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Dec 8, 2010 12:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

New Southampton Town Appointee Once Sued Over Firing

Dec 8, 2010 12:15 PM

Critics have said that Russell Kratoville reaped the benefits of his Republican Party connections with his appointment to a key post at Southampton Town Hall last week. But more than 12 years ago, just the opposite occurred: Mr. Kratoville was one of three Riverhead Town employees who lost management jobs in what town officials then called a politically motivated firing once the GOP lost control of the Town Board.

It seems the spectre of political appointments and patronage positions has followed Mr. Kratoville throughout his career in government, highlighted by his departure from Riverhead Town Hall in 1998 and his decision to file a $3.5 million lawsuit against then-Town Supervisor Vinny Villella’s administration, claiming that his civil rights were violated when he was fired.

The suit—which the town ultimately settled for a cash payment of $110,000 to Kratoville when Republicans re-gained control of the Town Board—included a claim by Mr. Kratoville’s wife, Lauren Kratoville, that his firing from the town post resulted in a loss of sexual intimacy, companionship, love, affection and support between the couple.

Currently, Mr. Kratoville finds himself in the spotlight over his November 30 appointment to the town management services administrator position at Southampton Town Hall, a $150,000-a-year position, including benefits.

The public lambasted the Town Board’s Republican-Conservative majority that evening for making the appointment without public input or a formal screening process. The position, and its corresponding department of General Services/Business Management, were headed to the chopping block under Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s budget. That was reversed, however, after a series of budget amendments sponsored by the majority were approved wholesale on the day the budget was required to be adopted last month.

Mr. Kratoville, of Aquebogue, is a registered Republican. He began his political career in Riverhead Town when he was appointed the vice chairman of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals in 1991. Before that, he ran Kratoville’s Luncheonette on East Main Street. Currently, he serves as the treasurer/director of finance for Suffolk County Off Track Betting, where he earns a $106,800 annual salary, according to Mr. Kratoville.

Under Republican Riverhead Town Supervisor Jim Stark, Mr. Kratoville was appointed as deputy supervisor. He was charged with overseeing the town’s senior citizens and recreation programs. He was hired at a salary of $47,000, according to a 1996 article published in the Riverhead News-Review. He was hired, Mr. Stark said this week, because of his experience as an accountant. Mr. Kratoville graduated from Rhode Island University’s College of Business Administration, according to his resume.

Mr. Stark said this week that he was struck by Mr. Kratoville’s talent and youth back when he hired him. “Going back to 1996, and knowing him, had he been an Independent, a Conservative or even a Democrat, I probably would’ve hired him anyway, because that’s how talented I thought he was,” he said.

In 1998, Mr. Villella, with Councilmen Phil Cardinale and Chris Kent, who belonged to the Riverhead Party, nixed Mr. Kratoville’s position in a party-line vote, with Republican Councilmen Jim Lull and Mark Kwasna opposing the move, according to a 1998 article published in the Riverhead News-Review. The move also removed Lori Talmage, who had been an executive assistant under Mr. Stark, as well as a town planner position.

The following year, Mr. Kratoville and his wife filed the civil rights lawsuit in federal court, charging that Mr. Kratoville’s firing violated his constitutional rights under the First and 14th amendments, the latter protecting the right to due process of law.

The complaint filed by the Kratovilles sought $3.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages for “wrongful discharge, economic and emotional harm, reprisal and punishment inflicted upon plaintiff Russell Kratoville with respect to his wrongful termination of employment by the defendants,” according to the suit.

Mr. Kratoville’s wife sued for emotional damages, including being “deprived of the services, society, companionship, love, affection, support and consortium of her husband, Russell Kratoville.” She sought $500,000 in damages, to pay for medical care and treatment.

The complaint by Mr. Kratoville also alleges that the Riverhead Party majority members targeted his position several times throughout the 1997 election, campaigning on a platform promise to get rid of Mr. Kratoville once elected. Also, Mr. Kratoville alleged that from January 2, 1998, to December 31, 1998, the majority conspired to terminate his position because he belonged to an opposing political party—and when he refused to make political donations to their party, he was terminated in violation of his employment agreement. In one scenario depicted in the complaint, Mr. Kratoville alleged that Mr. Villella said to him in August 1998, “I’m telling you I could fire your ass tomorrow. People want me to. I don’t want that to happen.”

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Looks like the lawyers got paid. Any follow up on the return of marital bliss for the couple?
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Dec 8, 10 7:41 PM
Hey, live by the sword, die by the sword, right?
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Dec 8, 10 9:30 PM
And we just hired this man....are the gang of three out of there *&!@ minds??
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Dec 8, 10 10:17 PM
The gang of three aren't out of their minds hiring this man. They know which side of the bread their butter is on!
As a party that has long held key patronage jobs at all levels in all areas of government, the GOP makes its people toe the line or else. If truth be told, I am 100% confident Nuzzi, Graboski & Malone were TOLD to hire him. They may be term-limited but that doesn't mean their days of public "service" (Ha! Ha!) are over. They must go-along to get-along. My guess? Graboski is running ...more
By baywoman (165), southampton on Dec 9, 10 1:51 PM
Baywoman, you have nailed it! Best analysis I've read yet.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Dec 9, 10 3:16 PM
Baywoman, the truth hurts, but we need to know this painful reality about the majority on the Southampton Town Board.
Thank You....and Ouch....reading your post again...smarted.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Dec 9, 10 3:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
This whole deal just smells , someone should be held accountable.
By DJ9222 (85), southampton on Dec 10, 10 3:49 PM
Anyone in mind? Or are you late to the lynching?
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Dec 11, 10 1:54 AM
I don't think a lynching is the way to go....but how about one of the town board members that voted to do this stand up and tell us how this happened and the reason for it, I don't think that is an unreasonable request...
By DJ9222 (85), southampton on Dec 11, 10 2:07 PM
Another depressing reminder of the "Old Boy Network". Looks like Kratoville was about to lose the job at the OTB.
By Bandguy (23), Sag Harbor on Dec 11, 10 10:20 AM
This was a big money-saving measure that the Republican-Conservative Gang of Three nixed when they revived the expensive, redundant Business Management Department, the place where most of the Town's financial troubles started back in the bad old days. The Supervisor's budget would have slain this dinosaur, but Chris Nuzzi, Nancy Graboski & Jim Malone gave it a last-minute reprieve (God knows why), and then went on to appoint a Riverhead Republican stalwart, Russell Kratoville, as its head at $150,000 ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Dec 11, 10 12:42 PM
how can this guy look at himself in the mirror each day?
By uncleronk (136), southold on Dec 14, 10 2:11 PM
Odds that this jerk will end up suing Southampton Town (further defrauding town taxpayers): 3 to 1.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Dec 15, 10 10:16 PM
$150,000 times 10 years = a cool $1,500,000. Welcome to our newest local millionaire. Who needs to win the Lottery when you've got friends like Graboski, Nuzzi and Malone. And yes, the direct orders came from someone else - maybe even a former SH Town Supervisor?
By EastEndHomie (27), Southampton on Dec 17, 10 1:23 PM
More likely the national party. The Republican party is a top down organization, like Nazi Germany.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Dec 17, 10 8:51 PM
Perhaps Noah Way should have researched "Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies." Whatever the debate or discussion is over, and Noah Way has lost.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Dec 24, 10 11:19 AM
@Frank - In reference to Godwin's Rule:

"The rule does not make any statement about whether any particular reference or comparison to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate, but only asserts that the likelihood of such a reference or comparison arising increases as the discussion progresses." [wiki]

To get back to the point, any totalitarian regime could be used as an example of the way the Republican party operates. Misdirection does not counter the point, it only shows ...more
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Dec 26, 10 4:26 PM