The Oyster Bay Town board of trustees has ended its long-standing practice of using consultant Linda Mondello and the firm PR Inc. for historic preservation and event planning in an effort to save taxpayer money.
“This is what I’m doing with every department — making our town more efficient, looking for ways to do things with in-house personnel,” Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said.
Last year, under the administration of former Supervisor John Venditto, the town began cutting back on the use of outside consultants, reducing consultant costs by $1 million in 2017, according to town financial documents.
Saladino announced at a board meeting last week that town employees will now undertake the work at the town-owned Littauer Estate in Oyster Bay Cove.
That work has included putting on art exhibits, developing a strategic plan, acting as a liaison between art students and teachers, coordinating with town officials, and organizing visits with Girl Scout troops.
Records and information provided by the town show that from 2012 through 2016, Mondello was paid $234,275 and PR Inc. was paid $152,281.
Mondello, a former curator and director of development at the Hofstra Museum at Hofstra University, is the wife of Nassau County Republican Committee Chairman Joseph Mondello. She has had a town contract to provide the services since 2007. Linda Mondello declined to comment, a spokeswoman for her said.
The chief executive of Island Park-based PR Inc. is Eric Ricioppo, the former president of the Cradle of Aviation Museum. He did not respond to a request for comment.
The board approved the measure 7-0. The change does not cancel the contract, which runs until Dec. 31, 2018, but prevents Mondello and PR Inc. from doing additional work without board approval. Saladino said no additional funding would be authorized.
The town awarded the most recent contracts last year authorizing payment of up to $75,000 over the 34-month term of the contract to Mondello and PR Inc.
Deputy Supervisor Gregory Carman said that based on his review, the amount was supposed to be paid annually, not over 34 months. This year, Mondello continued to work even after the authorization was exhausted and the town could no longer pay her without board action, Carman said.
Last month, a resolution to authorize annual payments up to $75,000 was proposed, but the board tabled it. That measure was amended last week to approve $17,000 to compensate Mondello for work she had already done.
“I was not in favor of voting for an increase,” Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia said. She added that the amended version was “appropriate” as the town cuts back on expenses.
Town records obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request show that in 2015 Mondello was paid $41,625 for her services at a rate of $125 an hour. Invoices submitted by Mondello show on most of those days she billed for overseeing yoga and art classes.