Glen Cove mayor's proposed City Council appointment draws criticism

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Glen Cove Mayor Reginald Spinello's proposed appointment of a Republican to fill a vacancy on the City Council met with criticism from two Republicans on the council Tuesday night.

Speaking at a council work session, Spinello said he will put attorney Joseph Capobianco up for a vote at next week's regular City Council meeting.

Councilman Anthony Gallo, a Republican, said the process should be done in a way to honor Nicholas DiLeo, the Democratic City Councilman whose death in April reduced the council to five members.

"I have nothing against this particular candidate, but for me it's a question of process," Gallo said. "It will work best if all interested candidates come to be interviewed by the City Council."

Councilman Efraim Spagnoletti, another Republican, said that with the fall election so close, it was better to wait.

"It would be easier and less stressful for all involved to leave this up to the people of Glen Cove," Spagnoletti said.

He said he was surprised that the issue came up again, because "at the last pre-council meeting I thought we had arrived at a consensus that it would be decided in November. So I'm not sure what's changed."

Republican City Councilwoman Pamela Panzenbeck seemed to be on board with Capobianco and said she was concerned about leaving the seat vacant for several months.

"We really don't want a situation again to arise where we can't come to an agreement on something," she said.

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In most cases the mayor can break a tie vote, but earlier this year a vote on a proposal to monitor water quality at Crescent Beach failed when three council members voted against the mayor.

Spinello, an Independence Party member, said his candidate had the unanimous backing of the Republican committee that nominated him.

"I tried to put the best candidate up there that I thought was good with everyone," the mayor said.

Seeming to criticize Spagnoletti, he turned to him and said, "You never put up anybody or mentioned anyone."

The council discussed Capobianco's appointment last month behind closed doors during executive sessions. State open meetings law allow municipal bodies to go into executive sessions to discuss appointments, but a 1994 state court decision ruled that appointments of elected positions were not allowed in executive session because of the need to protect the voters' franchise.

"The matter of replacing elected officials should be subject to public input and scrutiny," the judge wrote in that case, Gordon v. Village of Monticello.

Spinello said the process has been transparent.

When the city faced a vacancy in 2004 after a contested 2003 City Council race resulted in a tie, that seat remained vacant for more than 10 months.

After getting an opinion from then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, then Mayor Mary Ann Holzkamp, a Democrat who presided over a fully Democratic City Council, decided to have the seat filled by election rather than appointing someone.

At stake is control of the City Council. The last election left the council evenly split between parties, with the Mayor able to break most tie votes. A Republican appointment would give the Republicans a supermajority on the council and an incumbent in November.

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"I can guarantee you that if the Democrats had four votes their candidate would be in there right now," Spinello said. "It's not a matter of transparency, this is a matter of good government."

City Councilman Michael Famiglietti said he and fellow Democratic Councilman Timothy Tenke, who did not attend, want a Democrat because DiLeo was a Democrat. The Democrats have nominated insurance executive Theresa Moschetta to run in November.

Spinello said he was determined to vote on Capobianco next week.

"We'll let the chips fall where they may," Spinello said.

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