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CB9 to Re-Vote on Member Accused of Anti-Semitic Remarks, Chair Says

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | November 19, 2013 5:15pm
 Last week, CB9 voted to keep Sam Esposito (center).
Last week, CB9 voted to keep Sam Esposito (center).
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

QUEENS — Community Board 9 will vote again on whether to oust a member accused of making anti-Semitic comments because because the board's rules had not been properly followed the first time, the CB9 chairman said Tuesday.

“People were not allowed to speak,” chairman James Cocovillo said.  “That should have happened before the vote so the vote has to happen again.”

Last Tuesday, by a vote of 34-10 the board backed Sam Esposito, who has represented Ozone Park on the board since 1988.

Immediately after, Wallace Bock, one of the board members who was targeted by the remarks, resigned from the board.

"I cannot in good conscience continue to sit on a board that condones the behavior of Sam Esposito," he said at the time.

According to Coccovillo, CB9 ignored the by-laws because the members pushed to approve a motion to vote on the issue without having a discussion.

Coccovillo said that he had mistakenly allowed the vote to take place.

“And that’s something that must be corrected,” he said, adding that he is planning to schedule a discussion and a new vote for the December meeting.

Coccovillo, who voted to remove Esposito from the board, said he consulted with the Queens Borough President’s office about the procedures.

But Esposito told DNAinfo Tuesday that the board's leadership has not yet decided whether to take up the issue again.

He also said he is not worried about the vote. "He [Coccovillo] wants to be able to berate me in public," said Esposito who had disagreements with Coccovillo in the past. "It's personal."

He also said the attempt to remove him from the board began in retaliation for his support for District Manager Mary Ann Carey. According to Esposito, Coccovillo and the executive board wanted to remove Carey last June but the board eventually voted to place her on probation.

The vote to remove Esposito was prompted by complaints from three board members, including Bock, Jan Fenster and Evelyn Baron, who said the meal Esposito bought for the board before their meeting in June was insufficiently kosher.

Esposito said he then ordered and paid for food from another restaurant that they chose but they still didn’t like it, he said.

A couple days later, Esposito sent them an email stating that “after seeing what I saw at the meeting, if that is what being Jewish is all about, I would rather be atheist because I was raised proper with respect and much different than you three,” he wrote.

Esposito said his remarks were not anti-Semitic but were intended as a criticism of three board members.

Some board members said that they feel frustrated by the dispute. "I joined the board because I wanted to work on issues that matter to the community, and I know the vast majority of my colleagues feel the same way," said Alexander Blenkinsopp who represents Woodhaven.

He also said the board members didn't find out about  plans to repeat the vote until after the media had been informed.

"Our chairman handled this exceptionally poorly," Blenkinsopp said. "If there was in fact a procedural error at the last meeting, it's because the chairman allowed it to occur."