Item To Vote Off CB9 Member Back On Agenda

BY LUIS GRONDA
Staff Writer

The conflict between Community Board 9 members will continue, at least until the board’s next meeting.

Less than a week after CB9 voted against ousting Sam Esposito after three members complained that he made racial comments, the board chair sent out a press release announcing CB9 would hold another vote in December on Esposito’s removal.

According to the release written by James Coccovillo and tweeted by CB9 member Joel Steven Kuszai Monday night, the board ignored CB9’s by-laws by voting on the item without allowing members to speak on the matter before a vote was taken.

CB9 Chairman Jim Coccovillo (left) announced the board will vote again on whether or not to force out board member Sam Esposito (right), after proper procedure was not followed.  Photos by Luis Gronda

CB9 Chairman Jim Coccovillo (left) announced the board will vote again on whether or not to force out board member Sam Esposito (right), after proper procedure was not followed. Photos by Luis Gronda

“The procedures for removal, as described in the Community Board 9 bylaws, require that those bringing the demand, as well as any other board members who wish to speak on the matter, be heard before the vote to remove be taken,” Coccovillo wrote in the release.

The board voted during the November meeting 34-10 to keep Esposito. Before the vote was called, the board debated whether CB9 needed to follow board by-laws or Robert’s Rules of Order on a vote for removal. After it was decided that Robert’s Rules superseded the board by-laws, a vote was called.

Coccovillo wrote in the release that this ruling was incorrect after speaking with Barry Grodenchik, Director of Community Boards and Hugh Weinberg, general counsel in Borough President Helen Marshall’s office.

In a statement sent out Tuesday, Coccovillo said, “The Borough President’s Office has confirmed that I have wrongfully allowed CB9 bylaws to be bypassed, a fact that needs to be rectified to sustain the confidence and trust of the board as well as the public, and which will be attended to at the next board meeting.”

Esposito said he was “shocked” to hear that Coccovillo would put his removal on the December meeting agenda. He protested on Tuesday that the board chair put the item back on the agenda without the approval of the rest of CB9’s executive board and that other members were not informed of his decision.

“He did this arbitrarily by himself,” Esposito said. “Regular board members have no idea what’s going on at the moment, we found out about it on Twitter.”

Coccovillo acknowledged that the release went out to the media and elected officials first, before other CB9 members got the news. He said it is up to his discretion as to whether or not he sends out information like the release to other board members or the public first.

“I am correcting something that was wrongfully done,” he said. “That’s my position to make sure things are in order.”

The chairman added he later sent out notice to all other board members, informing them of his decision. He also said this decision would have still been made if Esposito was voted off the board, because the correct procedure was not followed.

Esposito, who said he believed he was being targeted because of his support for CB9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey earlier this year, noted that the board had multiple options to consider at the next meeting, including impeaching Coccovillo as chairman.

Esposito said he would not want to bring a vote to replace Coccovillo now, with a new Borough President ready to take office, and would prefer to wait until March, during the election of new officers.

When asked about the possibility of his own removal, Coccovillo said that there were no grounds for his removal.

CB9 member Alex Blenkinsopp said he is disappointed with the entire situation, including being informed of the news through Twitter along with the rest of the public. He said Coccovillo should have told the rest of the board first before sending out the release.

“That does not mean it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

The next CB9 meeting is scheduled for Dec. 10 at the Trump Pavilion in Richmond Hill.

Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, lgronda@queenstribune.com, or @luisgronda.