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Ban on town officials leading political clubs to be proposed 

Oyster Bay Councilman Anthony Macagnone, seen in 2017,

Oyster Bay Councilman Anthony Macagnone, seen in 2017, will ask for a public hearing on a measure to limit roles town officials can have in political groups.

An Oyster Bay councilman plans on Tuesday to propose a public hearing on a measure to prohibit senior town officials from also holding positions of leadership or as officers in political organizations.

Councilman Anthony Macagnone first proposed the ban on Oct. 22 as a walk-on resolution, but it was withdrawn after no town board members seconded the motion. The resolution stated that town government’s “primary responsibility” was to represent Oyster Bay residents and businesses.

Macagnone said he would introduce a resolution on Tuesday to schedule a public hearing on the proposed ban after the November election.

His proposal follows a similar measure proposed earlier this month in Hempstead by Supervisor Laura Gillen that she said was intended to eliminate “pay-to-play” culture in that town.

The majority of club leaders and presidents in the more than a dozen GOP political clubs in Oyster Bay are held by town employees, including eight commissioners or deputy commissioners, according to a comparison of town payroll and political club information on the county GOP website. Some of the biggest raises approved last year for town employees — raises of $10,000 or more — went to eight who were also leaders or presidents of local political clubs, records show. Local political clubs and committees in Oyster Bay also play a large role in campaign fundraising and have already spent more than $100,000 in the 2019 election cycle, according to state campaign finance filings. 

Town board members pushed back against Macagnone’s proposal on the grounds that they needed time to review it and that it could raise free speech issues.

“It sounds like something that would require a hearing,” Councilman Louis Imbroto, who is the president of the Plainview East/Old Bethpage Republican Club, said at the meeting.

Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said the board, town attorneys and the public needed more time to review it. 

“To rush something without a hearing blocks the public’s free speech, blocks the public’s ability to be heard,” Saladino said at the meeting.

In 2019, at least 17 resolutions were introduced as walk-ons, according to town board meeting minutes. Walk-ons are frequently criticized by members of the public who say they want to review them before board votes.

“We do need to look at the legal implications, free speech,” Councilman Steve Labriola said. He added the board needs to “see whether or not we’re infringing on peoples' right to participate” in democracy by enacting such a ban.

After the meeting, Town Clerk James Altadonna Jr., a Republican running on the Democratic line to challenge Saladino, said he supported Macagnone’s resolution.

“When you take your oath of office to serve, it should be to the residents, and not to a political party,” Altadonna said.

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