East Williston cries foul in election mailing

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In the aftermath of the East Williston Village Board election, there is still a buzz among East Williston residents about an anonymous postcard they received just before election day slamming an unnamed candidate as a “Williston Park” person.

“Keep the East in East Willliston,” was a slogan on one side of the yellow postcard.

The target of the campaign was Community Party trustee candidate Robert Shannon, who lost in the three-way race for two open trustee seats.

Shannon, who is president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Willistons and currently lives in East Williston, was raised in Williston Park and runs a contracting business in Mineola.

Independent trustee candidate Caroline DeBenedittis led the trustees candidates in the voting. Attorney Bonnie Parente won the other trustee seat. Trustee David Tanner led the Community Party ticket, running unopposed for mayor.

DeBenedittis won 479 votes, while Parente drew 407 votes and Shannon drew 319 votes.

Shannon declined to comment on the anonymous campaign tactic.

“I think it was embarrassing. I think it reflects poorly on our village,” said outgoing East Williston Mayor Nancy Zolezzi, who decided to not run for re-election. “It made East Williston residents look elitist.”

Zolezzi said there also were anonymous e-mails being sent and postings on a Facebook page she declined to identify that suggested the village board was paying for the mailings sent by the Community Party.

Zolezzi said the campaign, undertaken by what she described as a “cowardly group,” gave residents another reason to vote for DeBenedittis.

DeBenedittis said her campaign was not involved with that anonymous campaign and said she notified Shannon and his running mate for trustee, Bonnie Parente, that she had nothing to do with it.

DeBenedittis said her campaign suffered a backlash among residents in the wake of the postcard ploy.

“I don’t know what the intent of the sender was, but clearly, it had more of a negative impact on my campaign than that of my opponents,” she said. “I found myself in a position of explaining something I had nothing to do with. It is unfortunate that someone had nothing better to spend their money or time on.” DeBenedittis said.

Trustee Michael Braito denounced the postcard in a letter published in the Williston Times last week.

“A simple-minded person penned this ignorant message,” Braito wrote.

He offered an apology to the village’s neighbors in Williston Park and MIneola for what he called a “coarse and ill-bred act.”

Tanner, Parente and outgoing Deputy Mayor James Daw Jr. declined to comment on the postcard campaign.

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