Voters in the Village of Manorhaven on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to extend the mayor’s term to four years from two.
The debate over extending the term had consumed the village for the past several months. In a referendum, residents opposed the measure by 311 votes to 170.
“The residents have shown an overwhelming desire for accountability and transparency,” Caroline DuBois, acting secretary of the Manorhaven Action Committee, said in a statement. “As civic watchdogs, we will continue to be involved in guiding the future of the village by limiting the powers of the Mayor and Trustees through 2 year terms.”
Mayor Jim Avena and the board had supported extending the term, saying it would give future mayors more time to finish large projects like road paving or fixing sewers, which can take several years. Had the referendum passed, the extended term would have taken effect after the 2018 mayoral election.
“[The] vote demonstrated that many more than not prefer to stay with the two year term for now, and that is fine with this Board,” Avena said in a statement on the village’s Facebook page. “We as your elected officials are here to carry out the will of the majority when in the best interests of this Village – which we always try our best to achieve.”
The battle over the term length began in June when the Board of Trustees voted 4-0 to pass a resolution extending the term from two years to four (Trustee Rita DiLuca was not present). It made Manorhaven the only Port Washington village with a four-year mayoral term. But the change was short-lived, as public outcry forced the board to rescind the resolution a month later.
In August, the board scheduled Tuesday’s referendum to let voters decide.
As the referendum date approached, concerned citizens and the Manorhaven Action Committee held community meetings, put up signs and reached out to voters.
“We were able to mobilize our base,” DuBois said. “People who care about the future of the village and recognize the seriousness of allowing any mayor or trustee to have an unlimited term without checks and balances.”
On Monday, DuBois filed a complaint with the New York State Board of Elections and the state’s attorney general, claiming that Avena and the Board of Trustees had used village resources and taxpayer funds to influence the outcome of the vote such as putting up signs encouraging residents to “Vote Yes” and sending biased robocalls.
The letter called for the state to halt and invalidate the referendum. DuBois said she would not seek to invalidate the results, but would continue calls to investigate the village.
Avena and the trustees denied that the village had acted illegally or tried to influence the election.
“The Village of Manorhaven has not spent taxpayer money to influence the outcome of the election by buying signs or advocating a result by any other means,” a statement posted Monday on the village’s Facebook page said.