The Oceanside Sanitation District No. 7 commissioner election is now a three-man race, as resident Jordan Kaplan has announced his candidacy for the position. Election Day is June 20.
Kaplan, 54, who is a district general angent for Colonial Voluntary Benefits in Garden City and has lived in the hamlet for nearly a decade, said he was motivated to run by the district’s recent controversies. “I must get involved because it’s just going to continue if somebody doesn’t stand up and do or say something,” Kaplan said. “But it can’t be done alone.”
Kaplan joins longtime former sanitation worker Joe Samoles as a challenger to incumbent Tom Lanning. Lanning answered a request for comment about his two challengers by writing, “Good luck to all,” in a text message to the Herald.
Samoles announced his candidacy last month and, similar to Kaplan, said he wanted to improve the district’s reputation. “I just want to make sure that corruption never comes back into Oceanside sanitation,” he said.
Kaplan was born in Brooklyn and moved to Merrick when he was in elementary school. He spent most of his adult life in Medford before coming to Oceanside in 2011. He and his wife, Stacy Mandel-Kaplan, are active in the community, coordinating fundraisers and running the website and social media pages for Temple Avodah. Kaplan has three children from a previous marriage: Josh, Liana and Daniel. Mandel-Kaplan has a daughter from a past marriage, Sierra, who attends Oceanside High School.
In addition to his work at the temple, where he also sings in a band, Kaplan belongs to the Grand Lodge of the Free Accepted Masons of New York, which raises money for Shriners Hospitals for Children and other causes. He has served as secretary treasurer of the organization for 31 years. The group meets on the first Thursday of every month — the same night as the Oceanside sanitation meetings — but Kaplan said he would make the board of commissioners meetings his top priority if elected. He added that his role with the Free Masons hindered his ability to attend sanitation meetings, but he has stayed informed by reading three years’ worth of minutes online.
Kaplan said he was particularly motivated to run after reading treasurer reports involving former supervisors Michael and Charles Scarlata, who were accused by the state and county comptrollers of collecting $800,000 in illegal deferred retirement payments.
Kaplan got involved in sanitation, he said, when current Commissioner Austin Graff ran for his position last June. Kaplan said he supported Graff, and the race made him realize how much negativity surrounded the district. Another major issue he cited was former employees receiving dental coverage via taxpayer money even though they were no longer part of the department.
Kaplan said he recently tried to help with the dental plan issue by facilitating a meeting between Graff and his insurance agency, offering its services for dental coverage. “It would have resolved, completely, the entire issue going on with the benefits,” he said, “which they were all arguing about it going to retired workers when it shouldn’t have been.”
The board tabled the discussion, he said, at one of its meetings, and then never broached the subject again. Kaplan also noted that his research showed that the district has spent $400,000 on attorneys over the past two years to defend lawsuits brought against it and among members. He added that one of his goals was to strengthen its sexual harassment policies, after secretary Jacqueline Urli filed suit against the board, citing a toxic work environment.
Lanning has been on the board since 2014. He began working at his family’s business, Hampton Salvage, in Oceanside, in 1986, according to previous Herald reporting, and worked there for 20 years. He has also twice served as president of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce. Lanning and his wife, Daurene, opened Pastosa Ravioli in 1997. They have three sons, Thomas, Anthony and Jake.
Samoles worked as a loader and driver for the department from 1990 to 2015, when he had to retire after being injured on the job. After his sanitation career ended, he worked with autistic adults at Hand in Hand Family Service in Brooklyn and the Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk. Samoles has two daughters, Krista and Alana; a son, Joseph Jr.; and two grandchildren, Charlie, 3, and Teddy, who was born on April 4. He served in the U.S. Army from 1976 to 1982, and has been active in the community, coaching baseball and softball teams, serving as president of the Sons of Italy and teaching religion at St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church. He previously ran for commissioner in 2017, losing to current Commissioner Matthew Horowitz.
Kaplan said that even though he has not worked for sanitation, he believes he has the character needed to make improvements. “We need to benefit the sanitation workers, period,” he said. “Not all this craziness.”