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Oct 31, 2008 9:50 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Candidates participate in final debate

Oct 31, 2008 9:50 AM

With the clock ticking down on this year’s campaign season, local candidates had one last chance Thursday night to make their pitch to voters. The debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons and the Southampton Press, was held at the Southampton Town Senior Center in Hampton Bays.

Southampton Town Justice Thomas DeMayo, a Republican with 16 years on the bench, kicked off the final debate with a five-minute opening appeal to voters. “I’ve been committed to this court my whole career,” Justice DeMayo said, who then deviated from the script and took questions from the audience.

The court docket and the effectiveness of the fourth justice position, added to the bench in February 2007, took center stage. “I started a night court in May to address the busy caseload— I took the bull by the horns,” the justice said, in response to a question from the audience. He clarified that he did not support having two full-time judges sitting side by side, and said that the current location of the court in the basement of Town Hall in Southampton Village was not practical.

Justice DeMayo, who has voiced support for the relocation of the court from the village to Jackson Avenue in Hampton Bays, said that the new location would help address some of the court’s logistical problems such as overcrowding, lack of parking and operational space. Asked whether he thought the move, at a cost of approximately $3 million, was a sensible action to take in this economic climate, the justice said it was necessary and that he trusted the judgment of the Town Board. “As I taxpayer, I have questions,” Justice DeMayo said, “But, as I judge, I support the decision.”

Justice DeMayo’s challenger, Andrea Schiavoni, said she was coming to the end of another long ride in the campaign trail, “but an important ride.” Ms. Schiavoni ran for Town Justice in 2007 after the Town Board established the fourth justice post. Though the Democrat’s top vote getter in Southampton Town in last year’s general election, Ms. Schiavoni lost that bid to Town Justice Edward Burke.

A Sag Harbor resident with a successful mediation practice, Ms. Schiavoni highlighted her many years of courtroom experience, beginning with neglect and gang cases in Los Angeles and narcotics cases in Miami in Janet Reno’s office, who then was the Florida State Attorney. “What happens in a courtroom is an amazing thing, and that’s where I learned my craft,” she said. Ms. Schiavoni said she believed in “giving back” to the community and said that was her main reason for running again for Town Justice. “I want to offer that experience to my community,” she said, adding that it was “time for a new influence in the town court.”

The Democratic challenger noted that in every endorsement interview where both she and Justice DeMayo were questioned, “every one of them picked me.” Ms. Schiavoni ended her five minutes by asking that residents vote for her.

Southampton Town Board

First-time candidate Sally Pope, a Democrat from Remsenburg running for the Town Board, hit a similar theme when she squared off with Republican Dan Russo, who was appointed to the board in February. “One-party rule has led to the current financial and environmental crisis the town is in,” Ms. Pope said, “And my opponent is a member of that party.” Though Mr. Russo took office in February, Ms. Pope tied him to former Town Supervisor Patrick Heaney. “Mr. Russo once said that ‘Skip’ was a fine supervisor,” she said.

“First off, I want to remind everyone that for four of the six years Skip was supervisor the board was controlled by Democrats,” Mr. Russo countered, adding bi-partisan efforts in his nine months on the board “have gotten things done.” Mr. Russo said that party labels on a town level, in his opinion, mean very little.

When asked if the Town Board was a full-time job, Ms. Pope challenged Mr. Russo on his work ethic, saying that her opponent often drives to Riverhead to his private law practice. “I assure you this is a full-time job and I have a flexible law practice that allows me to devote my time to this town, and I am prepared to continue to do that,” Mr. Russo said. “I invite you to come and see the full-time effort we are putting in. The fact that I can make a few appearances a week in court, which allows me to survive in this economy, doesn’t mean that I don’t devote my time to this job.”

Ms. Pope also pinned town deficits, particularly the $4.5 million deficit in the police fund, on Republican mismanagement, an accusation that Mr. Russo rejected. “I’m on the audit committee, and we’ve hired a private consultant and we’re getting monthly variance reports from individual departments,” he said. “And we have an ongoing forensic audit of the police fund to find out what happened, and we’re going to fix it.”

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Tom Demayo is a life long contributing memmber of our east end community how could anyone even consider an inexperienced transplant from Florida who even if she starts now will never be able to equal his contribution ?
By native son (9), Cutchogue on Oct 31, 08 12:07 PM
So, you're saying there is an entitlement to the job of Town Justice. Especially one who is trying to defend his 30% salary increase and his 4 additional weeks of time to spend on his (by his own words) substantial local law practice. Seems like a pretty sweet deal to me too. And do you really think only people who have 3 generations in the local cemetery and a street named after them are acceptable candidates for office? Maybe all the political parties and groups and people who endorsed Andrea ...more
By foodie (74), Remsenburg on Oct 31, 08 2:58 PM
One couldn't find a more dedicated and honest Justice than Tom DeMayo!!! As far as Ms Schiavoni, she is in the vest pocket of the Hampton Bays Civic association and we all know what they are!! Thanks to Marion Bowden we now have two King Kullens in Hampton Bays. Now they are trying to get a third in Tuckahoe!! What a crew!! Three cheers for Dan Russo. He gets our family vote!!
By bayview (160), Southampton on Oct 31, 08 4:17 PM
The facts are clear. Tom DeMayo by his own admission supported the fourth justice. He also voted to rotate that justice into an existing schedule. No new court time was added, and Tom DeMayo reduced his bench time to 13 weeks a year for the same salary. That is not dedication to the community, it was an act of self interest. If he wanted to contribute to his community he should have pushed for a night court BEFORE he was an election. The people have wanted a night court for years.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Oct 31, 08 11:20 PM
Tom DeMayo's record deserves re-election. Enough said.
By Lefty46 (56), Westhampton on Nov 1, 08 1:06 PM
Tom DeMayo never recieved the Southampton Town PBA endorsement. Below is an E-mail from the PBA leadership.


By SHNative (554), Southampton on Nov 4, 08 12:12 PM