Officials in the Town of Oyster Bay have quietly given $665,420 in raises to 151 employees since March beyond pay increases already included this year in the amended union contract, despite a state Open Meetings Law that generally requires the information be made public before a vote.
The town board approved the raises Oct. 6 as personnel resolutions that stated they were amending salaries and titles, but those details were in attachments that were not included in the information provided to the public on the town’s website about items being voted on. The town stopped including titles and salaries in its adopted budgets beginning with the 2017 budget.
Some of the raises were made public by blogger Kevin McKenna, who obtained a copy of one resolution’s attachment through a Freedom of Information Law request, though it included titles, not names.
The raises were given to department heads, deputies as well as rank-and-file union workers.
"These employees worked around the clock to keep government operating as the majority of the workforce were ordered home for months of the pandemic," town spokesman Brian Nevin wrote in an email.
The biggest increase was for Steven Mangino, a "Group Worker I" at the town’s community and youth services department — his previous salary in 2019 before changing jobs was $52,222 — whose salary rose to $81,005 from $64,585, a $16,420 increase. Nevin said Mangino coordinates the supply and delivery of personal protective equipment to the workforce.
Sixteen employees received raises between $9,000 and $10,000.
The raise figures for 2020 provided by the town show employees’ salaries at the time the board approved the pay increases.
All salaries were scheduled to go up this year under the union contract amended last year to add a 1.5% raise on Jan. 1 in addition to a 1.9% raise on July 1. Nearly two-thirds of the raises approved in 2020 — 110 — went to employees after they had received the two pay hikes.
Planning and development commissioner Elizabeth Maccarone received a $9,021 raise this year, bringing her salary to $160,000, but payroll records provided by the town to Newsday show her salary last year was $146,049.
While Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino’s salary is set at $140,000 per year under the town code, an increasing number of commissioners, directors and deputies have surpassed that benchmark since he took office in 2017, town payroll records show.
Deputy Town Supervisor Gregory Carman Jr. received a $6,500 raise this year, the latest in a series of wage hikes that has increased his pay by $48,527 to $183,277 in less than four years. The raises represent a 36% increase since he was appointed in 2017.
Richard Lenz, commissioner of public works and the highway department, received a $6,500 raise, bringing his salary to $175,361, a $57,761 increase since 2017.
Maccarone’s salary has increased by $35,827 since 2017.
Sea Cliff resident Arthur Adelman, 69, questioned the town board at its Oct. 6 meeting about why the town was giving out raises during the pandemic.
"This is all in the midst of a pandemic where all over this area people are being furloughed out of jobs, on unemployment, and we’re making changes increasing our costs," Adelman said.
He also asked why the public couldn’t see the names of people up for raises in the personnel resolutions.
"Can we make it public before the vote in the future?" Adelman said.
Town Attorney Frank Scalera told Adelman no.
"There is a confidentiality and a privacy aspect of revealing people’s names before it’s voted upon," Scalera said at the meeting.
Kristin O’Neill, assistant director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, said in an interview that the information is public under the state Open Meetings Law. State law requires resolutions under discussion to be provided to the public to the extent "practicable" before or during a meeting upon request, and to be posted online if the government has a high-speed internet connection.
"There’s no confidentiality associated with public employee salaries," O’Neill said. "You as a member of the public should be able to see the same thing that the board members are looking at."
O’Neill said that the resolution being voted on, including attachments, should be available on the town’s website before the meeting and that raises should be included in the meeting minutes.
Scalera said in a statement Monday that it was not "practicable" to provide personnel resolutions to the public before a vote because they could be amended.
In 2017, New York State Supreme Court Judge Jeffrey Brown ordered the Oyster Bay Town Board to receive training on Open Meetings Law after he ruled the town had violated the law. Oyster Bay denied a Newsday request under Open Meetings Law to obtain a copy of a personnel resolution before or during the Oct. 6 meeting when the board voted to approve it.
There is a budget hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Oct. 20 on the tentative 2021 spending plan.
Town of Oyster Bay by the numbers
Top five 2020 pay increases
NAME TITLE 2019 SALARY 2020 SALARY INCREASE
Steven Mangino Community-Youth Services Group Worker $52,222 $81,005 $28,783
Sheila Tarnowski Director of Legislative Affairs $65,719 $82,000 $16,281
Joseph Pinto Parks Commissioner $142,857 $157,500 $14,643
Christine Wiss Deputy Town Comptroller $112,245 $126,842 $14,597
Steven Ballas Town Comptroller $139,000 $153,515 $14,515
Note: 2020 salary indicates pay after raise approved by Town Board in 2020, as well as other increases such as contractual raises.
SOURCE: Town of Oyster Bay