G.O.P. Calls For Chairman’s Resignation

From big promises to ‘really large legal bills’
Amos Goodman Morgan McGivern

Officials of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee are calling for the resignation of Amos Goodman, its chairman, in the wake of an investigation by the Public Integrity Bureau of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. 

The investigation is focused on the validity of nominating petitions submitted by Mr. Goodman for the Republican Party’s candidate in the special election for the town board seat to which David Lys was appointed in January, and follows allegations of fraudulent signatures by the chairwoman of the East Hampton Independence Party, against whom Mr. Goodman previously leveled the same accusation. Mr. Lys won the Nov. 6 election in a landslide, winning 69 percent of the vote to the 31 percent won by his Republican opponent, Manny Vilar.

“We sent a letter this morning to Amos requesting his resignation,” Kyle Ballou, the committee’s secretary, said on Tuesday. The letter, he said, was signed by himself along with Michael Jordan, the committee’s vice chairman, and Rich Gherardi, the treasurer. “We’ll be actively seeking a new chairman as soon as he agrees and resigns.” 

Mr. Goodman, who succeeded Reg Cornelia as chairman in February, said on Tuesday that he had no direct knowledge of an investigation and had only heard rumors of one. He has not been contacted by the district attorney’s office, he said. “I certainly welcome scrutiny and will cooperate any way I can.” He also said he was unaware of a call for his resignation from the committee’s chairmanship. 

The Public Integrity Bureau does not disclose information pertaining to its investigations, an official there said on Monday. But Mr. Ballou said that day that the bureau “is going around investigating all of Amos Goodman’s petitions.” Investigators had been to his house, he said, and those of others on the committee. “Basically, they’ve contacted everyone who signed those petitions to verify that it was our signature.” 

“I’ll speak for the committee,” Mr. Ballou said. “We’re not aware of any impropriety by Mr. Goodman. We certainly don’t condone it or endorse it in any way, shape, or form.” Mr. Vilar, he said, “obviously wasn’t aware of any of this.” 

“We hope that it’s not true,” Mr. Ballou said of allegations of fraudulent nominating petitions. “But at this point, Amos has really done the party no favors. He did Mr. Vilar no favors. He came in with all these promises and really hasn’t delivered on anything except for really large legal bills, and it’s time for him to go.” 

Mr. Vilar said on Tuesday that it would be inappropriate for him to comment on an investigation. “Personally, we would only hope that anybody acting on my behalf clearly abides by the law and rules of good governance,” he said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way, nor would I tolerate it.” 

The investigation followed repeated complaints by Elaine Jones, the Independence Party’s chairwoman, that the Republicans’ nominating petitions were riddled with fraudulent signatures. Though she did not meet a July 16 deadline to register a complaint with the Suffolk County Board of Elections, she was adamant about alerting the district attorney, telling The Star in August that, “All I know is that Amos Goodman has forged signatures, and I’m going to the D.A. I’m going to get affidavits from the people who said they didn’t sign Manny’s petitions, and go to the D.A.” 

Mr. Goodman, who vigorously denied Ms. Jones’s accusation, had previously leveled the same charge at the Independence Party, filing a challenge to its nominating petitions for David Gruber  with the board of elections. Its petitions included forged signatures and the name of a deceased person, the Republicans claimed in seeking to invalidate them. “We’re going to go to court to get him bounced,” Mr. Goodman told The Star in July, speaking of Mr. Gruber’s appearance on the Independence Party line on the Nov. 6 ballot.

That challenge, in turn, came in the wake of Republicans’ effort to force a primary challenge by Mr. Vilar for the Independence Party’s nomination.

The Republicans’ challenge was successful. Several signatures on the Independence Party’s petitions were invalidated, and Mr. Gruber, who lost a Democratic Party primary challenge to Mr. Lys in September, did not appear on the Independence Party’s ballot in the Nov. 6 election.  

Mr. Goodman runs a corporate advisory firm focused on the aerospace and defense industries. He assumed chairmanship of the Republican committee after a disappointing 2017 campaign, in which Mr. Vilar was defeated in his bid for supervisor, its two candidates for town board lost by similarly wide margins, and just two of its nine candidates for town trustee won election. He pledged to lead an aggressive and sustained strategy to revitalize the party, hold elected officials accountable, and provide voters and taxpayers with alternatives to what a press release at the time described as “the increasingly rudderless single-party control of the town.” All five members of the town board are Democrats. 

On Tuesday, he appeared to distance himself from the Republican Committee. “If there are folks who think they can do it differently, that’s fine,” he said of leading the party. “If I’m not the right person to do it, so be it. I’m thinking about that myself. If people are wanting a change, that’s fine. I’m not aware of that in any concrete terms, and not clinging to something for the sake of clinging to it.”

He had assumed the chairmanship with reservations, he said, and cited lost professional opportunities as a consequence. “It was something people wanted me to do, and I thought there was a path to doing things differently that would have different results.” Chairmanship of the committee “is not without its sacrifices.” 

“I’ve always said that there were two things that I considered necessary for me to want to be involved and want to be leading the party,” he said. “A credible path to electoral victory” for Republicans in East Hampton was one, he said, and in light of this month’s election result, “the honest answer is I don’t know.” The second is, “Am I the person who can deliver that?” The first question is structural, he said, referring to the Republicans’ “registration deficit” and “the trend of ever-more out-of-town voters” registering in East Hampton. “The second is the personality piece. Am I the right person to maximize changes? The honest answer to both is I don’t know.” 

Intraparty infighting was a theme in East Hampton politics in 2018. A split among the East Hampton Democratic Committee burst into public view earlier this year when the party’s effort to elect a new leader was marked by accusations that officials had manipulated the process. Mr. Lys’s appointment, shortly after he changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democratic, also angered many members of the committee. 

Mr. Gruber led a splinter group called the East Hampton Reform Democrats, which he called a caucus within the Democratic Party and which fielded its own slate of candidates for the Democratic committee, along with his own candidacy for town board. He continues regular criticism of party officials, including Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc and Councilwomen Sylvia Overby and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez. 

During his campaign and again on Tuesday, Mr. Vilar asked for civil discourse. “I prided myself on a campaign that remained above the fray,” he said. “We need to bring politics back to the local level. It should be more like East Hampton than national. The public discourse and partisanship, it’s not good for society, for the community, for people.”