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Oyster Bay Town Board to vote on creating town inspector general

The proposal has been amended to eliminate some powers originally to be assigned to the office of inspector general.

The Oyster Bay Town Board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a modified proposal to create an inspector general to oversee contracting.

The amended proposal for a new law to create both the position and the department for it reduces the powers of the office from what was originally proposed in October.

The new proposal narrows the inspector general’s ability to review department records and eliminates subpoena power to compel witnesses to participate in investigations. Another change in the proposal gives the power to appoint a deputy inspector general to the town board rather than to the inspector general, as the original version proposed.

Town officials did not respond to a request for comment.

At the board’s Nov. 28 meeting, Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said the town attorney’s office and the human resources department were working to review “technical changes” to the proposal “so that we develop the position in the right way, and quite frankly, the best way to get the job done.”

The creation of the position was first proposed by Democrats, who made an unsuccessful challenge to unseat Republican Saladino and the all-Republican town board in the November election.

“This is a watered-down version of what an inspector general should be,” said Robert Freier, who had been a Democratic candidate for town board. Freier said the changes to the proposal would give the board control over the department and make it a “nonindependent department.”

The inspector general “should certainly have subpoena power and if the person should get a deputy that should purely be their decision, not subject to board vote,” Freier said.

Three words inserted to a section about the inspector general’s power to review records could have a major impact on the effectiveness of the office, said Paul Sabatino, a Huntington Station attorney and former chief deputy Suffolk County executive. The amended version adds language that the inspector general may review town department records, “subject to privilege.”

“It basically guts the idea of having an inspector general, which is to be able to look at all the documents,” Sabatino said. The meaning of “privilege” could be interpreted in different ways, creating a potential loophole that “could eviscerate the entire statute,” Sabataino said.

The Hempstead Town Board on Tuesday is to hold hearings on two competing proposals to create an inspector general office in that town.

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