Moving forward. Looking ahead.
Those were the themes at the Jan. 10 Town of Oyster Bay Town Board meeting.
But the past weighed in on the proceedings, in the person of absent Supervisor John Venditto. The 10-term chief executive had resigned the Wednesday before to prepare his defense against federal corruption charges.
Choosing his successor seemed a done deal when the board called a special meeting on Friday, two days after Venditto’s Jan. 4 departure. New York State Assemblyman Joe Saladino, representing the Ninth District out of Massapequa, had reportedly agreed to fill Venditto’s position until Dec. 31, when the ex-supervisor’s term will expire. It is not known if Saladino—who seems to have the inside track—plans to run in November to continue occupying the office.
Saladino’s family and the man who would swear him in, New York Supreme Court 10th Judicial District Justice Angelo A. Delligatti, were in attendance. A huge Bible belonging to the town was on a table, ready to be used.
But when Councilman and Deputy Supervisor Joseph Muscarella, who has been serving as interim supervisor, emerged from the boardroom, only two other board members joined him on the dais—Councilwoman Michele Johnson and Councilman Joseph Pinto. Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia and Councilmen Chris Coschignano and Anthony Macagnone were no-shows. Muscarella then declared that there was a lack of quorum and therefore the meeting would be adjourned.
On Tuesday, Muscarella gave an opening statement in which he apologized to Saladino, Delligatti and all those who had attended the special meeting.
“What happened on Friday was sad. I had no knowledge of it. No call. Nothing came my way,” Muscarella stated. “…Maybe it was a lack of communication. Whatever it was, I have to take the responsibility for it. From this point on, we’ll move forward. We’ll do the best we can.”
Bob Freier of Woodbury, a familiar figure at the speakers’ podium during the twice-monthly meetings, asked Muscarella why the three councilmembers were absent on Friday, and if they were in the building at the time of the meeting.
Muscarella answered that Freier would have to reach out to the individuals to satisfy his curiosity.
“A lot of people were thinking that you were going to appoint a new supervisor today,” Freier continued. “I think the residents would like to know what the plan is. They deserve to know. When are you planning on appointing a new supervisor?”
“At this point we’re going to discuss it, we’ll move forward,” Muscarella said. “It should be sooner than later, I can tell you that much.”
An email to town spokesperson Marta Kane requesting comment from Coschignano and Macagnone was not returned.
In response to a inquiry from Anton Media Group, Alesia emailed, “My concern was with the timing of the special meeting. The town board must act openly and transparently. There was no reason to call the emergency meeting on such short notice when our regularly scheduled meeting is on Tuesday, January 10.
“I know Joe Saladino both personally and professionally and believe he would be an excellent supervisor,” Alesia added. “He has a great record of public service both locally and in the State Legislature. I plan to vote for his appointment. Last November (2015), Oyster Bay residents sent a loud and clear message that they want government to change. I am committed to making that change and believe my colleagues on the board are as well. Conducting important business without giving residents a chance to be heard is not the way to start that change.”
Saladino, a Republican, won election to a seventh term over Democratic challenger Brendan Cunningham with nearly 69 percent of the vote in November. An emailed request for comment to Saladino’s office has not been answered.