Larsen Questions Mayor’s Motive

Jerry Larsen. Independent/James J. Mackin

Former East Hampton Village Police Chief and current mayoral candidate Gerald Larsen called Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach’s plan to retire on December 31 part of an “unethical tactic that attempts to control the outcome of an election.” Larsen based his allegations on an article that appeared in last week’s East Hampton Press. The Independent spoke with Larsen and Rickenbach on October 28.

Mayor Rickenbach responded by calling Larsen a “disgruntled ex-village employee” and said he would not get involved in a mud-slinging campaign.

It is Larsen’s belief that Rickenbach is timing his retirement to give Larsen’s opponent, Barbara Borsack, along with current Trustee and Deputy Mayor Richard Lawler, the advantage of incumbency ahead of June’s mayoral election. Larsen pointed to a quote from the Press article, in which Rickenbach said, “I’m leaving early because I would like to have Village residents see others in play.”

The mayor, however, told The Independent Monday that the timing of his retirement “works for me and what is going on in my life.”

Rickenbach has been mayor since 1993, when he was appointed following the death of Mayor Kenneth Wessberg, a few months before the 1992 election. Before that, he had served on the East Hampton Village Board of Trustees since 1988.

Mayor Paul Rickenbach. Independent/Richard Lewin

Wessberg’s death in March of 1993 came after he had served nine years as mayor. Rickenbach was asked Monday if he thought the board of trustees should follow the example of its predecessor board in 1993 and elevate a fellow trustee to the post, just months ahead the June election that year. “I’m not going to speculate. That is for the board of trustees to decide,” the mayor said.

Currently, Larsen is running for the top slot on the NewTown Party line, joined by local attorney Sandra Melendez, who is running for Trustee. Borsack is running for mayor on the Elms Party line, joined by two candidates for Trustee, Lawler and Ray Harden. While Larsen opposes the first two, he supports Harden, former chief of the East Hampton Fire Department. National political parties are not involved in the village elections.

Rickenbach and Larsen both have something in common: Rickenbach also served many years in the East Hampton Village Police Department.

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