A Long Island highway official has resigned amid fury over what town residents say was a days-long delay in clearing streets after last weekend's blizzard dumped nearly 3 feet of snow.
Michael Murphy, the acting highway superintendent in the town of Brookhaven, resigned Wednesday afternoon, town officials said. Before stepping down, he designated John Capella as acting superintendent of highways.
Deputy supervisor Dan Panico said Murphy called in sick with a toothache for four days while many of Brookhaven's streets were awash in snow.
"One hundred percent inexcusable," said Panico. "The blame, unfortunately, lies squarely with him."
Murphy, who has led the highway department since last December when the incumbent superintendent John Rouse was elected to a judgeship, has refused to comment about his resignation.
Despite the resignation, town officials said Murphy will retain a job in the highway department at a around of around $100,000 a year.
Meanwhile, town supervisor Ed Romaine was away on vacation as frustrated Brookhaven residents were trapped in their homes until as late as Tuesday. Romaine's office said his trip to Jamaica was planned far in advance of the storm.
"They both should have been around or should have taken care of it," said Moriches resident Lori Materazzi. "There was a week before the storm and everyone knew what was going to happen."
Panico, who oversaw cleanup operations in Brookhaven while Romaine was on vacation and Murphy was out sick, said the snow overwhelmed town plowing operations across Suffolk.
The depth of the snow was too much for regular plows, Panico said, so work was delayed until heavy equipment could be brought in from other areas.
A Facebook page now calls for the removal of both Panico and Romaine. The creator of the page, Andrew Verdile, told NBC 4 New York Wednesday: "He had time to change his plans and stick around. It's his job to stick around, that's what he was elected to do. He wasn't here for it."
Panico defended both his work and Romaine, saying the supervisor had been in constant contact with him throughout the storm and its aftermath.
"Anyone who knows Ed knows his record of public service is stellar," Panico said.
Romaine was expected to address the media at a town hall Thursday.
Earlier in the week, Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld said, "If you knew it was headed toward your township, would you make the decision to change your plans and stay and marshal forces to help residents, or would you go on vacation?"
Suffolk County was buried under 30 inches of snow in some spots as a result of the storm, and hundreds of drivers were trapped in their cars on highways like the Long Island Expressway. After opening a hotline for drivers to reclaim their abandoned cars, police said they helped more than 100 people locate their cars and closed the hotline Wednesday. Anyone who still needs to pick up their disabled cars during the storm can reach out to their local precincts.
Officials said Wednesday five people had died on Long Island as a result of the blizzard, including a 73-year-old retired Southold town police officer who apparently had a heart attack while using a snowblower to clear his driveway, a 58-year-old Selden man who also suffered a heart attack while clearing snow and three Northport men.