Brookhaven Highway Needs to Be a Department of Public Works

Is there a politician out there who has the guts to fix this and propose a Department of Public Works?

Now is the time to create a Brookhaven Department of Public Works.

In the next couple of days I’m sure we’ll see a lot of finger pointing and excuses about who is responsible for the failure of the Brookhaven Highway Department to deal with the blizzard. 

In a Newsday article, Ed Romaine, who has been in the Caribbean since Wednesday, says he tried to get back but couldn’t get a flight. He also said that he’s not responsible for the Highway Department, as that superintendent is an elected official. And, well, he hadn’t had a vacation in two years anyway and didn’t think it was going to be a bad storm—that only about 12 inches was being predicted when he left town.

Then there’s Michael Murphy, Acting Superintendent of Highway.  It was first reported that he was home sick with a toothache.  Then, when interviewed by phone on Channel 12, he said he was out of town because of a family emergency.  When asked twice where he was, he kept saying out of town on a family emergency and that two had been left in charge and that he was in constant phone contact with them.

This morning, Wednesday, it has been reported that Michael Murphy will be resigning today and that he takes responsibility for the failure. Of course, he’s resigning as the Acting Superintendent.  I can only assume that he will not be looking for another job.  I am sure that another job within the town will be found for him. Someone prove me wrong! This would never happen in the private sector--someone screws up as much as these people have, they would be gone!

But enough of all this.  I don’t know what it would take for a Department of Public Works to be created within the Town of Brookhaven but now is the time to do it.  I’ve never understood why the Highway Department needs an elected official at the head.  I’ve been told that if it’s an elected position and he or she isn’t doing the job, that person can be elected out.  Well, here’s a news flash.  It’s much easier and faster to FIRE someone who isn’t doing his or her job.  And I don’t
mean being reassigned--I mean fired!

And let’s remember that the March 5 special election to elect the new  Superintendent will have to be redone in November.  Again, enough already!

So is there some politician within the Town of Brookhaven who has the guts to propose a bill—or whatever it would take—to create a Department of Public Works! Let’s make a system where there’s accountability at the Town level and to the community!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Little Churchio February 13, 2013 at 08:17 PM
I feel that a real news reporter would look into kathy walsh' husband who is the president of the unions and investigate the fact that some highway guys some parks guys and some landfill guys are all talking about an ordered slow down to make ed romaine and the town look bad in order to help kathy get elected!! this is crimminal !! the dirtiest if dirty politics. newsday is in the democrats pocket and that is why it is being ignored. people have siffered dearly for this. the parks gius were ordered to shovel a dog pen and they worked on plowing an off road bmx track that is closed for the season! dontbe fooled people.
DriscollP February 13, 2013 at 09:00 PM
And let's not forget what could have happened and didn't--massive power outages. People would have been sitting in their homes freezing and unable to go anywhere. Some may say "well that didn't happen." But given what the forecasts were, are there any of us who didn;t expect more power outages than there were? We shouldn't do what we always do--forget about this. I don;'t know what the answer is , but certainly there should have been someone at the top responsible for coordinating what needed to be done. And the reason there wasn't may well have been partisan politics. The person most experienced, the person who would have known the most about what needed to be done was let go days after Romaine got in--Lori Baldassare--and that was done because she wasn't a Republican. This isn't specifically an attack on Republicans--they all do it--and until we learn how to work together on what's best for everybody instead of playing the blame game nothing is going to get better.
Had Enuf! February 13, 2013 at 09:38 PM
I posted several times during this debacle that it was a job action...and that every employee that participated should be run out of town on a rail....now that the rail is cleared of snow
Stuck in Stony Brook February 13, 2013 at 10:07 PM
How would a DPW make any difference? We would still have an appointed figurehead who answers to the Supervisor instead of the people. That Supervisor would still have been out of the country.
Karen Geiman February 13, 2013 at 10:23 PM
The difference is exactly what happened. Michael Murphy is out. Had he been elected that never would have happened. The fact that he's just being shuffled somewhere else is another problem that also needs to be fixed. But it is a different problem. And I'm sure a DPW would have its own problems, but what Franco says is exaclty the difference. An appointed person who isn't doing a job can more quickly be removed FROM THAT JOB than someone who is elected. Also, as I said above, Romaine would still have been out of town but he couldn't say that he has no responsibility.
Stuck in Stony Brook February 13, 2013 at 11:35 PM
Commissioners and department heads at that level are appointed for terms, just like elected officials. And Murphy was not removed, he resigned. Romaine does not have the authority to remove him.
Karen Geiman February 13, 2013 at 11:49 PM
Even if that's true--and with all due respect I would like to hear that from someone who is willing to give their name so I know where the information is coming from--the pressure to resign that Murphy must have been given would have meant nothing if he had been elected!
Stuck in Stony Brook February 14, 2013 at 12:28 AM
You can look it up yourself, KG. Public Officers Law Sec. 38 & Town Law Sec. 24 (terms), Town Law Sec. 32 (powers), Public Officers Law Sec. 36 (removal). I can't help but wonder if Murphy would have been so quick to step down if he did not have a nice, comfortable, protected civil service position to fall back into. I don't see "Caribbean" Ed Romaine going anywhere and he has the $120k pension he collects to land on.
Karen Geiman February 14, 2013 at 12:54 AM
Sorry, STuck in Stony Brook, but this doesn't prove your point. What it does say is that it would be easier to get an appointed person out. N.Y. PBO. LAW § 36 : NY Code - Section 36: Removal of town, village, improvement district or fire district officer by court Any town, village, improvement district or fire district officer, except a justice of the peace, may be removed from office by the supreme court for any misconduct, maladministration, malfeasance or malversation in office. An application for such removal may be made by any citizen resident of such town, village, improvement district or fire district or by the district attorney of the county in which such town, village or district is located, and shall be made to the appellate division of the supreme court held within the judicial department embracing such town, village, improvement district or fire district. Such application shall be made upon notice to such officer of not less than eight days, and a copy of the charges upon which the application will be made must be served with such notice. I do, howeve, agree with you about what probably enticed Murphy to step down.
Stuck in Stony Brook February 14, 2013 at 01:15 AM
KG, it says that it takes an appellate court order to remove a town officer. Romaine is not an appellate court judge so he cannot remove a town officer. Proving one of the M's (misconduct, etc.) in practice is very difficult. Final word about the DPW initiative remains with the voters of the town. When last asked, we rejected the notion 5 to 1. I think the recent experiences with appointed officials (Murphy & Panico) bolsters that position.
DriscollP February 14, 2013 at 03:22 AM
The terms of office you refer to are for elected officers. See below. The question has to be who appoints these positions. Maybe it's by a vote of the Town council. Whoever it is, it doesn't make sense that they wouldn't be able to unappoint (and therefore fire) these people. It's not possible tnat the only way to get rid of them is through the courts. Also, the law you cite cite about removal says how any citizen can ask for the removal. It doesn;'t say anything about how they can be removed by whoever appointed them. N.Y. TWN. LAW § 24 : NY Code - Section 24: Terms of office Search N.Y. TWN. LAW § 24 : NY Code - Section 24: Terms of office All elective officers other than town councilmen, town justices, receivers of taxes and assessors shall hold their respective offices for two years. The terms of office of the town councilmen first elected after this chapter shall take effect and of the town councilmen first elected in a town which shall have changed its classification from that of a town of the second class to that of a town of the first class, shall be two years each for two town councilmen and four years each for two town councilmen, and thereafter at each biennial town election there shall be elected two town councilmen for terms of four years each.
Americanivory February 14, 2013 at 05:49 AM
There were power outages, maybe not massive but for those of us that were affected (19 hours in our development) we were sitting in our homes freezing. When we contacted LIPA we were told to make other provisions. Like what? Our streets were covered with 30" of snow and undriveable. The streets were not plowed until Tuesday. Then the plows came back at 1 AM Wednesday and proceeded to "plow" cleaned streets (making spring work to fix the potholes they caused). Now at 12:30 AM Thursday there is a payloader picking up the plowed snow and dumping it on lawns - for what reason? It is snowing out, where are the salt and sand trucks? Maybe if there was a DPW they would have a snow storm plan? Maybe?
MatthewD February 14, 2013 at 01:05 PM
Stuck in Stony Brook, I read both Section 24 and 24A of the code (terms) and, as stated above, these sections are for elected officials. However, the main point is being forgotten in this discussion. Because the position is an elected one, the current Supervisor wasn't forward thinking and got rid of the only experienced person at the helm in Highway, and the election for a new superintendent hasn't been held yet, there was no one in charge and no one that could be held accountable. It was easier for everyone to pass the buck and therefore easier for no one to be there. You may say that this supports having the position be an lelected one. It doesn't.. You say that Romaine cannot remove a town office. But if there's anyone who doesn't believe that he's the one that gor rid of Baldassare and put Murphy at the helm they're not being honest. He's the one that did it but in the current system he can still say it's not his responsibility. He may have done the same thing if the department were a DPW but then the buck would stop there. Accountability!
Luther February 14, 2013 at 03:37 PM
The Dems missed a opportunity to elect Lori Baldassare as Highway Sup.......The snow storm issues play into her strengths. ..................Walsh is too wraped up in the status quo..........Between her being TOB deputy Supervisior for years and her husband running the towns union.............UGHlllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll
Karen Geiman February 14, 2013 at 05:16 PM
Luther, you're absolutely right--the Dems lost an opportunity to get Lori Baldassare elected and the Republicans lost an opportunity to work in a bipartisan way and keep someone there that knows the Town and has the magerial experience to run the department. I know several people who work at Highway and most of them there had and have a lot of repsect for her personally and professionally. But nobody did the right thing here. Nobody thought about what's best for this community!
Ernestine Franco February 14, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Well, I just watched the press conferene by Ed Romaine. He basically said that since the HIghway Department is an entity unto itself, he has no authority over how it works, and he was really sorry the storm happened.. Basically he said the Town has no authority becasue the residents had voted against a Department of Public Works. So perhaps now is the time to have a new vote on a Department of Public Works... Does anyone know how such a referendum is created?
Stuck in Stony Brook February 15, 2013 at 02:44 AM
Read 24 again. Second to last sentence specifically addresses appointed highway superintendents. Question for you: if Romaine put Murphy at the helm and Murphy f*cked up the storm, where is the accountability? Doesn't it fall back to Romaine?
Recall Ed Romaine & Fire Dan Panico February 16, 2013 at 04:23 PM
Would giving Supervisor Romaine and Deputy Dan Panico even more power within the town be the proper solution at this point? They've already proven they cannot manage the town now. Creating a Dept of Public Works seems reactionary, we need to examine all of the pros and cons of such a move first. For those of you who haven't already joined us on Facebook as we organize to oust Romaine & Panico, please visit our Facebook page : http://www.facebook.com/pages/Recall-Ed-Romaine-Fire-Dan-Panico/128649057308271
Truth Teller February 16, 2013 at 11:36 PM
Lesko proposed a DPW and he was shouted down for taking away an elected position. At least a DPW comish needs to answer to someone every day, unlike an elected Highway Supe who only cares about doing their job once every four years.
Ernestine Franco February 17, 2013 at 01:30 PM
My suggestion to create a DPW was not only intended to deal with Romaine. It is the system that is broken. Romaine said he wasn't responsible--and legally he is right. The responsible person was Michael Murphy, Acting Superintendent. So he resigned but he still has a job in the Highway Department. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN INCOMPETENT CIVIL SERVANT FIRED?!! Creating a DPW would have made Romaine resposible. To say , as he did, that the Superintendent of the Highway is answerable to the people is ludicruos. Wel,l as one of the people, I say Michael Murhpy should lose his job. As long as civil servants have such complete job protection, we the residents will not be well served. I am currently self-employed--I report to no one and no one reports to me. But that hasn't always been the case and I have worked in-house both as a member of a large department and as head of another. And I have found that departments work better when there is only one person at the head--one person responsible and therefore no way to play the blame game.
Mercurio February 17, 2013 at 02:02 PM
The public sector needs to learn a few things from the private sector. In the private sector Romaine would never have been placed in a position he knew nothing about. Watch some of the Town meetings these days and see his buddies help him run the meetings. The voters put him in. In the private sector, when someone doesn't do their job (Murphy), they'd be out like a shot. Since in the Highway there's supposedly no one above him, Romaine transferred him. In a company in the private sector you would never have a department that was not accountable to the president of that company. The private sector would consider this an inefficient way to get things done. Again, the voters did this. If a company in the private sector was made aware of an impending catastrophe and didn't prepare for it--where the responsible parties were not to be found--that company wouldn't last long. I agree with you, ERnestine, the problem is with the system, not any one individual. We the people need to change this!
LauraG February 17, 2013 at 02:48 PM
I agree. We need more accountability. How can a referendum to make this department a DPW get started? This is about the leadership, not the people in the field. I was stuck in my house for days before I saw a snow plow, but it wasn't the Highway workers that decided when to start plowing. The fault is at the top.
Frank Esposito February 17, 2013 at 04:38 PM
Please don't do this. You are just going to create another cronie spot. Better to appoint an independent oversight unit to watch over civil service hiring. Make even the entry level jobs a civil service exam. The problem starts there then the dead wood floats to the top. Stop letting the town hire friends of friends of relatives etc etc etc.
LauraG February 17, 2013 at 08:32 PM
If it has to be an elected postion, then let's get someone in there with integrity--Lori Baldassare. Let's start a rite-in campaign getting in the most qualified person for the job. She was let go as soon as Romaine got in, but this is the person who should head the Highway Department. She has a detailed knowledge of the budget process as anyone knows who paid attention to the last budget negotiations,. Whenever Rouse needed more information it was Lori he consulted. She worked side by side with Rouse since 2004 and is the one that knows the msot about the Highway Department and the needs of Brookhaven. Let's do it. let's vote her in!
Paul Hart February 18, 2013 at 03:53 AM
Mike Murphy should be fired or at least suspended without pay for some period of time. Kathy Walsh has serious conflict of interest issues. I think that Lori Baldassare should be seriously considered for the post of Highway Chief. The entire TOB government should be ashamed about the handling of the blizzard.
Phillip February 18, 2013 at 12:29 PM
Bea Ruberto February 18, 2013 at 12:57 PM
What hasn't been brought up in this discussion is the cost savings with the creation of a DPW. It would eliminate some duplicate departments, so chances are it would also eliminate some "cronie" appointments. The problem of patronage occurs whether someone has been appointed or elected. Look at how many people who lose elections that are then found jobs elsewhere in the system. Look at how many people retire from an elected position to then be placed somewhere else as a "conusltant." Cronyism is a problem but one that doesn't depend or get solved by whether a position is an elected one or an appointed one. I think the reason that Lesko proposed a DPW was primarily to make the Town more fiscally sound. Anyone out there who would like to see consolidation of school districts should see this as sound fiscal policy.
CharliedaTuna February 18, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Does anyone out there realize that there is a SERIOUS conflict of interest with the candidate for highway super (kathy walsh ) and her husband being the president of the union?????? who is going to look out for us taxpayers? that could be a very expensive relationship!!!
CharliedaTuna February 18, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Does anyone out there realize that there is a SERIOUS conflict of interest with the candidate for highway super (kathy walsh ) and her husband being the president of the union?????? who is going to look out for us taxpayers? that could be a very expensive relationship!!!
Rich Murdocco February 21, 2013 at 09:25 PM
Interesting post! It will be hard to create a new department in a Town that is so strapped for cash. My take on the blizzard was a bit different. I feel that the slow response by local government hampered the response by LIPA and National Grid. http://richmurdocco.blogspot.com/2013/02/nemo-found-us-and-system-failed.html


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