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Bid To Hire Morabito As Port Chester Village Clerk Fails

Board of Trustees rejects ex-Rye town supervisor in 4-3 vote that included board member attending via video conferencing.

A proposal to hire former Rye town supervisor Robert Morabito as Port Chester's next village clerk was rejected Monday night after a heated debate over the selection process for the job and a controversy about a Board of Trustees member voting via video conferencing.

Trustee Saverio Terenzi's proposal to appoint Morabito, a Port Chester resident, failed in a 4-3 vote and trustees decided to continue with a review of five candidates to replace retiring Village Clerk Joan Mancuso.

The vote on whether to hire Morabito, who was outsed by current Rye Town Supervisor Joseph Carvin, attracted vocal opponents to attend the Board of Trustees session Monday at the Port Chester Village Court. The vote also drew Trustee John Branca, who because of illness, has not been able to attend board meetings for months.

However, Branca did not attend in-person, but via video conferencing from his home. Branca voted with Terenzi in favor of hiring Morabito. But opposition led by Mayor Dennis Pilla received suprise support from Trustee Bart Didden and the appointment was blocked.

Monday's vote, to some, was itself a surprise because the Board of Trustees has not interviewed any candidates to replace Mancuso, who is in her final two weeks as village clerk. The trustees were slated to meet last week to review candidates, but that meeting was scrapped by Pilla because he could not get enough trustees to attend.

Terenzi said he proposed hiring Morabito, a former political opponent, because he believes Morabito is qualified for the position. While Terenzi admits he was highly critical of Morabito when he was supervisor, Terenzi contends Morabito has paid for any bad decisions he may have made as supervisor by losing that office.

Pilla said he does not believe Morabito is qualified to be village clerk, contending that Morabito's time as supervisor did not prepare him to run the functions of the Village Clerk's Office. 

Terenzi's proposal called for hiring Morabito at a salary of $75,000. Mancuso makes $90,000 as clerk.

As the Board of Trustees prepared to vote, Trustee Daniel Brakewood suggested there were possible legal problems with the meeting itself because of Branca participating from home via video conferencing. To accomodate the electronic appearance by Branca, the village had to declare that Branca's home was also a public meeting place for Monday's board meeting in addition to the Port Chester Village Court.

Brakewood said two people had attempted to gain access to Branca's home to attend the meeting, but were turned away. Branca, speaking via the video link, denied that anyone had been turned away.

Pilla decided to allow the meeting to continue, leading to the vote on Morabito. Pilla said after Monday's meeting that it appears several people who went to Branca's home were able to gain access and watch the meeting from that location.

What's next? The trustees are going to review candidates who have applied for the position. Pilla said that if the post cannot be filled before Mancuso leaves the office, Village Manager Christoper Russo and village staff will oversee operations of the office until a new clerk is named.

Terenzi said one motivating factor in his decision to back Morabito for the post is that Morabito is a village resident. However, as the voting was done, Pilla suggested that the village begin looking at whether Port Chester would benefit by consolidating the village clerk and the Rye Town Clerk's Office.

Pilla contends this concept would allow Port Chester to take advantage of state grants encouraging government consolidation to improve the village's records-keeping system. Port Chester and Rye Town officials have agreed to look into the possible consolidation.

Aidan June 06, 2012 at 11:41 AM
I agree. This is hardly Mr. Brakewood's shining moment in public office ... BUT I'm not sure what alternative he had to block this insanity. When you shovel all the grime, there's one person to blame for this forgettable display of political rot, and that's Mr. Terenzi. Btw, this particular vote was hardly the only the lowlight in a meeting that we'd all like to forget. It hardly resembled a conclave of civic minded stars. It was a dreadful display of politics on the part of many ... board members and public commenters alike.
Robski48 June 06, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Al Dente- if you watched the meeting then you would have heard John state, and Terenzi later quote him, that "brakewood's wife was stalking his residence". And Brakwood gets a e-mail during the meeting that no one was allowed into John's house and that they were rejected at the door. He then is paying more attention to his phone, presumably e-mailing or texting, then to the meeting. You can watch it all on-line when it is available.
Aidan June 06, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Stop right there. We've got our problems ... for sure. But Rye's not quite the poster child for political astuteness. I'd rather have our political laundry on display than have backroom hijinks. This is not the end of the world. In fact, I think some good might eventually emerge. I don't think we're likely to witness anymore sleazy appointment efforts on the part of political partisans. That was shut down. Are we struggling here? Of course, we are. But this village didn't fall off the rails over-night ... and we are not gonna cure every ill over night either. Slow and steady is the course. This is still a stop 'n go process ... patience is still a primary virtue. We'll get there because, despite that wretched display the other evening, the rule of law did prevail ... and the process (though messy) worked. I'd love to see less manufactured messes ... and a reaffirmation that partisan politics is unacceptable. This village is more important than petty political jockeying. To bring about such a division ... in the name of party allegiance ... is disgusting.
American Woman June 06, 2012 at 01:01 PM
As a matter of fact Al Dente and Aidan, Brakewwod sent his wife to the house, and her friends. They were all invited in. Disgraceful, classless, and disturbing. Especially considering this person is an elected school board official. You don't get anywhere in life by trying to hurt others. That's something i learned in Kindergarten, in PORT CHESTER SCHOOL SYSTEM where i learned how to READ (with reading teachers).
Gina Pierro August 08, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Wake up, people! Russo was never in it for the long haul. His horse doesn't like the snow, either. Let's get someone who really cares about our town. Not a fly by night snow bird who gets paid the big bucks to do exactly what? Really. Really?

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