On Monday, Jan. 13, trustee Dan Pearl announced he was running for the seat vacated by former Mayor Jeff Pravato, who was recently elected to be Town of Oyster Bay Receiver of Taxes in the November 2019 elections. At the same meeting, Deputy Mayor Teresa Spinosa had been nominated by another board member to fulfill the remainder of Pravato’s term as interim mayor. In addition to making his announcement to run, Pearl was the only trustee to dissent from the Spinosa appointment proposal.
“This is the first time in the history of Massapequa Park where somebody appointed themselves mayor 60 days before an election,” Pearl said. “As deputy mayor, and that’s why we have a deputy mayor, when the mayor is not around or incapacitated in some way, they have the responsibility to run the village. She didn’t need to appoint herself mayor.”
According to the New York State Village statute, Section 3-312, Spinosa becoming interim mayor is completely legal.
“Vacancies in offices caused other than by expiration of the terms thereof shall be filled by the mayor, except the office of mayor which shall be filled by the board of trustees.”
Pearl has been a Village of Massapequa Park trustee for the seven years and has owned a home in the community since 1999. Prior to that, he’d grown up in Massapequa proper. Pearl’s running mates under the Village Unity Party banner are Todd Svec and Dana Durso. Both are local small business owners, with the former serving as the proprietor of Arlo Drug Store and the latter being a licensed real estate agent who has owned a number of local eateries including Vincent’s Pizzeria on Boundary Avenue and Marinos on Carmans Road. Durso also serves as the president of the East Lake Elementary School PTA. Pearl has worked for the Town of Oyster Bay in a number of positions, with his current role being the deputy commissioner of the department of public works in charge of sanitation and solid waste. His run for mayor stems from his belief that residents’ current concerns about quality of life issues aren’t being met by the current administration.
“We have a lot of issues with garbage and trash along the railroad from Sunrise Highway and the state roads. Residents are complaining about getting that cleaned up. Taxes and waste. We’d like to do a top-to-bottom review of our overall operations—where can we save money and where can we make some cuts?,” Pearl said. “Operationally, one of the big things we can come up with when you talk to the residents is sensible code enforcement. That’s a major issue of what’s going on in the village. Everybody feels like they’re being overly monitored by the village code enforcement. I think we’ve got to get an ethics committee established in the village to make sure certain things aren’t being done unethically.”
One of the issues Pearl raises is that Spinosa’s decision to take free health insurance for life. While State General Municipal Law Section 92(a) authorizes public corporations (such as local governments) to offer health insurance to their officers/elected officials, subsection 92(a)2 specifically states that the individual public corporation may determine the percentage it collects from the official, and may even charge the entire cost to the official. According to Pearl, when the administration of former Mayor James Altadonna voted to have the village board avail themselves of this coverage, they also chose to not pay into the plan under Village Resolution 13889-2005.
“Ms. Spinosa could have voted to require a contribution from herself and other employees. Instead, they voted to give themselves free health insurance for life,” Pearl said. “To give you an idea, village records indicate that Ms. Spinosa cost taxpayers $30,900 in health insurance costs in 2019. When you add in her trustee salary (not mayor, which is higher), she now cost taxpayers $37,700 in 2019. According to her own pension records, she only works four days a month for the village. That means taxpayers gave her $785 each day she came to work. Conversely, I rejected the village’s health insurance. I had the opportunity to take the medical for seven years and I chose not to because I didn’t think it was appropriate because I have a job that will provide me with benefits. If I did [take it from the village], I wouldn’t have obviously felt like we should have been paying towards it. This is not about what benefit that you get out of [your position]. It’s about doing the right thing for your neighbors and family because that’s what it’s about at the end of the day.”
Running against Pearl’s Village Unity Party and Spinosa’s Village People’s Rights-First Party is Dr. Cynthia Paulis’ Just Get It Done Party. The election will be held Wednesday, March 18 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in village hall. Voters will be asked to cast their ballots for mayor and two trustees.
Residents who are not already registered to vote have until March 6 to complete the paperwork with the Nassau County Board of Elections. Forms can be picked up at village hall and can also be downloaded from Nassau County Board of Elections website at nassauvotes.com. For more information, call the board of elections at 516-571-8683.