PATCHOGUE - The mayor of Patchogue is accused of stealing taxpayer dollars to gas up his personal car, but he says it's a long-standing practice in the village and the accusations are merely a political ploy. A letter drafted by two village trustees and sent out to residents claims that Mayor Paul Pontieri has "taken more than $17,000 of Village gas for his private vehicle in violation of the law." The trustees, Gerard Crean and Stephen McGiff, provided a log that shows exactly when the mayor used a gas card at a village yard to fill up his personal Jeep. Pontieri, who is seeking re-election this March, denies any wrongdoing. He says "there has always been a past practice and policy" of mayors using village gas while on official business. The trustees say that the mayor should have gotten board approval to use the pump, but the village attorney says there's nothing in village law that requires it.Pontieri says the whole issue is a ploy to ensure he doesn't get re-elected. He says at one point, Crean and McGiff supported his bid until they had a falling out last August and the mayor formed his own political party. Now, he says, the trustees support his political opponent.