State Sen. Serphin Maltese (R−Glendale) is taking heat from his opponent, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D−Howard Beach), for skipping the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association’s debate last week at JHS 93 and attending an event at Christ the King High School instead.
“It’s disrespectful to voters,” Addabbo said when asked about Maltese’s no−show.
Instead of appearing at the debate, Maltese was at Christ the King, where he is the chairman of the board, for a Hispanic heritage awards night.
Maltese aide Justin DiSanzo stood in for the senator.
City Councilman Anthony Como (R−Middle Village) co−hosted the Christ the King event with Maltese. He was also slated to participate in the debate but attended the awards night.
The Christ the King event started at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 and the debate was scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Maltese said the Hispanic awards ceremony had been planned since July and he only became aware of the conflict between that event and the debate a week before.
He said he called Paul Kerzner, the president of the civic, to see if the debate time or debate could be rescheduled but Kerzner told him “it was a structured event.”
“It’s one of those unfortunate conflicts,” Maltese said.
Kerzner could not be reached for comment.
Maltese also said the meeting notice sent to his office from the civic had his name on it even though the organization had not confirmed whether he would be able to attend.
“The fact is you don’t schedule a debate by sending a meeting notice,” he said.
Maltese denied criticism that he was evading the debate.
“I’m not afraid of a debate,” he said. “First of all, it’s not even a debate, it’s a candidates’ night.”
He also said he was not being disrespectful to the voters as Addabbo claimed.
“I am not disrespectful to anyone,” Maltese said. “I certainly didn’t want to be disrespectful to the honorees” at the Christ the King event.
“I think I would know better whether or not the Ridgewood Property Owners were upset,” the senator said – a reference to his 22 1⁄2 years of representing the community. He said Addabbo “has been to the Ridgewood Property Owners for twice in his life.”
Addabbo said he cut short his appearance at an Ozone Park fund−raiser, held the same day as the Oct. 2 debate, so he could talk to the voters.
“I changed my plans for the fund−raiser because the people of Ridgewood deserve to hear from the candidates,” the councilman said. “I love debates and — no disrespect to Justin — I would have loved to stand next to [Maltese],” he said.
Charles Ober, the civic’s first vice president, said Maltese told the organization that the Christ the King event was scheduled well in advance and that it could not be changed.
He said it was the civic that initiated a phone call about two weeks ago to Maltese about whether he would be showing up to the debate.
“It was a very big disappointment,” Ober said. “He should’ve seen the conflict and at least made the courtesy call. We have had the same meeting (date) for 77 years.”
Ober said Maltese should have been aware of the civic’s meeting because the senator has been in office for 22 1⁄2 years.
“He should’ve known that there was a possibility that there was a forum,” he said. “He knows when our meeting is. It’s never changed.”
He suggested Maltese could have rescheduled the Christ the King event because of his influence as the school’s chairman.
“I don’t understand why he wouldn’t want to be (at the debate) to face his opponent,” he said.
But Maltese said it was “impossible” to reschedule the Hispanic awards night because he paid rent to have the event on Oct. 2, which involved scheduling the Tabernacle Chorus, and six people were being honored.
Maltese and Addabbo faced off last month during a candidate forum hosted by the Howard Beach Civic Forum.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at hkoplowitz
©2008 Community News Group
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