Lakeville Estates, North Lakeville Civic Rift Sees Light?

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By Richard Tedesco

A rift between the Lakeville Estates and North Lakeville Civic Associations has been resolved with the resignation of Michael O’Donald from his post as president of the Lakeville Estates organization.

O’Donald resigned in an email to members of both civic associations last month after the board of the North Lakeville organization sent a letter to O’Donald, informing him that their group would no longer work together with Lakeville Estates. The leadership approach of the Lakeville Estates civic and internal disagreements among that civic’s members prompted that decision, North Lakeville President Betty Leong said.

“There was a difference in approach in running the civic organizations,” Leong said. “My approach is that one person should not decide things. My process is teamwork, not one person.”

Leong was elected president of the North Lakeville organization in May, in the wake of Marietta DiCamillo’s decision to retire from the position in January. Marianna Wohlgemuth, DiCamillo’s sister, simultaneously retired as president of the Lake Estates Civic Association, appointing O’Donald to succeed her.

Leong said members of her civic association had decided to continue to work with the Lakeville Estates organization after O’Donald’s resignation.

“We agreed to continue working jointly with their civic,” Leong said last week. “Everything is resolved between us.”

Bill Cutrone, who succeeded O’Donald as president of the Lakeville Estates civic, said he and Leong recently met and settled issues that had sparked the rift between their organizations.

“We’re going to go forward together as we have in the past. We’re going to get together with the two boards and vote on guest speakers and other issues,” Cutrone said.

Cutrone, who had been elected vice president of the Lakeville Estates group at the September meeting of the two civic groups, commended O’Donald for his work with the civic but said the North Lakeville civic members couldn’t work with O’Donald because of his “demeanor.”

“He has an A-type personality. He wants everything done today, not tomorrow,” Cutrone said. “He basically felt people weren’t working with him.”

In the Sept. 16 email explaining his decision to resign, O’Donald cited several issues, including “a lack or caring for transparency in keeping the members aware of what is happening.”

O’Donald did not respond to phone calls seeking comment on his resignation.

Wohlgemuth, who has continued writing the monthly newsletter for the two civic organizations, said of O’Donald, “[is] angry because we had a dispute and he lost,” adding “I have not changed. My approach has always been open government, transparency.”

Wohlgemuth and DiCamillo have led their respective civic organizations for the past 25 years, reviving the organizations after a long dormant period. They both established reputations as dedicated civic activists during that time.

Wohlgemuth currently serves as the Town of North Hempstead’s representative on the board of directors of the Water Authority of Western Nassau County.

DiCamillo, chief financial officer of the Major League Baseball Players Association, is currently serving her third and final year as president of the Great Neck Library Board of Directors.

Wohlgemuth and DiCamillo are both officers in the ladies auxiliary of Albertson VFW Post 5250, where their husbands—both veterans of the Vietnam War—are members.

In his resignation email, O’Donald also wrote that he was given “misinformation” on the geographic boundaries of the two civic organizations, which are both based in North New Hyde Park. He claimed that he had waited several months to receive a membership list he had requested and that there are 114 members in the respective civics, not 400 or 500 members as he had been told.

Cutrone said O’Donald had been canvassing for new civic association members in a neighborhood that was in the North Lakeville organization’s boundaries.

“It just made it uncomfortable for both sides,” Cutrone said.

Building membership numbers is a primary objective for both civic organizations.

“I want to build this association back up,” Leong said.

Cutrone said the civics’ membership numbers were “not exaggerated” and O’Donald had not understood that the newsletter email list included politicians and other people who are not members of either civic organization.

Leong said the boards of the two civic organizations will meet next week to discuss the agenda for their next joint meeting, slated for Nov. 18.

On their broader agendas, Cutrone said, “We’re just trying to make New Hyde Park a nicer area. My agenda is to clean up the neighborhood.”

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