The man who has climbed the highest peaks in Western Europe, New York State and the continental United States took on what might be his greatest challenge on Jan. 31. Joseph Saladino gave up his state Assembly seat and accepted the Oyster Bay Town Board’s nomination to serve as supervisor of the township whose debt has surpassed $700 million and financial practices earned it, in April 2016, a junk bond rating from Standard & Poor’s.
Saladino replaces longtime Supervisor John Venditto, who resigned Jan. 4 to defend himself against federal corruption charges. Venditto’s 10th term was to have ended this Dec. 31, and Saladino is expected to run for election in November.
A Republican who has served as District 9 representative since 2004, Saladino had shown up at one special and two regular town board meetings this month expecting to be nominated, but a lack of consensus on the board left the town without a full-time leader. Deputy Supervisor Joseph Muscarella has been serving as acting supervisor and called the special meeting on Tuesday to swear in Saladino.
Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia, who made the motion to nominate Saladino, took note of the criticism the board had received for its deliberate pace.
“Each and every one of my colleagues has the best interests of our residents in mind—and should not be criticized for having taken our time to reach such an important decision and one with far-reaching and important ramifications,” Alesia said.
She went on to praise Saladino, stating that “there can be no doubt that he has the stamina, passion and love for the town that this job requires.”
Alesia, Muscarella and councilmembers Chris Coschignano, Joe Pinto and Michele Johnson gave their assent to his nomination. Anthony Macagnone abstained.
After being sworn in by state Supreme Court Justice Stephen Bucaria, Saladino began his comments by quoting Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”
“This day, I found out why,” he went on. “I found out that my destiny is to come home and rebuild the Town of Oyster Bay. Today, we begin anew. Today, we begin to restore the people’s faith in the town government.”
Saladino warned that “under my administration we will have zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior and impropriety will not be tolerated—and no one is exempt.
“I will work to provide residents with an open, transparent government so that everyone will know what we are doing and why we are doing it,” he added.
He said he will devote himself to scrutinizing every aspect of governmental operations to save money and reduce the huge debt, protect taxpayers, improve efficiency and “make [the town] live within its means while still delivering top-notch services that residents have come to expect.”
“I fully realize the magnitude of the important responsibility that I have been entrusted with today,” Saladino told the assembled. “I promise I will not let you down…I will not let you down (with emphasis).”
Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran, a democratic candidate for county executive, released the following statement in response to Saladino’s appointment: “The secretive, backroom process that has resulted in this appointed Oyster Bay Town Supervisor is exactly what’s wrong with local government on Long Island today. As a taxpayer, the lack of transparency and accountability that has permeated Nassau County is beyond the pale—and Oyster Bay is no different. We need wholesale government reform in Nassau County and we need it now. I look forward to bringing a fresh start to our county so we can clean up the mess we have and start anew with inclusive, honest, and trustworthy government.”
Town of Oyster Bay Democratic Chairman David Gugerty released the following statement: “Groundhog Day came early for Oyster Bay’s taxpayers, and it looks like it will be at least another year of fiscal winter, with never ending taxes and junk bond status. Today’s appointment of career politician Joseph Saladino…is nothing more than taking a page out of the same old crony playbook that has led the town into financial ruin to begin with. It’s disheartening that the the best candidate the town’s board could come up with is the person who sat in the passenger seat for years as federally-indicted Supervisor John Venditto drove the Town of Oyster Bay off a devastating fiscal cliff.”
Gugerty added that his committee will be announcing its team of candidates in the coming weeks.