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Smithtown Board Replaces Town Attorney, Planning Board Chairman

New Smithtown Town Board makes hiring changes to several positions on Tuesday.

Former Smithtown Town Attorney John Zollo, front left, sits at Tuesday's town board meeting (Photo Credit: Sara Walsh).
Former Smithtown Town Attorney John Zollo, front left, sits at Tuesday's town board meeting (Photo Credit: Sara Walsh).
A new Smithtown town board is implementing a series of staffing changes to kick off 2014, that some described as "fallout" from the election. 

Smithtown Town Board voted 3-2 to remove John Zollo from his position as town attorney on Tuesday afternoon, appointing former deputy attorney Matthew Jakubowski to the post.

The town board also voted 3-2 to give the boot to Planning Board chairman John Gee in favor of appointing James Ehrhardt as its new chairman. Conrad Chayes Sr. will also join the planning board for a five-year term. 

Councilman Robert Creighton and Ed Wehrheim voted against all the staffing changes made above. 

Zolllo, who first served as town attorney from 1992 - 2002 before returning for a two-year term in 2012, said he was released simply due to the recent elections. 

"I did go to supervisor Vecchio and congratulated him when he won the primary and elections.  I said 'I'd like to stay....'," Zollo said. "He said, 'You made your choice. You made the wrong choice.'" 

Vecchio said he wanted a town attorney who he felt assured he could "unvarnished, not tainted" advice from.   

Both the supervisor and Councilman Thomas McCarthy both voted against Zollo's appointment as town attorney in 2012, replacing Yvonne Lieffrig.  Vecchio said he believed Lieffrig was "more than capable" of filling the job. 

Zollo said he feels he has had many major victories over the last two years including obtaining temporary restraining orders against KPE II and Jezco in Kings Park, as well as settling the recycling scheme fraud with garbage carter Jody Enterprises for $400,000. 

"I don't believe in retribution but I felt that I was never fully comfortable with Mr. Zollo's advice,"  Vecchio.  "He had to recuse himself so many times."

Zollo had excused himself from the town's legal interactions with Carlson Associates and The Bavarian Inn due to his former work for those clients. 

Zollo said he will now turn his full attention back to his private practice in Nesconset, where he focuses on general litigation, personal injury, municipal law, land use and more. He will not be able to appear before Smithtown for a year due to the town's code of ethics, according to Zollo. 

Jakubowski, who replaces, Zollo, was hired by Zollo and has been overseeing several of the town's current legal actions and lawsuits. Fred Calandrino will step up to take on the position of deputy town attorney. 

The town will seek to hire a third attorney to fill the opening in the town's legal offices, according to Vecchio. 

On Gee's replacement by James Ehrhardt, Vecchio said, "My feeling is that the Planning Board tends to be pretty political... I think this ought to be a message. " 
However, the supervisor said he has felt the planning board has show disrespect for the input of Smithtown Planning Director Frank DeRubeis, and hopes this change will curb that. 

Editor's Note: It was first published in the story that John Zollo had served as Creighton's financial manager, which is erroneous. He did once send out an email relating to a fundraiser event for Creighton. 

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