The recent appointment of Arthur Brewer to fill a vacant seat as a Cutchogue fire commissioner until Dec. 31, 2018, was amended at Tuesday night’s board meeting.
It was determined that Mr. Brewer — who was appointed Oct. 12 following the Aug. 12 death of commissioner Andrew “Drew” McCaffrey — can only legally serve until Dec. 31, 2017.
As of Jan. 1, 2018, the position becomes vacant again. Richard Lark, an attorney for the fire district, said the Board of Commissioners has two options in the new year: appoint someone to the position or leave it vacant.
In December 2018, the public can vote for someone to serve the next five-year term, which begins Jan. 1, 2019, Mr. Lark said.
“I erroneously told [the board] the appointment would be until Dec. 31 of the following year,” Mr. Lark said. “That was an error, telling that to the board without any clarification in my remarks, because the law did change several years ago … It was not in error to appoint Arthur Brewer, but it was not for the right length of time.”
The appointment of Mr. Brewer had been a point of contention in the community, with some calling it disrespectful to Mr. McCaffrey’s memory.
When Mr. McCaffrey was elected to his commissioner position in 2013, he received more votes than Mr. Brewer, who was an incumbent at the time.
“I’m not against Artie,” Francis McCaffrey, Andrew’s father, said at Tuesday’s meeting. “You may think I am, but I think this is an injustice to my son. I honestly do. I think there should have been a free and open election.”
The Board of Commissioners tried to assure Mr. McCaffrey that their decision wasn’t intended to dishonor his son.
“When the board was faced with the untimely death of Andrew McCaffrey, out of respect for Drew and his family, we decided to wait and not consider another appointment to fill this vacancy,” chairman Sandy Friemann said.
But, Mr. Friemann said, the heavy workload over the summer made the commissioners realize they couldn’t function with just four people, so they began considering options to fill the position. They wanted to choose someone who was up to speed and could immediately become a full, working member.
“After some discussion, it was recommended that Arthur Brewer would be the logical choice for this short-term appointment as he was experienced and had recently been a board member,” he said.
Mr. Friemann added that he was shocked Mr. Brewer’s appointment had turned into such a “lightning rod” in the community.
Commissioner Robert Fisher said Mr. Brewer has received personal attacks, including receiving a nasty letter at his home, and apologized to him for the fallout that resulted from his appointment.
Mr. Fisher also apologized for hurting the McCaffery family by appointing Mr. Brewer, and said that was never the intention.
Community members who came to support the McCaffreys agreed they have nothing against Mr. Brewer but were upset by the appointment because he had lost the last election to Mr. McCaffrey.
The board amended its meeting minutes from Oct. 12 to reflect that Mr. Brewer’s term will end Dec. 31, 2017. No decision was made about filling the position for 2018.
Photo caption: Members of the Cutchogue Board of Fire Commissioners at Tuesday night’s meeting. (Credit: Nicole Smith)