Oyster Bay Town mailings have sparked a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court in Mineola Friday by residents alleging the flyers are really political ads.
Jayne Ann McPartlin and Cathleen Colvin sued the town, the Town Board and Supervisor Joseph Saladino for allegedly violating a state law that limits the content of municipal publications to official town matters.
“From the inception of defendant Saladino’s appointment and continuing up to the present, the defendants have continuously and systematically used their positions and taxpayers’ dollars to publish and distribute self-promoting campaign material,” the complaint alleges.
The lawsuit, filed by Garden City-based attorney Amy Marion, reproduced several mailings sent to residents that promote actions and developments in town government characterized as accomplishments of Saladino. The complaint also included reproduced screenshots of the official Oyster Bay Town Facebook page and Joseph Saladino’s Facebook page that showed the town’s page linking to the supervisor’s page. Screenshots of Saladino’s page showed campaign information.
Oyster Bay Town Attorney Joseph Nocella on Tuesday said in statement, “this lawsuit is undoubtedly frivolous because the town consistently follows the law regarding mailings and the use of social media.”
Saladino has faced previous criticism over town mailings. A May town mailing listed what it characterized as Saladino’s accomplishments and prompted bipartisan criticism that it was a political mailing. That mailing, which was partially reproduced in the complaint, included the town’s website address but did not include phone numbers, departments or email addresses. Deputy Supervisor Gregory Carman said at the time that future mailings would have more contact information.
McPartlin, 72, a retired attorney from Syosset and registered Democrat, said Saladino and the other defendants were using “public funds as their personal bank account.”
“It seems that the closer you get to elections the more of these mailings you get,” McPartlin said. “The last several just seemed very blatantly political.”
The plaintiffs are seeking to stop town officials from using public funds to publish and distribute what the lawsuit described as “political propaganda” and also seek to compel Saladino and town board members to repay the town the public money already spent on the mailings.
Defining the line is between informing the public about their government and political messaging has been an issue at the county level as well. Earlier this month Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas asked the county ethics board to issue an opinion on the legality of taxpayer-funded promotional mailings.