enters the race and no potential write-in candidate receives enough votes, all announced candidates would be elected in November.

The Suffolk County Board of Elections indicated that names could be added to the ballot 12 weeks prior to the Nov. 2 election.

Five people have indicated an interest in being appointed to join the Town Board now to replace Mr. Bebon. Three were identified last week, and two have not been identified. Those publicly named are:

Bob Kohn, a new member of the Community Housing Board and the person who challenged Mr. Bebon’s leading that board when code prohibits any Town Board member from serving on the it. Mr. Kohn said Mr. Colligan’s comment about the Town Board being “in lockstep” on most issues is exactly why they need a fifth member who could bring a diversity of opinions.

• Ms. Larsen, a member of the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) and the Planning Board.

• Julia Weisenberg, a former Republican candidate for Town Board and a current member of the Deer & Tick Committee.

There was no decision at Tuesday’s work session about how to proceed.

The new normal — getting out the door

The rush to resign posts — five, so far — began with the departure of Edward Hindin as project manager of the Comprehensive Plan group after a June 7 meeting marked by anger and accusations. The Town Board subsequently put the entire Comprehensive Plan effort on hold.

On the heels of Mr. Hindin’s resignation came a letter from Mr. Bebon that he was leaving Shelter Island to be near family members. Both men chose not to comment further.

Kathleen De Rose, who had argued strongly with Mr. Hindin, subsequently resigned from the Comprehensive Plan Committee, issuing a statement that said, “I am happy to have served the community. I wish all the CPAC committee members good luck.” She refused further comment.

Another shock came from Peter McCracken who resigned from the Community Housing Board last week. He didn’t return a request for comment.

Mr. McCracken’s resignation from the Housing Board followed a volatile meeting with Mr. Kohn insisting that Mr. Siller, who ran that meeting in Mr. Bebon’s absence, had no right to be there.

Mr. Siller called for dissolving the Housing Board or reconstituting it.

Meanwhile, on the town website, a statement appears that, with only two members of the Housing board left, there would be no meetings for the foreseeable future. Mr. Kohn said the Town Board has no right to dissolve the Housing Board unless it changes the Town Code. Tuesday, he said that even though that group has had five members in the past, the way the code reads, as long as more than 50% of current members are present, it constitutes a quorum. He has formally called on Mr. Siller to take down the post saying there won’t be a meeting Thursday night, and he plans to meet and hopes the other remaining member, Chris DiOrio, will show up for the session.

The final resignation was announced last Friday when Hank Amann quit the Deer & Tick Committee. Mr. Amann hasn’t responded to a request for comment.