I have known Brian and Nathy since they each moved to Munsey Park. They are now running for election to the Munsey Park Board of Trustees. Both are attorneys, and despite family and professionals responsibilities and commitments, they have been active neighbors and given generously of their time and energy to help maintain our village as the wonderful, beautiful place it is. If elected, they will return sanity and grace to board meetings, carefully weighing the merits of issues, allowing residents to express their opinions free from bullying and mocking, and unlike the current trustees, they will no longer tolerate the lack of transparency in official actions.
Five years ago this month, Frank DeMento, then running for mayor of Munsey Park and leading a slate that included Jennifer Noone for trustee, told Newsday, “The village has become just a place that’s very adversarial for the residents.”
A year later, a resident supporting the reelection of Jennifer Noone as trustee, wrote that “[she and her fellow trustees] have lived up to their campaign promise to improve transparency of our village for everyone.” The letter went on to assert that “For the first time ever, every village resident can now look over the shoulder of our village trustees…to see, line by line, how their tax dollars are being allocated and actually spent.” And “this new team has openly invited and welcomed everyone into village hall so that all opinions can be heard and considered.”
Really? Let’s review the record of the current administration of DeMento and Noone (who is now standing for reelection):
In a public meeting over a proposed walkway to connect the Congregational Church parking lot with the Munsey Park School, Mayor Frank DeMento is quoted as saying the following of a resident questioning the merits of the proposal, “He doesn’t care if somebody is killed.” The article quotes DeMento referring to Munsey Park residents as “the peanut gallery,” and saying that he “singled out specific residents and said that they were ‘not recognized.’” A neighbor is quoted as saying, “As a 44-year resident of Munsey Park, to hear that you can’t speak at a village meeting, I don’t know what to say.” (The Manhasset Press, July 25, 2017)
A State Supreme Court justice, lifting a stay temporarily stopping the Manhasset-Lakeville Water District from replacing a water tower, had this to say, “In his Aug. 8 ruling, [the judge] wrote the village ‘failed to establish a likelihood or probability of success on the merits.’” As to the cost to village residents for this wasteful litigation, no one knows, as the Village has apparently refused to respond to repeated requests for the answer, but there’s speculation it might be as high as $250,000. (Newsday, August 18, 2014)
Then, of course, there is the debacle over the board’s attempting to appoint the Mayor’s brother-in-law to a new administrative position – neither advertising for the job, in accordance with Village regulations and sound human resources practice, nor disclosing the intended appointment on the board’s meeting agenda – actions that Newsday characterized as violating state law . I have no complaint with the man in question; in my brief encounters with him in his role as a maintenance worker I have always found him to be both friendly and diligent. My objection is to the lack of process, the appearance of self-dealing, and the attitude of the trustees toward residents raising legitimate questions. In addition, at least one trustee is quoted (Newsday – June 2, 2017) as attacking residents for publicly questioning the trustees’ actions, saying, “That was published in the paper…do you realize what you are doing to the village?” Newsday columnist Joye Brown answered that question (June 10, 2017): “Does the village – with its lack of transparency in creating and filling a position, when officials so easily could have advertised the post and openly solicited candidates – realize what it’s doing to residents?”
In addition, Village officials were reported to have earlier stated there would be no salary increase for the individual in the proposed position; yet they are later quoted as saying, “[The employee’s] salary and benefits were to be determined [emphasis added].” This is typical of the double-talk and obfuscation put out by the current administration.
The Village attorney is stated to have said that the proposed appointment was “in conformance with the law and Village code,” and that Village officials had performed an ethics policy review of the proposed action, though the ethics board’s chairman could not be reached for comment, nor were the identities of the other members of the ethics board disclosed (Newsday May 16, 2017). I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whom to believe, Newsday or the Village Attorney, as to whether the proposed appointment was legal.
Finally on the subject of this debacle, our former Village Clerk, when questioned by reporters, replied that she was unaware of the proposed appointment and was “shocked” that it had not been placed on the board’s agenda. Shortly thereafter, her employment was effectively terminated, and she was replaced with someone whose published qualifications fail to indicate any experience or training as a local government official. Again, I have no problem with the individual in question, having found her also to be very diligent and courteous – it is the lack of transparency and process that I find disturbing.
And lest anyone assume that the administration has learned from its mistakes, we have the latest outrage, leading The Manhasset Times to issue a scathing editorial (February 20, 2018). It denounced the Village’s lack of transparency and responsiveness in refusing to disclose who had filed for the upcoming village election, and provided a laundry list of the trustees’ other affronts to residents and refusals to respond to legitimate inquiries – actions that the editorial characterized as an “assault on common sense and good government.”
I have lived in Munsey Park for over 38 years. At various times I have served on the Village’s Board of Zoning Appeals and Building Advisory Committee; I participated in rewriting and modernizing the Village’s Zoning Ordinance; and I was twice elected to the Manhasset Board of Education, serving one year as vice president followed by two as president. In the latter capacity, I participated in the renegotiation of the District’s union contracts. I know first hand how heated some local issues can become; but I have never witnessed the flagrant arrogance and disregard for common courtesy and proper procedure exhibited by this current village administration.
In the upcoming election, we are presented with a clear choice – we can continue to allow the current administration to operate as if this is the “new normal” by voting for incumbent Jennifer Noone and Anthony Sabino, her running-mate, or by failing to vote at all. Alternatively, we could take a stand to bring back good government and neighborliness to our village, by voting for Nathy Yakaitis and Brian Dunning.
I urge you to support Nathy Yakaitis and Brian Dunning for election as trustees of the Village of Munsey Park.
Christopher J. Lowery