Mineola, NY

The Truth is Out There – WAY Out There ! !

When does the First Amendment Cease to Exist?


When does the First Amendment Cease to Exist?.

December 28, 2010 Posted by | 1st Amendment, 7th S.D. New York State, ACLU, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Law, Freedom of Speech, Incorporated Village of Mineola, Jack Martins | 1 Comment

When does the First Amendment Cease to Exist?


Well it appears that once you cross the border into the Incorporated Village of Mineola, your right to speak freely starts to fade away.  And by the time you get to Village Hall at 155 Washington Avenue that right evaporates completely.  Mineola’s Village Hall is a vacuum where all independent thought gets sucked into a black hole.

Unless, of course, you are sucking UP to the right people.  Or blowing sunshine up certain rear-ends.

But if you intend to question a decision the Board of Trustees has made, or to express your belief that everything is NOT sunny in Mineola, then prepare yourself for shut-down.  Especially if you’re a woman.

Jack Martins is no longer Mayor of this happy little Village, but while he was here he most certainly did not take kindly to anybody questioning his authority, or to any intimation that his integrity was NOT above reproach.  This became abundantly clear when I questioned his handling of the conflict of interest issue created by our Building Superintendent’s  intimate relationship with his direct report, the Secretary to the Board of Zoning Appeals.  First Martins denied anybody had ever complained to him about the situation.  Then he claimed nobody had “officially” complained to him.  Then he shut down the broadcasts of the Public Meetings until he could devise some means by which to try to limit what people would be able to say.

That’s when the Board developed their infamous sign-in sheet, whereby in order to speak at a Public Meeting, one must provide their name and address and state what it is they intend to discuss.  It is further stipulated that matters must pertain to the Village of Mineola.

Now, it’s not entirely unreasonable to limit topics to matters that directly impact the Village.  Events occur on the Federal and State levels that VOM’s Trustees can do nothing about.  And it’s both pointless and unfair for individuals to take up vast amounts of time opining on such matters when there are issues directly impacting the Village that people come to the meetings to discuss.  Most of these are people who must get up for work the next day, or who must help their kids with their schoolwork and get them ready for bed.  And if these folks come down to a meeting to address a matter of importance to them and their neighbors, they shouldn’t have to sit there and wait while other people expound on what’s wrong with Congress, the President, the French, and every other thing that has nothing to do with Village business.

BUT UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE DOES ANYONE ON THE BOARD HAVE THE RIGHT TO PREVENT ANY OF US FROM QUESTIONING THEIR DECISIONS OR POLICY IMPLEMENTATIONS, OR FROM EXPOSING CORRUPTION OR BAD BEHAVIOUR on the part of any of the Trustees or any of our employees.  That is the whole point of a Public Meeting.  And that is why I found myself in the office of the Nassau County chapter of the NY Civil Liberties Union in Hempstead after the October 20, 2010 meeting.

If you were at that meeting or saw it on TV, you know that Jack Martins led the Work Session, but Deputy Mayor Larry Werther ran the Public Meeting.  As usual, there was a break between the two meetings when the Trustees went to the back room.  Finally, Trustees Perriera, Kennedy and Cusato came out to the dais but Werther remained in the back room with Village Attorney John Spellman.  They eventually emerged and the public portion began.  Three people were called up to speak.  But when it came time for the fourth person to be called up, Werther announced that a slip had been submitted to discuss a Union matter, and that as long as HE was in charge of the meetings, he would not permit the topic to be addressed while litigation is pending.

Can you imagine this? In THIS country?  This is the Board that has us recite the Pledge of Allegiance before the Work Sessions and then again before the Public Meetings.  This is the Board that pauses to remember all our troops fighting for freedom in various parts of the world.  This is the Board that lauded the collection of bottles and cans to benefit a disabled Army Ranger who isn’t even from Mineola.   And how did he become disabled?  When his legs were blown off while he was serving his country.  This young man, Christopher Levy, sacrificed his legs in the name of liberty, but I’m not allowed to ask questions of our Board of Trustees.

There’s something VERY wrong with this picture.

So when DOES the First Amendment cease to exist?

When you allow it to.

I won’t allow it.  Not as long as I have breath left in my body and my taxes are being used to send young able-bodied men and women off to some God-forsaken hell-on-earth so they can come back mangled in body, in spirit, or both.

So call me a Bitch.  Call me a Pain-in-the-Ass.  Call me a Lunatic.  FEEL FREE. Just be sure you don’t do it within the 11501 zip code.  You see, Freedom of Speech is not allowed in Mineola.

December 28, 2010 Posted by | 1st Amendment, 7th S.D. New York State, ACLU, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Law, Freedom of Speech, Incorporated Village of Mineola, Jack Martins, Mineola NY, NYCLU | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MY SECRET SANTA


I came home from work the other night and like many of you, I checked my mail.  I was sorting through the usual stack of bills and pleas for donations when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a plain, white #10 envelope with the letters F. Y. I. scrawled in a very Christmassy shade of Flair Pen red.

“What could be inside?” I wondered.  My winning ticket to the Irish Sweepstakes?

No such luck.

But what I did receive was interesting to say the least, and I am happy to share it with you.  This is, after all, the “Season of Giving.”

View this document on Scribd

In the interest of clarifying some things you should know that the “Mineola Village Court” is properly known as “Justice Court” – although I’m sure there are plenty of people who will dispute how much justice is actually obtained there.  I wouldn’t know since I’ve never had to deal with them.  That’s one issue.  NEXT ! ! ! !

The clerical position in question had been vacant for ELEVEN months due to a retirement.  And the retirement was not sudden.  The Village had official notice of the employee’s plans weeks before she actually walked out the door for the last time.  As a matter of fact, the Village tried very hard to get this individual brought up on charges so they would have an excuse to fire her before she could retire and collect her full medical benefits.  Thankfully the union intervened and put the kabosh on that hatchet job.  But that’s a story for a later blog.

So what WAS the rush to fill this post?  Especially to hire someone, as Village attorney John Spellman indicated, “by December 8th?”

If you watched the broadcast of the November 17, 2010 Work Session and paid attention to what was said and how people interacted, well let’s just say it was quite the lesson in body language.  First, Village Clerk Joseph Scalero proposed that the position be posted as the Village is required to do.  This took Mayor Jack Martins (excuse me – SENATOR-ELECT Martins) by surprise.  “Post it??!!” he said.  But then Spellman stepped in with his very useful opinion that since the department was short-handed, the Mayor should be allowed to appoint someone once he’d had the chance to review the applications.  After a long, lingering exchange of looks between the mayor and the attorney, Martins called for a motion to approve Mr. Spellman’s suggestion.

In other words, as opposed to posting the position so that ANYBODY on Nassau County’s Civil Service list could apply for consideration;  and as opposed to letting the applicants interview with Valerie Passarella who has supervised the department for 10+ years so she could find a good fit;  and as opposed to letting her make a recommendation to the FULL Board and letting the FULL Board approve or deny it, Spellman proposed that Jack Martins be allowed to make the call all by his lonesome – what with time being of the essence and all.  And of course the other Trustees (who still haven’t figured out that when John Spellman makes a recommendation they should do the exact opposite) voted to give Jack this authority.

Mind you – this vote took place between 6:45 and 7 pm on the evening of Wednesday, November 17th.  The new employee was set to start on Monday, November 22ndThat means between the hours of 8:30 am on November 18th and 5 pm on November 19th, Mayor Martins was able to accept and review applications for this Civil Service position and hire somebody. Somebody who’s very good at answering phones.  Somebody who worked the phones for his NYS senate campaign.

AH!  The dawn breaks!

So how many interviews WERE conducted?  How many applications were even submitted?  Was this job ever posted on the bulletin board at the office of the Nassau County Civil Service in Hempstead?

The position vacated in January was a competitive post requiring the candidate to have passed and obtained reachable status on the civil service exam.  Has this new employee taken and passed her test?  Or did the position get changed to non-competitive or exempt?  After all, a municipality is only entitled to a limited number of non-competitive or exempt positions.

Now, an exempt position was done away with back in the fall when the Board – again following the lead of the Martins/Spellman cabal – voted to eliminate the title of “Secretary to the Board of Zoning Appeals.”  This was the patronage position created for and handed to Karen Calabro back in 2002.  She didn’t have to pass a Civil Service exam.   She got to engage in a romantic relationship with her supervisor without penalty.  She got to avoid paying taxes for years on improvements she and her ex-husband made to their home on Beebe Road – including an un-permitted half-bath on the first floor.  She got away with being insubordinate to customers even when written complaints were filed against her.

That should answer the question as to why the Justice Court position wasn’t offered to the “recently laid off employee.”

The only reason her position was eliminated in September was because she ran her mouth off to the Deputy Village Clerk who then filed a complaint with the Mayor who in turn devised a story about doing away with the job in order to save the Village money.

Good work Jack!  Now we can use those savings to defend the lawsuit Ms. Calabro has reportedly filed against us for the loss of her position.   She has most definitely filed a grievance and a PERB against VOM through the employees’ union.

So the good folks of the Village had the pleasure of paying Ms. Calabro salary, providing her with medical coverage and funding her pension for 10 years while she didn’t pay the proper property taxes to either the Village OR the county for her entire tenure as an employee.  Now she gets to collect unemployment for at least 99 weeks – which the Village pays for by its contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund.  AND she hopes to collect big bucks for the elimination of her position or have her position reinstated with back-pay.

All thanks to the managerial expertise of our soon-to-be former Mayor and his fellow Trustees.

A Merry Christmas indeed.

Will you take one lump of coal, or two in your stocking?

December 11, 2010 Posted by | 7th S.D. New York State, Incorporated Village of Mineola, Jack Martins, Mineola NY, Nassau County | Leave a comment