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Town of Oyster Bay needs focus, not folly

Joe Saladino, Republican incumbent candidate for Oyster Bay

Joe Saladino, Republican incumbent candidate for Oyster Bay Town supervisor. Credit: James Escher

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino has a poor reputation when it comes to respecting the speech rights of his political opponents. It got only worse this week when the supervisor and town employees he supervises were accused of stripping campaign flyers of opponents from utility poles.

Saladino is a Republican who left his Assembly seat early this year to accept the supervisor appointment from the town board after John Venditto resigned to deal with federal corruption charges related to town business. Now facing his first supervisor election, Saladino faces four other candidates.

The village administrator of Sea Cliff Village says he saw Saladino personally remove Democrats’ campaign flyers. Saladino denied he did, but admitted “campaign workers” did and said he has told them not to do so again. And Democratic town board candidate James Versocki has filed a complaint with Nassau County police alleging town employees tore down Democratic flyers.

In June, Saladino infamously attended a news conference held by his Democratic opponent, Marc Herman, and other Democratic candidates, interrupting them and interjecting “That’s a lie!” as they talked about the town’s woes. It made for riveting video, but terrible civics. And Saladino frequently talks over or interrupts his political opponents at town board meetings.

The legality of posting flyers on utility poles is suddenly a hot topic, with Republicans saying county law bars it and Democrats arguing that village code and a 2013 court case allow it. Certainly it’s common practice. The issue is whether Saladino has learned anything, and whether he’ll be more tolerant if he’s elected.

In an interview Thursday, he said, “I understand my role is to be professional, appropriate and statesmanlike at all times,” and he described himself as a “passionate guy.” Certainly no one would deny that.

Oyster Bay has troubles, including huge debts, the stink of corruption and an inability, or unwillingness, to produce financial reports on time since 2014. Saladino says they will be on time from now on.

Opposition is part of politics. If Saladino can’t deal with it without creating a spectacle, he’ll create new problems for Oyster Bay when the focus needs to be on solving the existing ones.