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Reappointment of Glen Cove chief of staff in dispute after City Council meeting

Mayor Reginald Spinello speaks at a Glen Cove

Mayor Reginald Spinello speaks at a Glen Cove City Council meeting in a file photo taken on June 24, 2014. Photo Credit: Jeremy Bales

A vote to reappoint the Glen Cove mayor's chief of staff turned into a legal quandary Tuesday night as a City Council meeting ended with conflicting views about whether it passed.

Mayor Reginald Spinello tapped Zefy Christopoulos to again serve as his chief of staff, but a divided council voted 3 in favor, 2 against and one councilman abstained, not enough to pass. At that point, Spinello cast a tiebreaking vote and an argument ensued over its legality.

At issue is whether the mayor was permitted to vote on his appointments. The city charter says the mayor makes appointments, subject to the consent of the City Council and "exclusive of the mayor." Town Attorney Charles McQuair said the charter allowed the mayor to vote because the position was not a department head, but several public speakers, reading from the city charter, said the prohibition against the mayor voting on appointments applied to any employee appointed by the mayor.

After the meeting, City Clerk Tina Pemberton said the vote had passed.

"You need four votes and as of right now we have four votes," Pemberton said. "I have to discuss it with the city attorney," she added.

During the meeting, Pemberton said former Mayor Ralph Suozzi had not voted on appointments.

Spinello said the issue was "open to interpretation" and wouldn't say whether the vote had passed. He said he needed to look at the city charter to clarify what was permitted.

"Everything else passed," said Spinello, an Independence Party member. "The only thing that is in question is if I had the majority votes for chief of staff."

Councilmen Timothy Tenke, a Democrat, and Efraim Spagnoletti, a Republican, said the vote had failed.

"It's a legal issue now," said Spagnoletti, who characterized it as a "power grab" by the mayor.

Objections to the appointment of the position created this year by Spinello varied. Republican Councilman Anthony Gallo, who voted against the appointment, said the position should be added to the city charter with clear duties specified. Tenke, who abstained, also asked for a clear definition of the chief of staff's duties before he would vote on it. Spagnoletti, who voted against the appointment at the beginning of the year and again Tuesday night, said for fiscal reasons he opposed creating a new position.

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