Riverhead Democratic Candidates Call For Investigation into Luminati, Walter

Riverhead Town Board candidates Michele Lynch, Catherine Kent and Laura Jens-Smith at EPCAL Tuesday morning.
Riverhead Town Board candidates Michele Lynch, Catherine Kent and Laura Jens-Smith at EPCAL Tuesday morning.

The three Democratic candidates for Riverhead Town Board are calling for an “internal investigation by an outside agency” into Town Supervisor Sean Walter’s relationship with Luminati Aerospace, the firm in negotiations with the town to buy a large portion of the Enterprise Park at Calverton. 

Standing just inside the Route 25 entrance gate to the 2,900 acre property given by the U.S. Navy to Riverhead’s Industrial Development agency Tuesday morning, Town Supervisor candidate Laura Jens-Smith said there has been “one red flag of distress after another” as Town Supervisor Sean Walter negotiates a contract with Luminati to buy the property.

“One man alone, Sean Walter, has been orchestrating this deal,” she said. “If I didn’t know better, I would say Sean Walter was acting as the real estate broker looking for a commission.”

“The supervisor has a fiduciary duty to the residents of this community,” she added.

Ms. Jens-Smith pointed to several red flags raised since the supervisor signed a letter of intent to sell the property in April, including a report by RiverheadLocal last week about several building department issues, including code violations and a stop work order at two buildings owned or leased by Luminati at EPCAL.

She added that Mr. Walter signed a letter of intent to sell the property without disclosing Luminati’s financial backers.

“Were they not available or did they not exist?” she asked.

Mr. Walter told Newsday in mid-June that Facebook was a backer of Luminati’s plans to design and build components of ultralight drones that could provide internet access in hard-to-reach areas, but later said Facebook was no longer involved with the project. Luminati has not commented publicly on its financial backing.

The candidates also said they are concerned that Mr. Walter and three members of the town board participated in the June 16 open house hosted by Luminati at the former Grumman Plant 6 at the site. The town board members later told the Riverhead News-Review that they were unaware of the code violations.

“The residents have a right to know the truth,” said town board candidate Catherine Kent. “To the members of this board talk to each other? This transaction is symptomatic of greater issues with this town board. Why do we have to do our own investigative work or rely on the press?”

Town Board candidate Michele Lynch called their claim to not know about the violations a “dog ate my homework” type of excuse that “just doesn’t fly.”

“It’s not ok for the rest of the board to say ‘we don’t know about it,'” added Ms. Kent. “Everybody in town knows there are some concerns here.”

 

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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