Lawler accused of stacking the deck by making candidate interim board member

East Hampton Mayor Appoints Harden To Board




Due to the postponement of the election from June to September, East Hampton Village Mayor Richard Lawler announced Friday the appointment of Ray Harden to a board seat that has been empty since January. Harden is currently the co-chairman of the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals and is a co-owner of Ben Krupinski Builder.

He is also the third running-mate on the Elms Party line with Lawler and current Deputy Mayor Barbara Borsack, who is running for mayor.

The seat was left empty when Mayor Paul Rickenbach resigned six months before the end of his term, drawing accusations of stacking the deck by placing his chosen candidates on the board early to give them an edge in the upcoming election. Rickenbach served East Hampton for nearly three decades.

The May 15 meeting, held via Zoom and live streamed on LTV, was open to callers who wished to comment.

Jerry Larsen, the former village police chief running for mayor on the NewTown Party line, expressed his objection to Harden’s appointment.

“This is the most contested election in village history, with five people running for trustee,” he said. “I think you are doing this to give the edge over Chris Minardi to your candidate, and I think it’s the wrong thing to do.”

Minardi is running against Harden for trustee in September.

Board member Arthur Graham, the third candidate in the three-way mayoral race, running on the Fish Hooks Party line, went on record as being in opposition to appointing a new board member at this time.

“It should be left to the voters,” he said. “Not an appointee appointing another appointee.”

Graham went on to list all the work the board had accomplished since January without a fifth member.

Board member Rose Brown, Graham’s running mate in the last election, followed with her own objections. As Graham had done, she made it clear that she had nothing but the best opinion of Harden, mentioning she has known him since childhood, but said it’s about the process.

“It was with shock that I learned of the mayor’s decision,” Brown said. “While the mayor has the authority to do this, it doesn’t make it the right thing to do.”

In response, Lawler spoke of needing a full board in times like these. He also mentioned that with a four-member board there would be no tie-breaker in the event of a disagreement.

“And with the current coronavirus situation, five members are necessary in case one or more of the board members becomes ill,” he said.

At the meeting Phillip O’Connell was appointed co-chairman of the zoning board, and Bruce Siska chairman of the planning board.

Editor’s note: Jerry Larsen is currently head of security for Ronald Perelman, who owns The Independent.

karen@indyeastend.com