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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Supervisor John Venditto: Fix Oyster Bay

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto looks on

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto looks on during a town meeting at Town Hall, Tuesday July 21, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Dear Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto:

You’ve made a hash of one of the wealthiest towns in the nation. It’s embarrassing, as you’ve said, that Oyster Bay’s Wall Street bond rating is junk.

And now comes word that you plan to lay off 150 employees, a move the union is certain to fight, as one way to overcome the lack of aggressive management and get the town on track.

Trimming the payroll is a logical move — one right out of the management playbook, since costs account for the largest expense portion of the budget.

But let’s get back to that later.

For now, let’s assess your situation — and, by extension, that of every other townwide elected official in Oyster Bay.

You’re in trouble, ladies and gentlemen.

Oyster Bay residents are steaming about what’s been going on and why.

The town guaranteed loans for a vendor, Harendrah Singh, who is awaiting trial on numerous federal charges, including bribing a town official. Singh’s attorneys have argued that he was indicted by federal prosecutors who believe Singh can offer evidence about corruption in the town and Nassau County.

And then there’s the town’s bonds being dumped to junk.

Mr. Supervisor, residents long proud of being at the top of the Long Island’s municipal food chain don’t like being down in the dirt.

For proof, look to Nassau, where former County Executive Thomas Gulotta’s budgeting fumbles tanked Nassau to one stop above junk. The county had been struggling for years, but voters didn’t revolt until Wall Street took action.

All of which is to point out — and with the utmost respect, Mr. Venditto — that politically, you could be toast.

The usual drill, for Nassau Republicans, would be to pave the way for a dignified exit, and maybe a new job. A judgeship perhaps? Meanwhile, the party would be ready with an appointed successor to serve out the balance of your term — which would set a replacement up quite nicely to go for a full term at the next election by campaigning on experience.

Still, Mr. Supervisor, hash can make for a fortifying meal.

Which is to say there’s a chance to regain some of your traditional swagger.

How? It’s simple: Fix Oyster Bay.

OK, so you’ll say, hey, that’s what I’m doing with the layoffs threat and the two-year plan to end a decade of deficit fighting. And the as-yet-to-be-disclosed reductions in elected officials’ salaries — which, I believe, would have to be voluntary for every elected office other than your own. And the reduction in town services, seasonal workers and outside consultant contracts.

But really. Any town that asserts it can make do with about 14 percent fewer full-time employees (a figure that includes 103 resignations and retirements) likely had lard in the payroll to begin with.

Is the layoff threat a bargaining ploy to get the employees’ union to agree to pay more toward health care? No, you told Newsday reporter Ted Phillips on Wednesday.

But let’s be honest, Mr. Supervisor, some employees landed work in Oyster Bay — and too many other Long Island municipalities — because of their political connections. And, as the Singh scandal amply demonstrates, some vendors did too.

So who gets the ax now? Which Oyster Bay employees will pay — or, more accurately, lose their paychecks — as a result of the town’s management?

Mr. Supervisor, at this point you’ve got nothing to lose. Protect no one because of politics. Instead, wherever you can, work with the union and other elected officials to squeeze out the waste and preserve the level of services residents expect.

In short, set the town right. And for the long term.

After all, while the town’s workforce could decline significantly — taxes paid by town residents won’t be doing the same.


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