By Nathan Duke
Tempers flared at Community Board 11 Monday as board members fought with Chairman Jerry Iannece over his decision not to investigate a controversial campaign flier that attacked Republican candidate Bob Friedrich in his Assembly race.
But the flier was not the only hot-button issue at the meeting. Former board member Ocelia Claro addressed City Councilman Dan Halloran’s (R-Whitestone) decision not to reappoint her and insinuated there was a “power struggle” between the councilman and Iannece.
The flier, sent out in February by state Assemblyman David Weprin’s (D-Little Neck) campaign, has been a source of contention after Friedrich called on CB 11 to condemn it during the board’s March meeting. The flier accused Friedrich of being an extremist and featured a crime scene with a swastika behind police tape.
Friedrich, a Democrat who challenged Weprin on the Republican line, has claimed the mailer attempted to associate him with Nazi ideology, but Corey Bearak, Weprin’s former campaign manager, said the piece was used to illustrate Friedrich’s belief that hate crimes should be treated the same as other offenses not motivated by hate.
Prior to Monday’s meeting, Iannece had indicated he would not pursue the matter any further. He pointed out that the city charter does not allow for community boards to engage in political activities.ï»¿ï»¿
Board members erupted in anger and argued with Iannece throughout the course of the meeting. Friedrich and several CB 11 members attempted to shout down the chairman after board member Frank Skala proposed a motion to condemn the mailing.
“I can only trust that his decision is not politically motivated to keep peace with the Democratic organization and the Weprin camp, both of which he will need if he decides to run again in the future,” Friedrich said of Iannece, eliciting groans from some board members.
Iannece, who ran for the Council last year, shot back that CB 11 was not Friedrich’s community board and chided the former candidate for raising a “political” issue during the meeting. Friedrich has also called on CB 13 to condemn the mailing, but no action has been taken.
“I’m calling this ‘the Friedrich issue’ because that’s what it is — a Friedrich issue,” Iannece said.
Several board members, including Skala and Melvyn Meer, continued to spar with Iannece, prompting the chairman to threaten to have Meer removed from the meeting. Christine Haider, CB 11’s first vice chair, repeatedly told the board members they were out of order.
Skala made a motion to appeal Iannece’s decision not to address the flier. The board voted 31-6 against the appeal.
David Weprin handily defeated Friedrich in the February special election to replace his brother, Mark Weprin, who now fills David Weprin’s former Council seat.
The meeting was also fraught with tension after Ocelia Claro, a former CB 11 member from Bayside, discussed Halloran’s decision not to reappoint her to the board after she failed to meet with him. Claro was the only member not to be reappointed.
“My attendance record and conduct have been beyond reproach,” she said. “There’s no need to put board members in a power play between the chairman and the councilman.”
Iannece had criticized Halloran in February after the councilman required CB 11 members to submit a résumé or letter to prove their credentials and meet informally with him before he considered appointing them.
Halloran and Borough President Helen Marshall each pick half of the board’s members.
“It’s news to me there was a power struggle,” Iannece said. “Ocelia was a great member. She showed up at every meeting.”
Halloran told the board they would be expected to go through the same process next year.
“The bottom line is anybody who chooses not to see me will not be reappointed,” he said.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.