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CB 9 member retained after ouster vote fails

Community Board 9 voted to keep Sam Esposito (c.) on the board. Photo by Bianca Fortis
TimesLedger Newspapers

Community Board 9 had one less member as of Tuesday night, but it was not Sam Esposito.

Immediately after the board voted to retain Esposito, who was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks earlier this year, Wallace Bock stood up and resigned.

“I cannot in good conscience continue to sit on a board like this that will condone the behavior of Sam Esposito,” he said.

Of the board’s 44 members who were present at their meeting at the Royal Indian Palace in Richmond Hill Tuesday night, 34 voted against Esposito’s removal and 10 voted in favor of it.

CB 9 comprises Kew Gardens, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park.

The controversy centers around an e-mail Esposito wrote over the summer in which he criticized three other members — Evelyn Baron, Wallace Bock and Jan Fenster — for complaining about food served at a gathering. Esposito allegedly repeatedly referred to the Jewish faith throughout the e-mail. The TimesLedger has not seen a copy of the e-mail.

According to Esposito, he ordered food from a kosher deli, but Baron, Bock and Fenster did not eat it, saying it “was not Kosher enough” because the deli is open Saturdays. When he ordered food from another establishment, they still refused to eat it, Esposito said in a telephone interview.

Esposito said he tried to appease them, but they were ungrateful.

The three members took the comments in Esposito’s e-mail to be offensive and asked for his removal from the board.

Baron and Fenster left Tuesday’s meeting with Bock, but they did not indicate whether they were formally resigning. They declined to comment further.

The vote did not come without acrimony.

Board members argued throughout the meeting and debated voting procedure. For the third month in a row, Esposito and James Coccovillo, chairman of the board, butted heads.

Coccovillo said he voted to remove Esposito because of his conduct at past meetings, low attendance and other issues.

“Anybody who leaves the board because of another person — that’s something that has to be looked at,” he said about Bock’s resignation.

Coccovillo said he would stand by the vote of the board, although he would check with Borough Hall to ensure that voting procedures had been correctly followed.

Esposito said the three members’ request to remove him was actually retaliation for his support of Mary Ann Carey, the district manager of the board. Earlier in the year board members attempted to fire Carey from her job on the grounds that her work performance was suffering. Ultimately, in June the board decided to put her on a six-month probationary period.

Esposito said it was not right to “bully” Carey because she has dedicated more than 30 years of service to the community.

Carey declined to comment.

Esposito said executive board members have treated him with hostility since the incident.

“I’m sorry he’s gone,” he said about Bock’s resignation. “I always had respect for Wally and we were always able to work together — until this time.”

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at bfortis@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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