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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Saladino promises transparency but doesn’t answer question

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino is seen

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino is seen on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2017. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Bad pun alert.

A move to have Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino Jr.’s band — named after himself — play during the town’s summer concert series fell off a clef last week. The notion, in fact, ended up causing Saladino nothing but treble.

Because of the town’s fiscal problems, the band was supposed to play for no fee as part of Oyster Bay’s Music Under the Stars lineup. But Robert Freier, a Democrat running for town board in November, called the gig an attempt by Saladino, the band’s drummer, to solicit votes while making use of town facilities.

“Who decided that your band should play?” Freier asked, repeatedly, during a heated back and forth with Saladino during a town board meeting last week.

Saladino was appointed supervisor earlier this year after the resignation of longtime Supervisor John Venditto, who has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption-related charges — never answered directly.

Instead, he complained that Freier was playing politics. And when members of the audience began to chime in on Freier’s behalf, Saladino lamented the lack of decorum in the room.

Then the former state assemblyman, who is running for election to the supervisor’s seat, said: “I didn’t come down from Albany to entertain a circus and, quite frankly, some people in this room should be ashamed of themselves.”

Saladino made a big point after his appointment of saying that he would run an open, transparent government. That’s a refreshing change for a town where the former administration too often released little or no information about town problems, including its plummeting fiscal fortunes.

Saladino got off to a good start by opening up to the public the process during which Oyster Bay selected a new vendor to handle concessions at two town facilities once run by former restaurateur Harendra Singh. Singh has pleaded not guilty to 13 federal felony charges, including bribing an Oyster Bay official to obtain $20 million in loan guarantees.

Since the vendor selection, however, the town’s promise to be open and transparent has hit a few snags. For one, Saladino sent out a publicly funded mailing touting Oyster Bay’s openness — a mailing Democrats and some town Republicans immediately criticized as being political.

During the board meeting last week, an employee of the Republican-dominated town lugged out a Bible to — surprise! — swear in a newly appointed Republican town board member.

The new member? He’s Massapequa Water District Commissioner and Republican candidate for town board Thomas Hand, who now will have six months on the board before seeking a full two-year term in November.

Hand, by the way, was the third Republican appointed to Oyster Bay’s six-member town board this year — and as with the other two, there was little to no public notice before they were sworn in.

Last week, two GOP board members — Anthony Macagnone and Rebecca Alesia — voted against appointing Hand to the town board. “It’s wrong to appoint someone who is the party’s designated candidate for office,” Macagnone said in explaining his vote. “Open and transparent?” he added. “I don’t know.”

All of which brings us back to the Joe Saladino Band.

Who did make the decision — which, town officials said later, was overturned to “avoid the appearance of impropriety” — for the band to play? It’s an easy question that could have yielded an easy answer, especially since there is no law against a politician’s band, offering to play a community gig, in a fiscally distressed town, for free.

But Saladino refused to answer.

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