Truth in Politics? Accusations Made in Malverne Race

Both parties accuse one another of blurring the truth. Patch tries to find the facts.

With two positions, including that of mayor, uncontested in the village of Malverne elections, the race has been fairly quiet so far, but as decision day nears, the competition is heating up.

The Malverne Tea Party and their candidate for trustee, Dr. John Hassett, Jr.,  are stepping up their game. They have been blanketing the neighborhood with flyers and making accusations in recent days attacking the veracity of statements made by their opponents from the Independent Party, incumbents Michael Bailey and James Callahan.

Statements that the current administration saved the farm, stopped double-digit tax increases and secured a grant from Legis. Fran Becker to build the Malverne Ambulance Corps headquarters, to name a few, are not true, according to the Tea Party. They also blame the current administration for wasteful spending, and the loss of local businesses and train service.

On the other hand, the Independent Party candidates say it's the Tea Party that is spreading false information.

So what is the truth? Patch looks at the arguments from both sides and uncovers the facts.

Issue Tea Party Independent Party Facts Grossmann's Farm Nassau County purchased the farm from the Grossmann family, which donated a portion to the village. The incumbents played no part in this. The current members of the village board were influential in helping to preserve Grossmann's Farm as farm land. The board members attended several meetings with former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and then later Ed Mangano to negotiate and approve several items related to the deal. Police Surgeon Dr. John Hassett has stated that he has been the Police Surgeon for Malverne since 2002 for the Department's Public Access Defibrillation program and accused Trustee Bailey of being ignorant of this fact. The Police Surgeon is a position appointed by the mayor each year and since 2002, no one has been named to this role. Hassett did enter into a collaborative agreement with the village to attach his medical license to the AEDs in the village and provide training. In the agreement, authorized by then Mayor Anthony Panzarella, Hassett was indicated as the "Police Surgeon-AED," and his license is still attached to the devices, but neither Mayor McDonald nor Police Chief John Aresta consider him to be the village's Police Surgeon. It appears the title he holds is separate from the position that is appointed annually. Tax Hikes They said the village raised taxes 28 percent within four years. They say that they have kept tax increases low over the past four years to less than 3 percent. Since Bailey took office and Mayor McDonald became mayor, taxes have gone up 2.83 percent in 2008-2009, 1.96 percent in 2009-2010 and 2.94 in 2010-2011, according to village records. While McDonald and the board members approved the 2007-2008 budget, which included a 4.93 percent tax hike, it was proposed by former Mayor Anthony Panzarella. The final product was cultivated under the McDonald administration through a month of work sessions and public hearings.  Double-Digit Increases They say that the Independent Party's statements about stopping double-digit tax hikes of previous administration are not true because the village has seen increases of this size in over two decades. They say that they stopped the double-digit tax increases of the prior administration. The 2004-2005 budget carried with it a double-digit increase of 13.45 percent, according to village records. Police Chief Salary They say the Police Chief's salary has increased 29 percent within the past four years, under the current administration. They say this is not true and that his salary has increased around 3 or 4 percent each year, similar to those in other villages. Since he was promoted to the position of Police Chief in October 2006, John Aresta's salary has increased by roughly 13 percent from $175,000 to $197,145, plus benefits, according to payroll records. The increases are the result of merit raises approved by the board. (He is not entitled to overtime.) Work Sessions The current board locks the doors to Village Hall, preventing residents from attending work sessions, which are meant to be open to the public.  They say that work sessions are open to the public.  Work sessions take place after village board meetings and residents are welcome to attend the meetings, but must leave the room during executive session. The front door to Village Hall is eventually locked after most people have left following the board meeting as a safety precaution but by that point those wishing to attend the meeting are already inside or can knock on the door or call police to be let in. Board Majority They say that the incumbents have held a majority of seats on the board for the past decade and are therefore responsible for the wasteful spending they claim to have stopped. They say that the team of McDonald-Bailey-Callahan has brought an end to the wasteful spending of past administrations. Until Bailey was elected to the board four years ago, the Independent Party did not have a majority of seats.  Road Repaving They say the incumbents halted a road repaving project started four years ago under Mayor Panzarella and neglected the roads until election time neared. They say they have improved the roads. The current administration began its Roadway Improvement Project two years ago when they began surveying the roads. They have since completed about 10 percent of the work and have plans to have all the roads repaved within 10 years. Retiree Benefits Say their incumbents allow elected officials to receive fully-paid health benefits after 5 years of service, costing taxpayers $18,000 per retiree each year. Say only two elected officials are currently receiving these benefits because service requirements are actually higher. Since elected officials are only credited with one year of service for every two they serve, they would need to put in atleast 10 years. Since terms are four years each, they'd need to put in atleast 12 years in office. MVAC Building Grant They say that the incumbents had nothing to do with securing a $60,000 grant from Nassau County Legis. Fran Becker toward building the new headquarters for the Malverne Volunteer Ambulance Corps. They say MVAC worked to get the funds. Say they brought in both federal and local grants to improve infrastructure and service, including the $60,000 from Becker for the ambulance headquarters. In a letter sent to the Ambulance Corps, Becker wrote that he requested funds from Nassau County to help MVAC "in finding a home." He said in addition to attending MVAC meetings, he had also "spoken with members of the board of trustees and the Mayor" about this. It appears MVAC and the elected officials both contributed to the efforts to acquired the grant, which ultimately, was given to the village since MVAC is a non-profit organization and these funds must be distributed to a government entity. Train Service They accuse the incumbents of "failing to adequately fight to keep [Long Island Rail Road] service intact." They say they did everything they could to stop the service cuts. Mayor McDonald did attend every public hearing the MTA has held on the LIRR and bus service cuts and spoke out against them. In the end, train service on the West Hempstead Branch was eliminated for weekends and holidays. Business Closings They blame the incumbents for the closing of businesses in the village, including the Cork N' Board.  They say they support local businesses. The Cork N' Board decided to close because their landlord raised the rent nearly three-fold. In an interview with Patch prior to the business closing, the owner indicated that he had not contacted the village board to notify them that his business was in jeopardy.

Uncovering the truth in politics is not easy, as there is often many gray areas and a tendency among political parties to manipulate the facts to serve their needs, but Patch continues to do its best to find the facts and remain an unbiased source for coverage of the village elections.

Have an opinion on any of the issues or wish to dispute the facts? Send a Letter to the Editor by e-mailing Tara.Conry@Patch.com or share your comments in the field below.

Tom Grech March 15, 2011 at 10:55 AM
Great job, Tara....glad to see that the truth is out there. Thanks Mayor McDonald and Team!
walter March 15, 2011 at 12:03 PM
Let the truth be told.
R. Callahan March 15, 2011 at 04:16 PM
Why would anyone want one of these low paying jobs? It seems to me with all the dirty flying around, it is not worth having.
Robert Powers March 15, 2011 at 06:22 PM
Tara - I want to thank you for clearing up some of the misconceptions. Thank you for the research and putting this together for the residents of Malverne.
VJ Maley March 15, 2011 at 09:49 PM
Nicely done. As too many have made their own judgements. Opinions should be made with great caution.... NOW we have the facts! Thank you Tara. VJP


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