Resignations, election signal shake up of ‘insular’ Custer board

An online list of nominees for the Custer Institute Board of Directors election later this month.

Stargazers at the Custer Institute in Southold have gone through a meteor storm of sorts in recent weeks, as several members of their board, including former president Donna McCormick, have resigned.

William Bogardus of Greenport, a former physics teacher and longtime Custer Institute volunteer, has been named interim president and is the only candidate for that post on the ballot for the board’s June 23 election.

Ms. McCormick has been involved with the observatory for eight years, five as its president. During her term, she said, she’s devoted herself nearly full-time to increasing Custer’s public presence, obtaining grants and adding arts and music programs to the observatory’s calendar of events.

But over the past two years “there started to be a movement on the part of some volunteers to vote it back to a little insular club,” she said. After a series of what she described as personal attacks from other group members she believes have a vendetta against her, she resigned on May 24.

“It’s a very difficult situation. There was a core group that seemed to be misrepresenting what I was doing here, spinning it in negative way,” she said. “I don’t want to hurt Custer. Since I am one of the targets of attack, I am hoping that my resignation will stop the insurrection.”

Ms. McCormick said that finance chairman John Mastromarino has also resigned, along with all three members of the board’s nominating committee: Ruth Makofske, Steve Orlando and Anna Verticchio.

She described Mr. Bogardus as “a very intelligent, capable man” who, while he is friendly with the faction that has opposed her, has the best interests of Custer Institute at heart.

“I’m not going to put a negative connotation on it,” Mr. Bogardus said of the leadership change. “I want all people to be able to come there and share in what goes on. I don’t really believe in trying to revisit the past. My goal is to try to bring people together to work. Donna had a lot of talents. She brought a lot of people to Custer by having different nights devoted to art, music and a variety of things.”

Read more in next week’s issue of The Suffolk Times.

[email protected]