Reporters packed a second-floor press room at Brookhaven Town Hall on Thursday afternoon as Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine returned from his tropical vacation to address the media for the first time since Long Island was hit with significant snowfall last week.
Romaine gave a 12 minute statement, which began with apologies, but ultimately blamed the town’s highway department for its “failure” to quickly and effectively clear town roadways. “I want to say to the people of Brookhaven that I’m sorry the storm happened and that I am particularly sorry I was not here when it occurred,” he said at a podium covered in news microphones.
After delivering the televised remarks, Romaine refused to address questions from the press corps. Three hours after delivering his initial statement, Examiner.com sat down with the Supervisor in his office.
Romaine returned Wednesday night after vacationing for seven days in Jamaica, Deputy Town Supervisor Dan Panico told reporters earlier in the week. Defending his decision to leave town on Feb. 6, Romaine said “When I left last week, there was just a warning of a storm.” He added that staff from his office had assured him on Friday that the highway department was prepared for the storm, when he phoned them from the Caribbean. “I spent most of my time on the telephone,” Romaine said of his vacation.
Romaine’s statement placed blame on the highway department, which currently does not have an elected official in charge. A general foreman, Michael Murphy, was appointed as Acting Highway Superintendent after John Rouse left the job last December to accept a judgeship.
Town officials said Murphy had called in claiming he had a toothache and did not report for work during the blizzard. “During the storm it became apparent to me that although I did not have authority over the highway department, it was time to ask for the resignation of our Acting Highway Superintendent,” Romaine said.
Asked why he didn’t return earlier, Romaine said “If I had come back, say Sunday, then at that point, by the time I landed…there wasn’t much left for me to do at that point. It’s true a good 10% or less were still unplowed. We had cleared the storm.”
“I’m sure there were a ton of people frustrated,” he said. “To the people of Brookhaven, you are owed an apology and I guess I am the person to give it,” Romaine said after explaining that he was the one to request Acting Highway Superintendent Michael Murphy’s resignation on Wednesday.
“If I had to do it over again, I would have never taken a vacation…but we don’t all have crystal balls. All I can do is promise that this is not going to happen again.”
Asked if he would consider resigning his post, Romaine said “It’s not going to lead to my resignation. I was elected and I intend to serve. The easy thing to do would be resign and leave. I’m here to accept some responsibility and lead this town.”