Tensions between Democratic Brookhaven Town Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld and Supervisor Ed Romaine over the town's plowing debacle turned icy on Thursday.
As Romaine presented his proposals to hold the highway department accountable for the town's snow removal failures, including changing to contractor policies and better training town employees, Fiore-Rosenfeld turned the discussion back on the supervisor.
"You made a statement that you didn't really have any power to do anything, but yet there's four resolutions that have you coming up with ways we can solve these problems," said Fiore-Rosenfeld. "I'm a little confused."
Fiore-Rosenfeld pointed to Romaine's public apology to residents for being on vacation in Jamaica during the storm, but was quick to note the Highway Supervisor position is elected and directly responsible for overseeing snow removal.
"Since you weren't there, let me clarify. My statement was very clear. I don't have direct control ... over the highway department," Romaine said.
One issue brought up by Fiore-Rosenfeld had to do with whether a town-issued state of emergency would have given the newly elected supervisor power over the highway department.
Annette Eaderesto, Brookhaven's town attorney, said that it was not how town law works as "under town law we do not have direct control over a highway superintendent or his deputy."
Fiore-Rosenfeld was one of the first to draw attention to Romaine being on vacation in Jamaica when one of the worst blizzards ever to hit Long Island dumped more than 30 inches of snow in places over his township.
“It does have an impact when the leader of a township who has the authority to take command of all departments, and marshal all forces and resources is not at Town Hall,” Fiore-Rosenfeld told Patch on Feb. 11. “Clearly, his lack of presence at the helm is not helpful to our ability to respond to residents and their concerns about being snowed in and trapped in their homes.”
The councilman even penned a scathing letter to Romaine and former acting Highway Superintendent Michael Murphy calling it "a complete and systematic breakdown in the ability of the Town Highway Department to respond to this crisis."
While Murphy was out of work for the Feb. 8 blizzard citing a medical problem related to his teeth, and has since resigned, his deputy John Capella – since named acting Highway Superintendent – was in town.
Councilwoman Connie Kepert, acting Highway Department liaison, on Thursday said she supported Romaine's request for a full review of the Highway Department but asked for more to be done.
"I think some of us would also like to look a little bit further as to what went wrong during the storm and I think we owe that to the taxpayers," Kepert said.
The supervisor claimed his statement to residents blaming the highway department for the mess-up has been twisted, and that he was not critical of town employees.
"I praised the people of the highway department, many of which worked long hours," Romaine said.