When former longtime Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto resigned on Jan. 4 to defend himself against federal corruption charges, poor management led to the township having its debt surpass $700 million and Standard & Poor’s issue a junk bond rating. With the aftermath of myriad scandals still fresh, current Supervisor Joseph Saladino (who succeeded Deputy Supervisor Joseph Muscarella, who served as acting supervisor upon Venditto’s resignation), came to a public meeting hosted by the Oyster Bay Civic Association. With an audience of roughly 50 residents including six Boy Scouts from Troop 253, he let the public know that transparency and fiscal responsibility would be the rule of thumb for Oyster Bay going forward.
“We are changing the Town of Oyster Bay, creating, what I like to call, a new day in the Town of Oyster Bay. That’s not just words,” Saladino said as part of his opening remarks. “We are bringing on new board members and moving some out to pasture, as we put a new face on this town and bring changes that, frankly, I know you all want. You all want a trust in this town that is second to none.”
The modifications Saladino was referring to included appointing former federal prosecutor Joseph Nocella as town attorney in place of former Venditto right-hand man Leonard Genova and Gregory Carman as deputy supervisor. Other appointments Saladino made back in February were Elizabeth Maccarone as commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development and Richard Lenz as the commissioner of the Department of Public Works.
Joining Saladino at this meeting was Town Councilman Lou Imbroto, two-and-a-half weeks into his new position and consistently touted by the former as being readily accessible and helping out extensively with addressing citizens’ issues.
“He’s young, energetic and really wants to make a difference in our town and he represents the next generation. I’m very proud of Lou. At 33, his resume is quite incredible,” Saladino said. “We’re turning [things] around—we have a one-year and five-year program to greatly reduce the debt of our town. We will have a budget with a zero percent increase in October, right before elections, which makes sense. People need to see where we’re at because these are your finances.”
Reduction in contracts with outside vendors and overtime are among expenses the new supervisor said were being targeted. Saladino also discussed cutting bureaucratic red tape at the building department (“nothing brings more agita in the Town of Oyster Bay than how difficult it is to deal with the building department), with the biggest change being a new program centered on the ability to issue same-day permits.
Other issues that were touched on were stepping up security for boats docked at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park and Beach and working with being more business friendly in trying to renovate Oyster Bay’s downtown. With allegations of corruption still looming over the prior town administration, the creation of a new all-volunteer, five-member ethics board headed by Alfred Constants III was mentioned. And while Saladino answered in the negative when an audience member asked if Constants, the chairman of the Town of Oyster Bay Ethics Board was being paid, he did admit that the board’s counselor was not pro bono.
“Because I am transparent, [I will say] a salary is being paid to their independent council, so they don’t answer to me, the town board or town attorney,” he explained. “They have their own counsel. We thought that was very important when we looked at how this sort of thing has been going on. We want to let you know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. But we’re cutting back so much money that the town has previously spent on all kinds of products, projects and the way we do business.”
In keeping with the evening’s theme of bringing about a new and unparalleled standard of ethics and transparency, Saladino also shared that town employees are now taking ethics training and are required to provide the public with financial disclosure forms.
“We in government feel that everyone in the room and in the town know how we get our money, how much we have in the bank, what our investments are and what outside work we’re doing, which I don’t do, by the way,” he explained. “I am your full-time town supervisor. I don’t have another job, I don’t share time and run down to an office in Syosset, Massapequa, Hicksville or Farmingdale. This is what I do full time, seven days a week and I’m very proud to do that and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire public life and career. I appreciate the support we’ve been getting very much. I love this job.”