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Sep 22, 2009 6:44 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Zwirn takes leave of absence for campaign

Sep 22, 2009 6:44 PM

The Democratic candidate for East Hampton Town supervisor, Ben Zwirn, has taken a leave of absence from his job as a deputy Suffolk County executive for the remainder of this fall’s campaign.

Mr. Zwirn made the announcement Monday morning, as he was preparing to leave work in order to spend more time at community meetings and stumping in East Hampton. He said that he will be using vacation and personal time off that he has in reserve.

“I made the decision long ago, but with six weeks left it would be a good time to do it. I have not been able to get to many meetings in the evenings,” he said. “I’ve been handicapped working full-time, 65 miles away from home. I get home too late to walk through neighborhoods. I’ve been missing CAC meetings. It’s been frustrating.”

Mr. Zwirn said that he had long discussed taking a leave of absence with his boss, County Executive Steve Levy. He said that he had taken one week off to campaign earlier this year, but ended up working three days during that week. He added that there is only one more general meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature before Election Day.

“It’s quiet here and the election is going into the home stretch,” he said.

Mr. Zwirn added that the leave of absence will allow him to speak his mind more freely, after he and the County Executive were at odds over Mr. Zwirn’s opposition to a new county hotel/motel tax that he says will hurt East End businesses.

“Steve doesn’t like to be the bad guy, and while working for the county, I still need to speak up and alert people of East Hampton when a storm may be coming their way,” he said.

“It’s about time, now that we are just weeks away from the election, that Mr. Zwirn graciously decided to take a leave of absence,” said Bill Wilkinson, the Republican candidate for town supervisor. “It’s a dollar short and a day late.”

Lawn signs

The East Hampton Town Democratic Committee has issued a challenge to the Republicans to refrain from using candidate lawn signs. The challenge was first issued by former Democratic Chairman Richard Madan in 2007 and was taken up by the Republicans that year.

“We did it in the last election campaign and it worked out quite well,” said East Hampton Town Democratic Party Chairman Bill Taylor. “There were very few signs up. The signs aren’t very useful, they’re unsightly and people end up tearing them up and knocking them down.”

Mr. Wilkinson said that he agreed, in part, with Mr. Taylor’s assessment.

“I respect what he had to say about lawn signs being on roads and highways. All my signs are being put on private property with the property owner’s permission,” he said.

Meet the assessors

The East Hampton Group for Good Government, a non-partisan coalition dedicated to informing the electorate and encouraging quality candidates to run for town office, will hold an informational meeting this weekend with East Hampton Town Tax Assessors Eugene DePasquale and Jeanne Nielson and John Wolham of the New York State Office of Real Property Services. The event will be held on Saturday, September 26, at 4 p.m. at the home of Steven and Lauren Schwartz.

“There has been a lot of discussion regarding what seems to be the inevitable tax reassessment of all properties within the town. This is a serious matter as it comes on top of the large tax increase in 2009 and perhaps similar increases for 2010 and beyond,” wrote one of the group’s founders, Jeffrey Fisher, in a release announcing the meeting.

Because the event is at a private home, Mr. Fisher is asking potential attendees to call him at 324-3893 or by e-mail at jlf10128@aol.com for directions.

Democrats get together

On the heels of a very well-attended free reception with the Democratic Town Board contenders at Judith Hope’s house two weeks ago, about 50 residents packed into Babette’s restaurant on Newtown Lane Sunday night for another free question-and-answer session with the Democratic candidates.

Mr. Zwirn spoke extensively on his background as a town supervisor in North Hempstead and took questions from the audience. As at the event at Ms. Hope’s house, audience members aired concerns about immigration issues and reassessment.

One woman asked Mr. Zwirn what he thought of a recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center that gave Mr. Zwirn’s boss, Steve Levy, a “really bad rap” for intolerance toward immigrants in the county.

“People are here for the same reasons as our ancestors. They deserve to be treated like human beings,” he said. “Do I support legal immigration? Yes. I wish our federal government supported the expansion of programs for legal immigration, like the H2B visa program. But when people buy a home in a single-family residence neighborhood, you don’t want 30 or 40 people living in a house next door, whoever they are. I’m not suggesting we do raids in the middle of the night. But people in a community expect a certain quality of life.”

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A day late and a dollar short? What is he talking about? Hey Beverly Hills Bill trying to sound like a Bonacker? Some people have to work for a living and are proud of it here in Bonac.
By veritas (7), East Hampton on Sep 22, 09 11:24 AM
1 member liked this comment

Veritas has this right. Why should Beverly Hills Bill object to his opponent taking a proper leave of absence? Now I'm not sure if I can trust this guy. Where's his judgement? Is he serious he wants us to trust his decision-making?
By mo (89), Sag Harbor on Sep 27, 09 12:35 AM
Shouldn't Ben Zwirn head back to his home in Nassau County? Do we really need him mucking up an already-terrible situation in East Hampton? Surely, the locals don't want to abdicate control of their town to someone from Up West?
By JimmyKBond (156), Hampton Bays on Oct 14, 09 9:44 AM
Having filed an ethics complaint against Mr. Zwirn for abusing the power of his office by using his taxpayer funded office and staff to campaign for East Hampton Town Supervisor it's clear he didn't have much of a choice about this leave of absence. It's about time he showed some interest in the happenings of East Hampton. However, Veritas, he is still drawing a salary and fringe benefits for health and such, so let's not make this sound as if he has given up his job to campaign. He has not. ...more
By Carole Campolo (46), East Hampton on Sep 22, 09 3:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
I don't know what he is complaining about whenever I went to a Town Board Meeting in the middle of the day he was there. He always seemed to be at the CAC meeting too. He got paid then and he'll get paid now. We taxpayers sure are jerks!
By Richard (3), east hampton on Sep 22, 09 7:09 PM
If what you say Richard is correct, then Mr. Zwirn continues to abuse his taxpayer funded position for his own political gain. This is a serious breach of trust with the taxpayers and in all likelihood is illegal. Stealing time from the taxpayers is a serious issue for public servants. Ms. Young, as a reporter, I challenge you to ask for copies of Mr. Zwirn's time sheets to see whether or not he is continuing to abuse the taxpayers. I would also question him about his attendance at the town board ...more
By Carole Campolo (46), East Hampton on Sep 22, 09 8:24 PM
Veritas - I don't understand your comment. The majority of people who live here year round have to work "two jobs" - meaning more than 40 hours a week (or 35 if you are lucky enough) - and this description includes myself - to pay the bills. I think the point of the other commentators is that Mr. Zwirn has (??) or is (??) or will (??) be taking PAID (read: paid by us as taxpayers) "leave" NOW (as if he wasn't doing it on "county time" before) to campaign and "champion" "East Hampton causes vs. ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Sep 23, 09 11:00 PM
you would think someone who pats himself on the back for being a "board watcher" would learn how to read. The article explains clearly that he has accrued the vacation time and sick days to use up for most of the 6 wks left. I wish Miss Young would find out why Mrs. Campolo, who recently moved into East Hampton, is so obsessed with dissing Wiley Wilkerson's lack of experience and understanding municipal budgets.
By mo (89), Sag Harbor on Sep 27, 09 12:48 AM
Veritas works for Zwirn. Pretty easy to figure out.
By truthinbonac (46), Amagansett on Sep 25, 09 5:52 PM

and truthunbonac, who works for the Campolos, is mighty clever
By mo (89), Sag Harbor on Sep 27, 09 12:53 AM
Yo Mo: Whether or not "The article explains clearly that he has accrued the vacation time and sick days to use up for most of the 6 wks left" the point is Mr. Zwirn is campaigning on TIME PAID FOR BY ME - accrued or not! And now Skip Heaney is being PAID to do Zwirn's job -- there is a "double cost" to this being paid for by you Mo -- if you don't care because youthink it's money well spent - that's your perogative. But facts ar facts when the bottom line is a dime -- what part of this do you ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Sep 28, 09 5:43 PM

The facts are Zwirn took a proper leave of absence. Do you propose then, following the logic of your complaint and whining implication, that all workers in companies, organizations, institutions have sick days taken away and not given vacations? How about ending the 8 hrs work day? Overtime? How Republican can one be?
Why don't you write to Skip Heaney and suggest he quit until after the elections, so you don't have to pay a second salary. I feel for you.
By mo (89), Sag Harbor on Sep 29, 09 10:20 PM
Yo Mo - you are just silly - get some sleep! By the way - sure hope Ben isn't really taking "sick days" during his campaign - this article didn't say that did it? Maybe you know more than I do about what his "personal days" entail but I sure wouldn't want to shake hands with anyone who is getting paid while he is out there allegedly suffering from the swine flu or any other "sickness". Sick days are sick days - unless you too, are the type who work in "government" and take advantage of this "well-deserved" ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Oct 1, 09 11:11 PM