It’s probably just as well that Wednesday’s snow caused Nassau’s Open Space and Parks Advisory Committee to postpone its monthly meeting.
The nine-member advisory panel has been among the many commissions, committees and other panels stocked with last-minute appointees by Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi and his Democratic allies in the county legislature before they lost power at the end of 2009.
The panel was created in 2001 based on recommendations in the county’s 1998 Master Plan. It gives recommendations to the Nassau County Planning Commission and the Nassau County Legislature on issues involving open space and parks. It has no veto power and cannot stop anything, but its recommendations are usually followed.
Appointees to OSPAC do not require legislative approval, so the first public inkling of trouble came at the panel’s first meeting of the new year, on Jan. 13th, when at least three new members showed up, but without any paperwork to show they had been appointed.
The biggest surprise was Eileen Kreib, former mayor of Sea Cliff, former aide to Suozzi and Suozzi stalwart. The expectation was that she would lose her job when Suozzi lost his, so he appointed her to OSPAC, an unpaid position.
But the new county executive, Edward Mangano, had kept her on as a deputy parks commissioner.
“I think the thought was I was not going to survive the transition...I think I agree with Ralph I shouldn’t be sitting here as a voting member,” she said, looking down the long, conference room table at OSPAC chairman Ralph Fumante.
“I don’t think the county executive (Suozzi) actually expected me to survive, but I did,” she added.
The solution was obvious, at first. Kreib said she would serve as the Parks Department liason to the committee, not as a member.
A slight problem remained. She had been named to replace Monte Leeper, an architect sitting along the wall who said his term has not expired. He said he should still be on the committee.
Leeper and another OSPAC member, Richard Schary, said later that they had gotten telephone calls from aides to Legis. Diane Yatauro in late December telling them their services would no longer be required. They were appointees of the Democratic majority.
“You volunteer your time, spend hours and hours and on this, and then the people who appointed you kick you out,” Schary said outside the meeting room.
However, Schary’s wife, Lois said Wednesday that he got a letter on Jan. 27th informing him that Mangano had reappointed him. She said he could not come to the phone because he was still recovering from heart surgery.
In any case, OSPAC did not conduct any business that day, although it met for more than hour. It was unclear that it should have been meeting at all since it had only three voting members present, out of its nine members.
Aides to Mangano said after last month’s meeting that with all the uncertainty over who was on what commission or committee, they had not gotten to OSPAC. They provided no new information despite numerous requests during the past month, including requests Wednesday.