Former Republican Councilmember Thomas Ognibene says there needs to be a change-up in the Queens GOP after years of infighting and what he called a negative influence by former vice chair Vince Tabone.
“I’ve believed for the last three to four years that it [leadership] had to be changed,” said Ognibene, who served in the Council from 1991 to 2001 and was the minority leader.
Tabone is charged with accepting $40,000 in bribe money to sign the Wilson Pakula certificate, to greenlight State Senator Malcolm Smith as a Republican for mayor. He resigned as vice chair on Wednesday, April 3, a day after his arrest.
Phil Ragusa currently chairs the Queens GOP.
The ideal person to replace Ragusa if he were to step down, Ognibene and others have said, would be former Congressmember Bob Turner, who lost a Republican U.S. Senate primary last summer and whose congressional district was cut up thanks to redistricting.
On calls to step down, Ragusa said he does not plan on giving up his position, as he’s not linked to the charges.
“We’re just moving ahead,” he said. “One person should not be able to affect the whole Queens GOP.”
Ognibene, now practicing law on Long Island, said the allegation that Tabone frisked a cooperating witness for a microphone was proof he was up to no good.
“That’s evidence of a guilty conscious,” Ognibene said.
Ragusa and Ognibene came into a leadership battle two years ago when a sect of the party voted to elect the latter as the GOP chair. A separate pact voted for Ragusa at the same time, with a judge finally ruling that Ragusa was rightful leader of the party.
While he was saddened by the allegations against Councilmember Dan Halloran, Ognibene said the alleged actions of some shouldn’t reflect on the GOP as a whole and “the Party will go on.”
A replacement for Tabone has not yet been named, Ragusa said.
“We’re going through our process and we haven’t named anybody right now,” he said.