Councilman Tim Hubbard broke ranks with his party today to support the appointment of an outspoken critic of the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency to that body’s governing board.
Larry Simms of South Jamesport was appointed to the the IDA board of directors to fill a seat left vacant by the resignation of board vice chairman Lou Kalogeras. Simms’ term will end Dec. 31, 2021. Members of the IDA board serve as volunteers, without compensation.
Hubbard joined the board’s two Democrats in the vote to appoint Simms. He said after the meeting he voted to support Simms because he was the best-qualified candidate among those who interviewed for the post — and despite political pressure to oppose the appointment of the civic activist.
Simms has regularly lambasted the IDA for its willingness to grant tax abatements and exemptions. He has argued that IDA and its executive director Tracy Stark-James have not completed adequate due diligence or cost-benefit analyses before granting benefits to applicants.
He has also argued that the IDA is incentivized to approve projects because it is “self-funded,” with applicant fees as its sole source of funding for its operations .
“Just like a shark needs to keep swimming to breathe, the IDA needs to keep handing out benefits to stay in existence,” Simms has argued.
Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith was also a vocal critic of the IDA during her campaigns for office, even calling for its dissolution. Following a meeting with members of the IDA board at a town board work session after she took office, where Stark-James gave an extensive presentation on the IDA’s activities, seeking to correct “misconceptions” and “myths” that plague the agency, Jens-Smith backed off that position.
Council members James Wooten and Jodi Giglio voted against the Simms appointment.
“I thought there were other people that were interviewed that were qualified as well,” Giglio said before casting her vote.
“There was a whole host that came out for this particular board,” Wooten said. “You say you wanted like-minded people in there,” he said, adding that Simms is “not for me.”
Riverhead Republican Chairwoman Tammy Robinkoff acknowledged that Hubbard was “questioned by the party” about his support for Simms.
“Larry’s history with some of the key members of the IDA has not been a very good history,” she said in a phone interview this evening. “Putting somebody on the IDA like that — we were concerned would the other members walk away?” The party chairwoman said Hubbard did the interviews and determined Simms was most qualified. “So he made his decision.”
Simms says despite his criticism, he supports the IDA’s mission to attract business to Riverhead and create good jobs. He said he believes his experience and skills make him well-suited to be an asset to the agency as an effective board member.
“I’m glad they did a thorough search,” he said in a phone interview this afternoon. “I’m confident I have the skills to help and I look forward to working with the board.”
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