More than an hour into the July 11 Oyster Bay Town Board meeting, Supervisor Joseph Saladino finally revealed the name of the person who had dominated the discussion: Brian Nevin.
Until then, the name had not been mentioned, but his proposed appointment had generated heat and pushback.
Nevin, of Merrick, has been the director of communications and senior policy advisor for Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano since March 2010.
The board ultimately voted 6-1 to hire him as public information officer. The lone “nay” came from Councilman Anthony Macagnone.
After the resolution was introduced, Macagnone left the dais, strode to the speakers’ podium, and stated that he was opposed to the hiring, noting the position paid $163,000.
“There’s no résumé on this individual,” he said. “He does not live in the Town of Oyster Bay. This in a year where we asked our town employees to give back their hard-earned wages, where we are charging community groups for a showmobile. It’s ridiculous. It would be cheaper to hire a firm.”
He urged his colleagues to vote no. Applause greeted his remarks.
Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia asked Saladino, “Is this individual going to be filling a slot that already exists?”
The supervisor called on Vicky Spinelli of the Human Resources Department, who affirmed that a number of unfilled job positions had been deleted, and even by adding Nevin’s high salary, the results balanced out to zero.
Alesia said, addressing Spinelli, “I’m confused and I don’t want to put you on the spot, but I was given misinformation. I believed we were filling a vacant spot that was left for the director of the Public Information Office. That’s not the case?”
“No, I’m creating a brand new slot,” Spinelli answered, adding that the title was public information officer. The position is currently held by a part-timer, Jim Moriarty. Saladino indicated that Moriarty will be leaving soon.
Macagnone wondered, “We have nobody? We can’t give incentive to our workers to move up in the ranks? We have nobody that can move up to take this spot? No one in this entire town, no town resident of our 300,000 residents are qualified to take this spot?”
“That’s not my decision, sir,” Spinelli answered.
Councilman Joseph Muscarella spoke up, “No one is as qualified or has the expertise and wisdom and everything else to fulfill the job.”
Saladino, Macagnone Tangle
Of Nevin, Saladino said, “He will also be assisting in my office, as a high level advisor, so really taking the role of two positions in this because we’re not going to hire someone to provide the help on the day-to-day assistance with planning, with public policy, assistance to residents, and all of the other policy decisions that have to be made on a daily basis.”
“Same as the old,” Macagnone offered.
“Well that’s exactly the point,” responded Saladino. “We’re not utilizing someone who was here during the previous administration.”
“No, but you’re hiring a high powered Republican operative to take the spot who doesn’t live in the Town of Oyster Bay, and we have not explored every option of contracting out for this,” said Macagnone.
“These are valid questions,” Saladino said. “We did consider what would happen if you had an outside consultant. They would only provide those services on a limited basis as it relates to communications, and not provide the day-to-day assistance in policy and decision making to ensure that we are working ethically, transparently and making and bringing the town into the future that we all envision, a future that our residents want. A future where we’re making a difference and greatly changing the culture of this town.”
Saladino said that the town is reducing costs through efficiencies and consolidations.
Macagnone: ”Why not just save the money? “ (Applause)
Saladino: “We actually have been doing that.”
Macagnone: “Then why don’t we continue to do it, then?”
Saladino: “I feel that by bringing somebody on with this level of talent, he will continue to help us to save money. This is someone who is highly experienced. It’s important to point out that this person will be taking the role of several employees in an advisory capacity….He’s someone I worked with for 13 years in the New York State Assembly and someone whose talents are second to none.”
Councilwoman Michelle Johnson pointed out the board had not yet been provided with Nevin’s résumé and had not been given an opportunity to examine it.
”Perhaps we should table this until the next meeting,” she suggested.
Saladino said, “We’re creating so many changes so quickly that I don’t feel there is a lot of time to get things done.”
Macagnone: “I like to second Councilwoman Johnson’s motion to table this for two weeks.”
After a pause, Saladino pointed out to “we’re still on this motion. We still have some speakers.”
Robert Freier of Syosset, a Democrat who is running for a council seat in November, thanked Macagnone for speaking out and then addressed the supervisor: ”Basically what I heard [Vicky Spinelli] say is that we took away jobs from hard-working workers to hire someone politically connected to you. I’m urging every single person on the board to vote no.”
Saladino responded, “The information you just heard is not accurate, and quite frankly, deflects from the truth of the situation. We have made many consolidations and we’re continuing to find savings…in the ways that the public wants us to reduce costs. Now, we have a person who is willing to take on multiple roles in one position. We have defined this in a way that [Nevin will] be taking on policy, taking on high level administrative assistance in a team that’s bare bones, and this kind of help will make a big difference in administering the town, in bringing about the changes the public has demanded.”
Margaret Eaton of Hicksville, a member of the Town of Oyster Bay Ethics Board, said, “The town board has not received the rest of the résumés, so I don’t know how you can really vote on [the resolution]. As I’m sitting here, I don’t know exactly what the job function is. In order to vote on it, you need to know what job function is. Personally, I don’t think it should be voted on today. It should be tabled for at least two weeks.”
Saladino again detailed Nevin’s areas of responsibilities and concluded, “We’re dealing with someone with tremendously superior talents, with a wide breadth of experience in multiple layers of government, both local and state. And this is someone that if we don’t act on this, we’ll lose them to another municipality because, quite frankly, anybody would grab up someone of this talent level as quickly as they can. The amount of savings we’ll receive by hiring this individual will be astronomical and many times his salary.”
Saladino said he understood “the sticker shock involved in the salary, but those who spoke don’t understand the many roles this person will be taking up. We’re talking about a consummate professional who has experience in cutting the budget, who has experience in the administration of town government. Someone makes that much money, and then goes and helps us save over million dollars, they’re certainly worth it. The reason the [salary] is what it is, that’s what [he’s] being paid [currently], and in order to attract him to Oyster Bay we have to offer them the same amount.”
Nevin, in an email to Anton Media Group, wrote, “The supervisor contacted me about the position as he’s seeking to enhance transparency in the town and communication with the public. I was approached by other public and private sector entities with job opportunities, however, I worked with Supervisor Saladino in the state capitol and jumped at the opportunity to join his team and restore the taxpayers’ trust in Oyster Bay government.”
The board went into executive session to discuss Nevin, and when it reassembled, Saladino said, “We have briefed the town board members. All of their questions have been answered and it’s my judgment that we’re ready to vote.
When Town Clerk James Altadonna Jr, polled the board, Macagnone was the only no.
Saladino was a member of the Assembly for 13 years. Nevin began as a budget analyst in 2000 and by 2005 had become director of operations for the Republican Minority Conference. In talking with reporters, Saladino credited Nevin’s hard work and lobbying with the passage of the state tax cap that Saladino had sponsored.
In a press release, Oyster Bay Democratic Supervisor candidate Marc Herman criticized Saladino for making the appointment “without notice, and without even a semblance of a competitive review. Taxpayers are fed up and can longer carry the huge financial burden that Supervisor Saladino and the Town of Oyster Bay Republican machine has saddled every man, woman and child with from every time a political crony is awarded a meritless job based on party loyalty. If local residents want to know why it seems more and more difficult to afford the cost of living every year, here is a prime case in point.”
Asked for a comment, Nevin answered, via email, “It’s sad that Marc Herman continues to throw mud at the wall with the hope it will stick in an effort to hide his dismal record of handing out more than a half million dollars in compensation to the Syosset school superintendent. When it comes to abusing taxpayers’ wallets, Marc Herman is the poster boy as no government employee deserves a $386,000 salary, apartment in Manhattan, a chauffeur and a house in Westchester.”
Councilwoman Regrets Vote
On July 19, Councilwoman Alessia wrote the following in her Facebook page:
“I was misinformed about the funding for Mr. Nevin’s spot having been told prior to the meeting that he was filling an already established and funded position within the public information department. I have subsequently formally requested via the Town Clerk that my vote be changed to reflect a ‘no’ vote and that my dissent be added to the record. Unfortunately it appears that even under theses circumstance I cannot have the vote altered, so it stands. It is a vote I regret; and will certainly be redoubling my efforts to aggressively pursue independent information about any and all expenditures in the future.”
In response, Marc Herman put out a press release calling on Alesia to immediately disclose who in the Town of Oyster Bay “misinformed [her] about public funding for Brian Nevin,” Herman also called for Saladino to hold a new vote on the issue at the July 25 town board meeting. Alesia did not attend that meeting.
At press time, Alesia had not returned a request for comment.