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Oyster Bay residents question supervisor over Sandy relief grant funds

Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino faced questions from

Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino faced questions from residents at a town board meeting Tuesday morning. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino defended his handling of a disaster relief grant for his Massapequa home amid questions from the public at a Tuesday town board meeting.

A New York State agency dropped a lawsuit last month against Saladino after he returned nearly $16,000 in New York Rising funds for which the agency  had contended he was not eligible.

During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, several residents asked him for explanations about the lawsuit, to release documents to the public or to resign.

Saladino said it was a “personal matter.”

“This is not a Town of Oyster Bay issue. It's not a criminal issue. It was a civil issue that has been resolved,” he said. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 had “devastated” his home, he said.

The lawsuit, filed in September by the Housing Trust Fund Corp., the state agency overseeing the grant program, alleged that Saladino had received duplicate benefits because he failed to disclose a homeowners insurance settlement he received.

Saladino said his application had included flood insurance and homeowners insurance that he “had received or at that point expected to receive.”

In 2015, New York Rising gave Saladino $15,803 to cover a portion of the estimated $114,883 needed to repair his house, the lawsuit said. He received $140,434 from insurance, according to the lawsuit, more than the cost of the repair approved by the state.  

Saladino  said the actual cost of repairing his house was “hundreds of thousands of dollars above what New York Rising came up with.”

Harold Siering, 54, a retired insurance adjuster from Massapequa Park, was not satisfied with the supervisor's explanations. “I'm asking for your resignation because you've defrauded the public,” Siering said.

Saladino said Siering didn’t have the facts.  

“You have not inspected my home. You have not inspected any of the insurance documents,” Saladino told Siering. “You clearly have not inspected the application I made, which was honest and full.”

Siering then asked him to “release the claims documents so we can see them for ourselves and see what you put down in your claims applications.”

“I will consult with people from New York Rising and make that decision,” Saladino responded.

After the meeting, Saladino said, regarding the total costs of his repairs, “We’re compiling all the information. I’ll be happy to provide that for you soon.”

Saladino, a former state assemblyman, filed for building permits retroactively under a town amnesty program shortly after he was appointed supervisor on Jan. 31, 2017. Those permits put the value of repairs to the house at $22,543, plus $6,300 for repair to a bulkhead. The permit for the work on the house was modified last year so that a separate application to install a hot tub on his deck could be submitted.

Saladino’s attorney, Gregory Carman Jr., who is also the deputy town supervisor, said on Monday the difference in the costs on the permits and the project approved by New York Rising was in part due to permits not being needed for some work.

“A lot of what was damaged and had to be redone, you don't have to pay town fees to the building department,” Carman said. “That would be putting in carpeting and appliances and cabinets and things like that. That’s where the money got spent, but the building department doesn't collect money on that when you're fixing your home up.”

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