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Fiore-Rosenfeld, Romaine Spar in Public Over Plowing

Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, who blew the whistle on Romaine's absence during the blizzard, holds supervisor accountable for road clearing debacle.

Tensions between Democratic Brookhaven Town Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld and Supervisor Ed Romaine over the town's plowing debacle turned icy on Thursday.

As Romaine presented his proposals to hold the highway department accountable for the town's snow removal failures, including changing to contractor policies and better training town employees, Fiore-Rosenfeld turned the discussion back on the supervisor.

"You made a statement that you didn't really have any power to do anything, but yet there's four resolutions that have you coming up with ways we can solve these problems," said Fiore-Rosenfeld. "I'm a little confused."

Fiore-Rosenfeld pointed to Romaine's public apology to residents for being on vacation in Jamaica during the storm, but was quick to note the Highway Supervisor position is elected and directly responsible for overseeing snow removal.

"Since you weren't there, let me clarify. My statement was very clear. I don't have direct control ... over the highway department," Romaine said.

One issue brought up by Fiore-Rosenfeld had to do with whether a town-issued state of emergency would have given the newly elected supervisor power over the highway department.

Annette Eaderesto, Brookhaven's town attorney, said that it was not how town law works as "under town law we do not have direct control over a highway superintendent or his deputy."

Fiore-Rosenfeld was one of the first to draw attention to Romaine being on vacation in Jamaica when one of the worst blizzards ever to hit Long Island dumped more than 30 inches of snow in places over his township.

“It does have an impact when the leader of a township who has the authority to take command of all departments, and marshal all forces and resources is not at Town Hall,” Fiore-Rosenfeld told Patch on Feb. 11. “Clearly, his lack of presence at the helm is not helpful to our ability to respond to residents and their concerns about being snowed in and trapped in their homes.”

The councilman even penned a scathing letter to Romaine and former acting Highway Superintendent Michael Murphy calling it "a complete and systematic breakdown in the ability of the Town Highway Department to respond to this crisis."

While Murphy was out of work for the Feb. 8 blizzard citing a medical problem related to his teeth, and has since resigned, his deputy John Capella – since named acting Highway Superintendent – was in town.

Councilwoman Connie Kepert, acting Highway Department liaison, on Thursday said she supported Romaine's request for a full review of the Highway Department but asked for more to be done.

"I think some of us would also like to look a little bit further as to what went wrong during the storm and I think we owe that to the taxpayers," Kepert said.

The supervisor claimed his statement to residents blaming the highway department for the mess-up has been twisted, and that he wasn't critical of town employees.

"I praised the people of the highway department, many of which worked long hours," Romaine said.

ptamomof3 February 23, 2013 at 01:52 PM
They all dropped the ball, period. Romaine & Murphy should have BOTH stepped up but obviously they had other priorities. What's the excuse now? The streets are still a mess. Piles of snow are at many many corvers over 4'. Last week a school bus slipped because of snow. In my area, most residential streets still have huge piles of snow blocking 1/2 the road & cars are parked in the middle of the street. Why has this still not been cleared?
Joe F February 23, 2013 at 06:14 PM
How about all the huge pot holes? Since no one can be seen clearing the roadways, when are the people getting paid to patch the roads going to actually be doing their jobs?
Joe F February 23, 2013 at 06:15 PM
A criminal investigation should be conducted for Official Misconduct.
Allan Aronson February 24, 2013 at 02:02 AM
This is getting uglier and uglier as more finger-pointing and excuses are revealed. Supervisor Romaine's apology was insincere and his blame game won't work. The people of Brookhaven have lost all confidence in their town leaders.
Nicole W February 24, 2013 at 01:31 PM
This is a ridiculous situation and should definitely be investigated further. Romaine should be held accountable! We pay a lot of money in taxes, we shouldn't have to take this situation lying down. It seems like these elected officials can do whatever they want to once they're in office. Friday, they sent a payloader down my road to clear some snow on the opposite side of the road to make it a wider pass. It was fine truthfully but now our money is being spent on idiotic decisions like this. I went to make a turn later that day from a side road onto portion and the snow was piled high in the right lane forcing drivers to go into the left lane, oncoming traffic, to make their turn. I think safety is not a main priority to them. The corners of most roads are hard to visibly see around these piles to make turns. It's maddening.

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