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Munsey Park officials defend appointing mayor’s relative

Munsey Park trustee Lawrence Ceriello speaks during a

Munsey Park trustee Lawrence Ceriello speaks during a village board meeting on the evening of Thursday, June 1, 2017. Munsey Park village officials have defended the appointment of the mayor's brother-in-law as an action that was in the village's best interest, and had sharp words for residents who questioned the move. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Munsey Park village officials have defended the appointment of the mayor’s brother-in-law as an action that was in the village’s best interest, and one had sharp words for residents who questioned the move.

The village board discussed the hiring at a tense Thursday public meeting, the first since Daniel Breen was appointed in May to a newly created village administrator position.

Breen, 54, has since declined to accept the position and will continue in his current role as a member of the village’s utility crew at a salary of $42,000.

Mayor Frank J. DeMento said that Breen likely “did not want to deal with the frustration” of calls of nepotism from residents.

Trustee Lawrence Ceriello, newly elected in March, said that the board “selected the most qualified person who happened to be Frank’s brother-in-law and that the appointment was a “thought experiment.”

DeMento said that the village needs “someone in a supervisory position to represent the village in meetings with other municipalities.” The village has two administrative employees.

“I don’t see anything wrong with it. I stand by my vote, I was happy with the vote; I was happy for Dan to do the job,” Ceriello said.

Ceriello accused residents who spoke to the media, including Newsday, of wrongly “impugning motives on the village,” read out specific quotes in previous news coverage and interrogated residents as to why they spoke to the news media.

“I don’t think you think you did anything bad. But you did,” he said. “That was published in the paper . . . do you realize what you are doing to the village?”

Brian Dunning, a village resident who ran unsuccessfully for village justice in 2014, said that the village had done something it shouldn’t have.

“This problem started when you hired Frank’s brother-in-law,” Dunning said.

Ceriello also remarked that the news media could “easily approach” the board and receive answers.

Village officials had not responded to repeated requests for clarification about the position over the course of three weeks.

DeMento said that the board only met once a month and finding consensus among a group of five took time. He added that the board “does not discuss personnel issues in public meetings,” hence the lack of prior notice about Breen’s hiring.

Village officials said Thursday that there would not have been a salary increase for Breen.

Officials had said at the May meeting that Breen would be hired for a one-year term and that salary and benefits were to be determined. Breen was appointed to the new administrator’s job in a 3-1 board vote on May 10, with DeMento abstaining. The resolutions creating the position and appointing Breen were not listed on the board meeting agenda or posted on the village website in advance.

The board said on May 26 that it will “continue its search for a well-qualified candidate, in an effort to increase efficiency within the Village, decrease delays in certain Village business, present an overall cost savings to the Village and in general to contribute to a more user-friendly environment for the residents of the Village.”

The board culminated Thursday’s meeting by calling an executive session to discuss personnel matters, DeMento said, adding that they didn’t know whether they would proceed with searching for another candidate.

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