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Nassau budget hearing turns raucous

Late Nassau County Legis. and Presiding Officer Peter

Late Nassau County Legis. and Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt. (Oct. 12, 2011) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County budget hearings turned raucous Friday when Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) shut down public comments about Nassau's plan to switch its bus service to a private operator.

Dozens of demonstrators cat-called and booed, demanding to be heard even though Schmitt closed the hearing. Some even went to the microphone and began speaking, continuing to give their thoughts about the plan even though Schmitt walked out, accompanied by a majority his Republican caucus.

Republicans who remained were Denise Ford of Long Beach; John Ciotti of North Valley Stream; Norma Gonsalves of East Meadow and Joe Belesi of Farmingdale. Howard Kopel of Lawrence initially left with Schmitt but returned to the room.

"The only ones who stayed are the ones in tight races," observed Deputy Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead).

Fran Becker (R-Lynbrook), whose re-election is not considerd at risk, also remained in the room.

After most of the demonstrators had left,-- about 30 minutes later-- Schmitt and Republicans came back into the hearing room and restarted the public comment period, with Schmitt calling the incident " unfortunate."

The election is Nov. 8. 

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