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Glen Cove, citing unruly speakers, considers time limits at City Council meetings

Glen Cove City Councilman Efraim Spagnoletti, far right,

Glen Cove City Councilman Efraim Spagnoletti, far right, answers Glen Cove City Councilman Michael Famiglietti, far left, during a meeting of the City Council at Glen Cove City Hall on the evening of May 5, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Glen Cove Mayor Reginald Spinello is considering limiting the amount of time the public can comment during City Council meetings, citing recent unruly exchanges.

"I don't care if they tell me things I don't like, but I just don't want it to be a circus; and it's turning into that," Spinello said at a 90-minute work session meeting Tuesday night. He suggested limiting speakers to three or five minutes each and that they not be allowed to address the council multiple times during public comments.

"I want to allow people the ability to get up and speak, but I think we have to manage it a little bit more," Spinello said.

Well into his second year, Spinello, a member of the Independence party, is increasingly facing the same kind of vocal crowds as his Democratic predecessor, Ralph Suozzi.

At the April 28 council meeting, members of the public at times became heated in exchanges with Spinello about the YMCA, which may lose its lease, and his crackdown on illegal housing.

"When I was there, I always let people speak and listened to what people had to say," Suozzi said in an interview Wednesday.

Last month, Mastic Beach Mayor Maura Spery cracked down on interruptions and began enforcing codes limiting the number of people who could enter Village Hall, forcing some to wait outside.

The idea of limits appeared to have bipartisan support among some Glen Cove City Council members.

"When you have stuff that we're going to be voting on . . . [a member of the public] should have five minutes to talk about what's the business that evening," said Councilman Timothy Tenke, a Democrat. "If that person would want to return to the podium to talk about anything, they would get a three-minute time limit . . . and that's it."

Republican Councilman Joseph Capobianco agreed with Spinello that the back and forth between the public and the mayor and City Council had become a problem.

"The thing is, dialogue between one another has to stop," he said.

Spinello said some commenters have political "agendas. . . . We've all participated in the silly season, but this is in a different way; this is very mean-spirited."

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story misstated Glen Cove Mayor Reginald Spinello's political party affiliation.

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