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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Oyster Bay swearing-in goes awry

The

The "Townsend Bible" owned by the Townsend family that was prominent in Oyster Bay a long time ago. The Townsend Bible being removed from Oyster Bay after Friday town board meeting. Photo Credit: Ted Phillips

A Bible.

And not just a Bible, but the town’s historic Townsend Bible, stood at the ready at Town Hall in Oyster Bay on Friday.

Along with a judge — former Town Supervisor Angelo A. Delligatti, no less. And what appeared to be a few family members of the town’s presumptive new supervisor, state Assemb. Joseph Saladino.

There was even a Hyundai with an Assembly license plate parked outside — in what used to be former Supervisor John Venditto’s space.

Had the proceedings gone on as scripted, Saladino, whose father once served on the town council, would have replaced Venditto, who’d stepped down in disgrace just two days earlier. But to the surprise of almost everyone in the board’s meeting room, there was no swearing-in.

Instead, there was a meeting, opened and swiftly closed by council member and interim Supervisor Joseph D. Muscarella — with little but a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance sandwiched in between.

Suppose you planned a swearing-in, and nobody came?

Which — stunningly — is a variation of just what happened in Oyster Bay after half the town’s six board members stayed away, depriving the board of a quorum.

No quorum meant no vote.

No vote meant no replacement supervisor.

And thus, no use for the 1854 Townsend Bible.

Afterward, Muscarella — who, to the consternation of some town residents in the audience, had scheduled the emergency session with little notice, during hours when most people work — told Newsday that no-show council members said they wanted more time to make a decision.

And that the three — Anthony D. Macagnone, Chris J. Coschignano and Rebecca M. Alesia — wanted a chance to consider more candidates, too.

Which, on its face, seems sensible.

But the humiliating and oh-so-public show of dissent, pitting Republican against Republican, has less to do with governance than with politics.

It’s no secret that some council members wanted to be considered for appointment to fill out the remainder of Venditto’s term, thus gaining experience and exposure enough to campaign for the spot in the next election. And Republicans aren’t the only ones eyeing a turn. A spokesman for John Mangelli, the Democrat who lost to Venditto by 99 votes, said Mangelli had asked to put his name in the hopper, too.

Under the town code, the board is supposed to narrow the field to three candidates, and pick one. Saladino was the apparent pick, and no board member on Friday said they could name the other two. On Saturday, however, a spokeswoman for the town said that the three-candidate provision in the code, which was written during the 1960s Cuban missile crisis, would have been triggered only by an emergency — which did not apply in this instance.

How did Friday’s unexpected turn of events play out for residents in the hearing room?

“They’re obviously trying to put in a hand-picked successor,” said James Versocki, a Sea Cliff resident who moved to the town from Freeport six years ago. “It is disturbing to me to see the pattern of a lack of openness here and if we don’t make a change, it is going to be status quo.”

The biggest loser — of the battle, at least — seemed to be Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello, who was said to have picked Saladino as Venditto’s successor.

But a single battle doesn’t decide a war, especially with Mondello in the mix.

By late Friday it appeared as if Oyster Bay Republicans once again were toeing the party line.

The proof will come when the board, and, presumably, the Townsend Bible, get together again next week.

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