A contentious race for the board of commissioners will come to a head in Oceanside Sanitation District No. 7 with the June 20 election.
Commissioner Tom Lanning is looking to retain his seat, while former longtime sanitation employee Joe Samoles and Oceanside resident Jordan Kaplan are challenging him.
Lanning, 51, has been on the board since 2014. He said he hoped to help rid the district of its reputation for corruption by running for another term. “I am running for re-election for the board of Sanitary District 7 simply to have input on what I see is a great district within my town,” Lanning said. “Not everything is corruption. . . . The taxpayers should certainly attend the general meetings to listen to discussions to have some input to relay to the board for consideration.”
Lanning began working at his family’s business, Hampton Salvage, in Oceanside, in 1986, and worked there for 20 years. He and his wife, Daurene, have three sons — Thomas, Anthony and Jake — and own an auto body repair shop.
With his help, Lanning said, the board has budgeted for new trucks and office equipment, including computers, to help make the district more efficient. “Having the longest seat on the board, I have been involved with every budget the last five years and kept them well within the tax cap,” he said. “I have worked with nine different commissioners and have done the requirement of my job.”
Samoles, 60, was a loader and driver for the department from 1990 to 2015, when he had to retire after being injured on the job. He said that his inside knowledge, from a worker’s perspective, gave him an edge, and he noted that he was unhappy with some of the board’s actions.
“I’m running because as a former sanitation worker and current Oceanside taxpayer, I want Oceanside Sanitation to continue on the path of a reform that started a few years back,” Samoles explained.
After his sanitation career ended, Samoles worked with autistic adults at Hand in Hand Family Service in Brooklyn and the Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk. He has two daughters, Krista and Alana; a son, Joseph Jr.; and two grandchildren, Charlie, 3, and Teddy, who was born on April 4. He served in the U.S. Army from 1976 to 1982, and has been active in the community, coaching baseball and softball teams, serving as president of the Sons of Italy and teaching religion at St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church. He ran for commissioner in 2017, losing to current Commissioner Matthew Horowitz.
Samoles said he has several goals for the district, including focusing on renewable energy by installing solar panels on the roof of the sanitation garage. He also planned to fund necessary capital projects, such as garbage truck maintenance.
He said his main focus, however, was to “weed out corruption” and keep the district moving smoothly for taxpayers.
“I am not part of the old political machine and I’m not trying to be the puppet of a new political machine,” he said. “Oceanside taxpayers know where I stand on the issues and that I will stand up for the workers and the taxpayers.”
Kaplan, 54, is a district general agent for Colonial Voluntary Benefits in Garden City and has lived in Oceanside for nearly a decade. He said he was motivated to run after seeing several issues arise in the district, including illegal retirement payouts to former employees funded by taxpayers and several lawsuits.
“Over the last few years, my wife, Stacy, and I have watched as the Oceanside Sanitation District has been tarnished by corruption, backbiting, turncoats, deception, egos and public displays of negativity,” he said. “I’m tired of it, and I hope other residents are as well. I want a clean, competent district that is the envy of all.”
Kaplan and his wife are active in the community, coordinating fundraisers and running the website and social media pages for Temple Avodah. Kaplan has three children from a previous marriage: Josh, Liana and Daniel. Mandel-Kaplan has a daughter from a past marriage, Sierra, who attends Oceanside High School. Kaplan also belongs to the Grand Lodge of the Free Accepted Masons of New York, which raises money for Shriners Hospitals for Children and other causes. He has served as secretary treasurer of the organization for 31 years.
One of the issues Kaplan referenced was the payouts to former supervisors Michael and Charles Scarlata. The sanitation district recently recouped a $300,000 settlement from the Scarlatas after they were accused of collecting more than $800,000 in illegal deferred retirement payments from 1985 to 2013, after the state and county comptrollers completed audits.
When Samoles was an employee, he unsuccessfully sued the Scarlatas to try to get the money back on behalf of the taxpayers. Current Commissioner Austin Graff, who was elected in 2018, served as Samoles’s attorney.
Kaplan said that his biggest priority was keeping the community aware of what is happening in the district, and emphasizing transparency. To do so, he said, he wants to create a citizen inquiry line, “so problems can be answered directly and fairly.”
“We’ve all observed as Oceanside Sanitation attempts to deal with corruption,” he said. “I think the board needs my broader interpersonal skill set and business experience. The constant bickering and ego clashes are not helping.”
It has been a challenging time for the board, with Lanning disagreeing with the other four commissioners on whether to terminate longtime employees Dan Faust and Douglas Hernandez in December. According to a Facebook post by Commissioner Austin Graff last Nov. 26, the board did so because the pair “turned a blind eye” to former employee Joe Cibellis’s receiving dental benefits despite not being an active employee.
Faust and Hernandez filed wrongful termination lawsuits against the district in February, while Jacqueline Urli, a secretary at the district, filed a sexual harassment suit against the commissioners, claiming they permitted a “hostile, toxic” work environment, in which sexual harassment was not reprimanded. Both suits are pending. Lanning also publicly requested that board Chairman John Mannone step down at a Feb. 7 meeting, in response to the termination of Hernandez and Faust.